Dear Russ: An Open Letter to Russ Feingold

Dear Russ,

We know you have said repeatedly that you would not run for public office in 2012, and we have tried repeatedly to respect and honor that. But over and over again the idea comes sailing back, that the one person who would be best for Wisconsin in this exceptional historical moment, for so many reasons, is you.

Photo courtesy of the Run, RUSS, Run Facebook page.

Yesterday’s decisive millionfold denunciation of the Fitzwalker regime underscores what a historic moment this is, not only in Wisconsin history, but in U.S. history. Recall elections in themselves are quite rare, and this may very well be the most extraordinary of all. There’s no question but that this represents a singular opportunity for the people of Wisconsin. After having sustained so many wounds at the hands of the soon-to-be former regime, Wisconsin is in need of healing. There are a multitude of reasons why so many of us find ourselves looking to you, not to save us, but to lead us as we seek to clear up the rubble and reassert the values we hold most dear.

We know you and we trust you. As our senator, you listened to us. You respected us. And you proved yourself to be an effective advocate for us. What we said and needed mattered to you. This is in stark contrast to the Fitzwalkers’ refusal to listen to or care about the concerns of the people of Wisconsin.

You have a proven record of bipartisan cooperation, as evidenced in the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform of 2002. The Fitzwalkers have been nothing if not divisive. But here in Wisconsin we have a tradition of listening to each other and working together, regardless of ideology and party affiliation, and we desperately need to return to that tradition of mutual respect and cooperation.

It’s truly a wonder that any sane, decent person would want to run for office in this country’s current political climate, which resembles nothing so much as Hurricane Katrina in more ways than one. So really, we can understand why you’d want to be shut of it. But alas, your reticence to run is evidence of your sanity and decency and is, in fact, one of the best reasons why you are our first choice.

Scott Walker is bad for Wisconsin in large part because of his overreaching power grabs. He is more of a despot than a governor. He listens only to the 1 percent (as evidenced by his scandalous public conversation with pseudo-Koch), and he treats the rest of us with utter disdain and contempt. And here you are, resisting the pursuit of political power. Nothing convinces us more thoroughly that you are the man of the moment.

Those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it. Those who … have leadership thrust upon them, and take up the mantle because they must, and find to their own surprise that they wear it well. —Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

We know there are other good candidates that could run against Walker. But none of them would inspire us and energize us as much as you would. None would have our confidence or enthusiasm as much as you would. There’s no one we would fight harder for or be prouder of.

Maybe if this were an ordinary election in a less turbulent time, we would be satisfied with a good candidate and celebrate your new role as our fellow activist. But this is no ordinary time, and we need more than an ordinary candidate to run against Walker.

Feingold 2012

Many of the other possibilities would be good. But you would be great. And that’s what the people of Wisconsin long for and need in this critical moment. Please, please, let us sweep you into office and lead us as we begin a new era in Wisconsin history. Listen to us as you once did.

Run, Russ! Run!

16 thoughts on “Dear Russ: An Open Letter to Russ Feingold

  1. First off, full disclaimer, I do like Feingold for a lot of his politics and decisions and would vote for him in a heartbeat. However, a few points to consider: Though Progressives have been making a lot of headway during this last year, it should be remembered that the one million+ recall signatures were not one million+ Progressive signatures. There are a lot of independents and moderate Republicans and moderate Democrats who signed those recall petitions out of frustration for Walker. Does that mean they would vote for anyone but Walker? I’m not sure I would like to find out. A Republican leaning garbage collector from Green Bay or a Republican leaning sewage worker from Beloit isn’t going to vote for Russ just because they signed the recall petition. I think we need someone who can unite Wisconsinites across a broad spectrum of political views. And yes, I think Feingold and Progressives have a lot more in common with the other side (getting big money out of politics, etc.) then they would like to admit, but we are faced with the reality of the situation. I believe Progressives can learn a lot from the Green Party politics of the 90s and early 2000s. Progressives should be focusing on winning seats in the House and the Senate. Yes, a more Progressive governor would be fabulous, but I’m not sure it’s realistic. Not trying to be pessimistic here, just looking at some points. Finally, one last thought, I think Feingold not being in a political position is giving him a better chance working on change from outside of the government. Honestly, I think he can more effective with his group than as a politician. The mechanics and bureaucracy of state and federal government can be stifling for someone with a lot of ideas like Feingold. I believe he can be more effective where he is at. In closing, I enjoy hearing other people’s opinions keep up the good work Blue Cheddar!

    • I don’t think Feingold could have been elected as senator for as many years as he was without some independents and moderate Republicans voting for him. I believe he lost in 2010 because it was a Republican sweep year and a lot of those who would have voted for him didn’t vote at all. For that reason, many of us think that Feingold would appeal not only to progressives but to independents and moderate Republicans as well. I think you’re right about how effective he is working outside the government. In that, he is a role model for us all.

