Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.) has recruited veteran party operative Paul Tewes to help him begin the long process of courting Iowa voters.I don't think that I have exactly kept my preferences for Feingold a secret around these parts (and if I had kept it a secret, then it isn't a secret anymore). I have no special information on whether or not Senator Feingold will run for President, but I have to say that this is news that excites me very much.
Since I am sure that more than a few people will bring it up in the comments, I would like to mention that over the past year or so, I have frequently thought about the potential challenges a Feingold campaign would face. The most obvious of these challenges would be to face the onerous "electability" process question that the established news media, the party and progressive establishment, and even party and progressive grassroots force any "outsider" candidate to answer. In Feingold's case, the question would be phrased along the lines of "can a recently divorced Jew known for unusual and left-wing stances wint he Presidency?"
The notion that a progressive can't win, which is a main component of most electability arguments targeted at Democrats, reinforces the narrative that progressive ideas are wrong. This is perhaps the most damaging of all electability narratives.
The notion that a Democrat has to be from a specific region (which always means the south) reinforces the narrative that Democrats are not a national party.
The notion that a Democrat needs real leadership in order to win reinforces the narrative that Democrats are wishy-washy and sand for nothing.
The notion that a Democrat needs a national security resume in order to win reinforces the narrative that Democrats are weak on defense.
The notion that you can't be divorced and / or Jewish in order to win reinforces the false narrative that "values voters" are the path to victory, and that progressives are weak on values. And what people really mean by "values voters" are white, conservative Christians who go to church regularly. The entire "values voters" narrative is designed to complete destroy anyone who ever attempts to run a progressive campaign via electability process story death.
Most important, the notion that Democrats need to always be focused on electability crushes the notion that Democrats stand for anything, have any strength at all, and have any ideas at all. If we are all about process, then we have no ideas, no strength, no nothing. The focus on electability is deadly to the national image of the Democratic Party and reinforces basically every narrative about Democrats that Republicans have been trying to spin for decades now...
The best strategy, I think, not only for Feingold but for any potential Democratic insurgent faced with the electability narrative, would be to simply say something like this:
I know that in some ways I do not fit the definition of the sort of candidate that the established news media is used to and that Washington is used to. I also know that as a person I have flaws. However, I am not going to hide my past or these flaws, because I am not ashamed of my personal life, and because I never believe it is a good idea to change who you are for other people. I am also not going to argue over whether or not standing up for what you believe in will hurt you at the ballot box. In the end, the only thing that makes a candidate electable or not is if people vote for that candidate. If you want to focus on process, that is your prerogative. I believe the American people would rather hear about ways to make government work for all of us."
Howie question: Do progressives have the appetite for another insurgent candidacy that will kick-off another fight for the soul of the Democratic party?