Good riddance to Russ Feingold

By J. DeVoy

Russell Feingold will be an ex-senator in January.  It’s not soon enough.  Feingold, half of the propulsion behind the McCain-Feingold Act that limited political speech and chipped away at your First Amendment protections, was never the reformer he portrayed himself to be.

McCain-Feingold has long been one of the outgoing Wisconsin senator’s hallmark achievements.  Unfortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court wasn’t as enthusiastic about it as Feingold’s supporters, evinced by Federal Elections Commission v. Wisconsin Right to Life, Incorporated, 551 U.S. 449 (2007) and most recently Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, ___ U.S. ___, 130 S. Ct. 876 (2010).  McCain has already paid his dues by having the 2008 presidential campaign thrash his political career to near-death.

For Feingold, however, the masquerade of his anti-speech tendencies – bordering on totalitarian, since how dare the average citizen speak in a way that upsets the ruling elite – as meaningful reform for the good of voters, has come to an end.  So what if he initially voted against the Patriot Act, a token vote doomed to uselessness?  When it mattered, at election time, the only civil liberties that were worth defending were those that Russ Feingold found important – evinced by McCain-Feingold.  What Feingold stood for was the worst kind of a la carte devotion to civil liberties.  Despite an ostensible Republican victory in the House of Representatives, while the Democrats seem likely to retain the Senate, everyone is better off without Russ Feingold.

23 Responses to Good riddance to Russ Feingold

  1. Joe says:

    Money is not speech and corporations are not people.

    • J DeVoy says:

      1) Yes, but the two are inexorably linked. From Buckley v. Valeo: ” A restriction on the amount of money a person or group can spend on political communication during a campaign necessarily reduces the quantity of expression by restricting the number of issues discussed, the depth of their exploration, and the size of the audience reached.”

      2) No, but they have comparable rights vis-a-vis political speech in the wake of Citizens United.

      • Not Joe says:

        1) “A restriction on the amount of money a person or group can spend on political communication during a campaign necessarily reduces the quantity of expression”

        So if you have money, you may express yourself. Check.

        2) Corporations were never intended to be people but the fact that our founding fathers didn’t word their statements to be understood by children, combined with a snarky law clerk, we now have corporations, which through their actions technically act as sociopaths by definition, with the same rights as people. Check.

        Enjoy your plastic politician. Hope he doesn’t melt in the sun.

        • evrenseven says:

          Not Joe, DeVoy is right. Now that Feingold is gone, finally corporations will have a chance to succeed in America. Up until now, they’ve just been floundering around, no voice to be heard, no political power, just waiting in line for gruel and asking “please sir, can I have s’more?”

          • J DeVoy says:

            Second highest corporate tax in the world and we’re stunned that jobs are being outsourced? I’m being glib, and the issue is more complex, but we’d be worse off without corporations. People will run with this and say PepsiCo and Nestle are causing hardship and health problems around the globe, but that’s them, rather than all corporations. The corporate form, allowing small businesses and individual owners to create value while shifting some of the operating risk off of them personally, is not the problem. I think that the risks of allowing corporations to have unfettered speech are overstated.

            • Tim Oey says:

              It is the US’s high standard of living that is the cause of outsourced jobs, not so much the high tax rate.

              Commercial & corporate speech should have limits. Corporations should not have all the same rights as people.

            • J DeVoy says:

              I wouldn’t ignore the tax rate, but I was admittedly being facetious.

              Why not?

  2. hawkhead says:

    So what if he initially voted against the Patriot Act, a token vote doomed to uselessness?

    That you think Feingold’s vote against the Patriot Act merits nothing more than a “so what” makes me think you’re every bit the a la carte civil libertarian that he was, since it appears you only care about civil liberties when they stand a decent chance of being protected. In fact, it looks like the only civil liberties issue Johnson is better than Feingold on is, well, McCain-Feingold. For everything else, he’s an obesquient little dog for the Bush-Obama one-party national security state.

    As Reason‘s Jesse Walker put it:

    “Russ Feingold wasn’t just endorsed by Bob Barr. He was the Bob Barr of the left, and I mean that mostly as a compliment. When Barr was in Congress he could be bad on ‘social’ freedoms, especially the drug war, but he nonetheless took stances on privacy and due process that made him far above average on civil liberties as a whole. Similarly, Feingold’s campaign finance bill was terrible for the First Amendment, yet he was the only senator to vote against the Patriot Act, was one of the few senators to give a damn about limiting government snooping in general, and was a fierce critic of executive power. He also voted against TARP, was decent on the Second Amendment, and was one of the rare liberals to reach out to the Tea Parties instead of demonizing them. He wasn’t a free marketeer, but I’ll take a LaFollette progressive over a Wilson or Teddy Roosevelt progressive any day — and as with Barr, I’ll take an inconsistent civil libertarian over the average pol who doesn’t care about civil liberties at all.”

  3. Eric T. says:

    I like people that don’t toe the party line and can think for themselves.

    There isn’t ayone that I agree with 100%, so setting that as the standard by which to say good riddance seems to be an impossible bar for anyone to clear.

  4. I couldn’t disagree more. Russ Feingold was quite likely the only Senator you’ll ever see who had any shred of integrity. He stood up against the PATRIOT act – and was the only senator with the balls to do so. He consistently stood up for First Amendment issues, being the only Senator willing to submit comments from the Adult Entertainment community when there were the infamous porn hearings in 2005.

    You’ve got the man precisely wrong.

    You can disagree with McCain-Feingold. I disagree with Citizens United — if a thing can’t be put in prison, then that thing is not a person.

    I’m proud to have you as an author on this site (in fact, you’re pulling most of the weight since my son was born) but this piece’s only value is that it demonstrates our commitment to providing our opinions without me exercising my editorial authority to demand orthodoxy.

    • Mark Kernes says:

      Got THAT right!!! (About Feingold, that is; I’m up in the air on DeVoy…)

    • J DeVoy says:

      My issue is that McCain-Feingold limited speech in the aggregate, and with the rise of 527 groups, basically just shifted where the speech originated to less accountable entities. That came at a great economic cost to candidates, donors and the system as a whole, as a new regime for operations had to be ushered into effect.

      I think it’s a bad thing to limit corporate speech simply because business entities have more money than individuals. It has negative outcomes because of the kind of corporatocracy that’s emerged among a few hundred massive multi-nationals, but that’s a function of the corporate system rather than the rights given to corporations. Addressing that problem is more easily done with the tax code than limitations on the First Amendment.

    • J DeVoy says:

      I disagree with Citizens United — if a thing can’t be put in prison, then that thing is not a person.

      This is a good point and a matter of philosophical divide. I’m not going to convince you, and you’re not likely to convince me. I think that the perceived risk of corporations having a voice is greater than it actually is, as people – not corporations – have the ultimate right to vote.

  5. […] Good riddance to Russ Feingold […]

  6. […] Feingold for being a tax-and-spend liberal. I totally understand why people can dislike him for his cooperation with McCain to violate the First Amendment by suppressing political speech. But, to paraphrase Homer Simpson, I like my beer cold, my Tivo loud, and my Democrats FLAMING. […]

  7. […] Randazza is sorry that Senator Feingold lost. His fellow blogger DeVoy is glad that he did. […]

  8. Dan Someone says:

    Well, thank God for the Citizens United decision that allowed “the average citizen [to] speak in a way that upsets the ruling elite” at long last.

  9. […] this month, when I danced on Russ Feingold’s political grave, Randazza and several others critiqued the desirability of unbridled free speech for corporations. […]

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