      In any case, I think we’re going to have to choose someone else. With each passing day it seems less and less likely that Feingold is going to change his mind.

  2. Dear Russ – I would love to see you run for the position of governor. I do not see a conflict of interest between this and your new role as activist – getting money out of politics. Why not make Wisconsin the model state? Why not start here, and show the other 49 states what is possible when people work together?

    What would happen if Wisconsin, as a state, said, “All corporations who work in Wisconsin must set aside 50% of their stock for the workers – and leave the other 50% for the investors?” What would happen if Wisconsin said, “Corporations are not individuals. They live to serve humans, not the other way around.” What would happen if Wisconsin said, “We took the money out of politics – and here’s where it got us!”

    Think of the potential of this state to lead the other 49 in supporting people, taming corporations, helping folks gain livelihoods, and growing the middle class.

    How could you not want to be a part of leading THAT???

    Deborah D.

  3. Dear Russ,

    I know that you have bigger fish to fry; your ongoing campaign to get corporate money out of politics will affect the whole country.

    But we need you. Please consider finding people to split the work with, both as governor and in the fight against Corporate Personhood.

    Turning the state of Wisconsin into a paradise of workers’ rights, State health care, small green business start-ups, renewable energy research and production would show the nation that it can be done and that it can be done well. You are the man who can do that and you can find the people to help.

    Please consider what I’ve said. We need you. We need you to show to the rest of the nation just how it can be done.

    Thank you,

    Melissa Gregory-Simon

  4. I think Russ would be the best candidate. All we can do at this point is to keep asking and maybe he will change his mind. I really think we’ve come too far to turn back now. What a great state, I am proud to be one in a million. On Wisconsin!

  5. I’m hoping Russ is saving up for a White House run in 2016. Who wouldn’t like to see him beat the pants off fellow Janesvillian Paul Ryan in a presidential general election?

  6. I’m a Green and while I’d be thrilled to have someone from the Green Party in Wisconsin step up, we need Russ Feingold… I, reluctantly, voted for Barrett (the MPS takeover bid left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths for Barrett) last time against Walker (I live in Milwaukee and Walker was a lousy County Exec, always trying to sell the resources instead of trying creatively to solve money problems…). I, also, voted for Russ against Johnson, who struck me as a self-serving elitist…We need you, Russ…Please run…

  7. I voted for Russ in 2010 and was crushed when he lost. He stood up for us for 18 years and, despite the insane outcome of the 2010 election, I think the people of WI know that.
    Kathleen Falk has said she’ll run against Walker and, if she’s the candidate, I will vote for her. However, I would much prefer for Russ to come and pull us back into the 21st century.

  8. Seriously? Where was this enthusiasm for Russ when he was running for re-election in 2010? It’s amazing how quickly people forget that Wisconsin didn’t want Russ only 2 years ago and now expects him to come to the rescue?? How many people who are now begging him to run said “oh, he’ll be fine, I don’t need to do anything for him.” For 18 years he faithfully served the people of Wisconsin in the US Senate showing us what a truly ethical elected official looked like. I would love to see Russ run and believe him the only one able to beat Walker but I also respect him. Wisconsin missed out, we weren’t there for him. How dare we ask him to get us out of this mess when if we had stood up for him and other dems in 2010 we would have had a much different result.

    • Yes, seriously. I was here. I was a vocal supporter for Russ in 2010, I voted for him, and I was crushed and stunned when he lost. I share your frustration. A lot of people sat that election out who should have voted. But (quite obviously) I feel no compunction about asking Russ to run. And I’m confident that in spite of his loss in 2010 he would win if he did run.

  9. The whole recall is ridiculous anyway. I would LOVE to see Walker get reelected after all the liberals went through all this trouble. Also there are plenty of people who support Walker. OPEN YOUR EYES and see the good he has done for the state. There are many reasons why he was elected as the governor of the year.

  10. I signed the recall however I think that no one wants this job and that is what I am scared of. If Russ ran he would demolish Scott Kevin Walker, however being the so called Man for the Job, Russ does not seem to care, and I believe that it is because it is a no win situation. I can only hope that he runs cause I know it would be the best thing that happened to the state,

    • It’s my understanding that quite a few people are seriously considering running against Walker. David Obey, Peter Barca, and Jon Erpenbach, to name just a few. If Russ doesn’t change his mind, I don’t think it means he doesn’t care. It means he’s a principled man who has other obligations in his life. I have no doubt that he will continue to work for the good of Wisconsin in whatever capacity he can, just as we all will. Regardless of what happens, it’s not going to be boring.

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