Thursday, October 7, 2010

"Bitterly Divided Parties?" Not So Much

Here is what I love about reporting on our political system. In The Nation magazine this week, there is an article on Russ Feingold, Democrat Senator from Wisconsin, who is trying to retain his seat against a challenge from one Ron Johnson, a wealthy businessman who is spending huge sums of his own money to try to unseat Feingold. Presently, Feingold trails in the polls.

The article includes commentary on the "growing divide between the two major parties" and the "bitter divisions over the Bush and Obama presidencies...." But at the same time, the article points out that Feingold is a "maverick," that is, a politician who votes independently, opposing both Bush and Obama on their common war policies and their common policies on international trade. He even voted to continue the impeachment of President Clinton, as well as opposing Clinton's proposals to loosen bank rules. He even voted against NAFTA and the Patriot Act.

Gee, first, I wonder: who Obama would like to win this race? Bet it isn't Russ Feingold. Feingold has criticized Obama and his administration for not supporting civil liberties, among other things like the "surge" in Afghanistan. But, second, I wonder about all this talk of how bitterly divided our two parties are. Perhaps what seem to be bitter divisions actually disguise what is, in reality, a movement toward a consensus or the maintainance of an already existing consensus. That this might be the case would explain why health care "reform" passed AFTER the election of Scott Brown to the Senate from Massachusetts. And it would suggest that what the Supreme Court did in a recent case dealing with spending on elections, freeing up "independent" groups to spend without limits, is part of this maintainance plan, part of the movement to consolidate the power of certain elites, among them both the Republican and Democratic parties. And, of course, it would be helpful if people like Russ Feingold were not in the Senate. Because unlike John McCain, Feingold has not made "his peace" with "the Establishment." Surprisingly, perhaps, he is one of the few who thinks it still necessary to stand up against the wealthy and the powerful, those who use our political system to advance their own interests while pretending to "feel our pain." Watch this race and hope that Feingold can pull out a win. The "republic" needs him.

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