An open letter to Russ Feingold

Dear Russ,

I know I’m not the first to take on this quixotic task and I’m quite certain I won’t be the last. However, if your time as my senator has taught me anything, it’s that there is nothing wrong with trying something if you truly believe in it.

I spent part of last week perusing your book “While America Sleeps,” and for the first time in a long time, I actually didn’t mind thinking about politics. From the snippets I read online and in Barnes and Noble, the book was well-reasoned, logical and well thought out. It gave me just enough gossip to be light-hearted but focused more on the issues. It also talked about a topic that most people have stopped paying attention to, but probably need to take a second look at.

I then caught your interview with GQ.(Any man willing to do an interview while slurping a brandy old-fashioned is my kind of guy, by the way.) I was really amazed at some of your answers. You still maintain that Republicans and Democrats can be friends. You stand behind your choices, whether they were the bedrock of Democratic politics or veered into more Republican territory. You don’t apologize for voting against the Patriot Act while simultaneously being in favor of dropping a big honkin’ bomb on bin Laden. Your name remains on the McCain-Feingold Act, which was meant to try to do something about people who use big money to create a political imbalance in their favor.

You are smart. You are willing to listen. You are balanced in your approach to action. You actually listen.

In other words, you are everything our current governor is not.

It broke my heart to see the last line of that GQ interview regarding the likelihood that you’ll run for office sometime soon:

I won’t run for office again until I feel like it. And right now I don’t feel like it. I’ve always been grateful for the enormous outpouring of support and affection that I’ve received here in the state, but I’ve never kidded myself that anybody is irreplaceable.

You’re right that no one is irreplaceable. You’re right that people love you. You’re right that a job is hard to do when you don’t feel like doing it. However, you have always done what is right, even if it means you have to hurt a little bit to do it. You’ve been true to yourself, but also true to the needs of this state.

You’re a far better man than I am, and I freely admit this. You knew going into the 2010 election that you were going to lose. The mood of the state, and the country, had changed. The Teawads had stormed the castle with the superhero costumes they made in special ed and their cans of spray cheese. A “vote the bastards out” vibe had hit, thanks to a crappy economy and the sense that liberals had just elected Dolemite to the presidency. When you lost (and MAN did you lose), you took it in stride and you kind of just walked away.

I can’t imagine doing that. I probably would have gone the “you’re not going to have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore” route. I probably would have gone on the talk-show circuit and criticized every move Ron Johnson made, from his stupid haircut to his inability to stay on message in a speech of more than three minutes.

I would have been hurt. I would have been pissed. I would have said “fuck y’all” a lot. I have a hard time believing that you don’t have just a little bit of this going on deep within the recesses of your soul. You’re human and this had to hurt. It’s probably why you don’t want to take another pass at politics right now.

You did a good job of not letting the pain show and not letting a flash of anger undermine your decades of service. I couldn’t do that.

In a much smaller and much less significant way, I found myself on the outs like that once. I was running to lead an organization that I believed in quite a bit. As the sitting VP of the group, I had what had traditionally been considered an inside track if I wanted it. I really didn’t want the job, but felt the obligation and thought I could do a good job of it. Instead, problems from administrations long gone came back to haunt the our board that year. Instead of pulling together, a few self-centered political opportunists took the chance to use those things our group had nothing to do with to attack the board and essentially attack me. They propped up a cardboard cutout, screamed about how I was a horribly bad candidate and beat me. About a year later, the cardboard cutout wilted in the rain, the problems persisted and I got a knock on the door, asking if I’d be interested in running for president again.

“Not if you tied my tongue to your muffler and drove me naked over a field of broken glass at 70 mph,” I told a stunned colleague. “I will NEVER take a leadership position in this shithole again.”

This is precisely why I would be a lousy politician and why you are a great one.

The state you love is in trouble. In that giant wash of “sticking it to the man” that took you out of office and gave us Senator Salad Bar, Wisconsin elected a greedy, selfish, idiotic fool. They elected the yin to your yang. The backlash, the party politics and their ability to drink the sand led normally sane Wisconsinites to put Scott Walker in office. This has finally gotten so bad that more than 1 million of these people, many of whom voted for him in the first place, have said, “We can’t tolerate four years of this.”

They got the signatures. They got a recall election going. They need a candidate.

With no disrespect to Kathy Falk or the other folks running, this state can’t get rid of Governor Deadeyes without you.

If I were you, I wouldn’t do it either. I’d be fine with a simpler life of teaching law at Marquette, hanging out with my family and quietly watching politicians run around like terriers with their fur on fire. It’s got to be a great gig to sit back and enjoy that brandy old-fashioned while quietly saying to yourself, “See? Not a lot of fun out there, is it?”

However, you need to keep one thing in mind: This idiot is your governor, too. As a citizen of this state, a taxpaying member of society as his party likes to say, you are represented by this pathetic food tube.

Most of us can only do so much. We signed the petition for change.

You, on the other hand, can be the petition.

Please run. Give us back our state.



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