Thursday, March 16, 2006

Principles and Politics

I’m almost done talking about Russ Feingold and his call for censure . . . for now anyway. I’m interested to see how the implications of his motion play out over the next few weeks, but at present time I don’t have much to say on the matter that hasn’t been said already. But before I drop the subject . . . William Greider has an interesting Feingold rant in The Nation. Though the piece narrowly escapes drowning in its own sarcasm, he makes a good point.
The joke is obvious to everyone in the Washington club--politics trumps principle, especially when it is about something as esoteric as the Constitution. It's a nonstory, the club agrees, not a constitutional crisis.

The Washington Post runs an obligatory account on page 8, quoting Mr. Anonymous Democrat Strategist on the unwisdom of Feingold's gesture. The New York Times story on page 24 quotes the esteemed constitutional authority Dick Cheney. The House Repubican leader (who replaced the corrupt House leader who resigned) denounces Feingold's resolution as "political grandstanding of the very worst kind." Like the Republican impeachment of Bill Clinton for fellatio in the White House? Go away, Feingold, let us get back to the people's business.

The real story--naturally overlooked by cynical editors--is that an honest truth-teller is loose in the fun house and disturbing the clowns. Man bites dog, senator defends Constitution.
Despite the glut of Feingold articles and blog posts that have surfaced this week, a disproportionate amount of the writing deals strictly with the political implications of his actions: Did he alienate his party or sound a Democratic charge? In general, liberal journalists and bloggers spend a lot of time writing about the Democratic Party’s strategy, or lack thereof. This obsession is not surprising considering their poor showings at the polls recently. And hey, I’m the first to agree that Democrats need to get their house in order, but let’s not beat political strategy to death at the expense of actually discussing progressive principles. After all, the whole point of winning elections is to advance policies that reflect your principles. Playing the political game for the thrill of victory is reprehensible. Kudos to Greider for reminding us of that.