I am very troubled by a decision that Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold made this Labor Day weekend. When President Obama arrived in Milwaukee Senator Feingold was absent, telling everyone that he had a previous committment to an event in Janesville.
While it is true that Janesville held a Labor Day event, like so many places all around the country, the Senator’s reason for not being with the President rings hollow. For all of us who see every newscast peppered with campaign ads we know the reason Feingold did not stand with the President has to do with politics.
And I am not amused.
For a Senator who has taken so many tough, principled, and in my opinion correct votes, I do not like to see Feingold reduced to this type of behavior for an election.
Some would argue that it was smart for Feingold, who is in a heated election, to not attend as the President has troubling poll numbers, and Republicans would like nothing better than to show the two Democratic leaders give a hug on stage. That image would likely been used over and over in Republican campaign commercials, as a way to prove some sinister liberal plan exists ‘to grow government.’
I, however, think Senator Feingold should have attended, and went out of his way to embrace President Obama.
Here is why.
Senator Feingold and President Obama have nothing to be ashamed of, and much to be proud of as they reflect on their records. But as we venture along this campaign season it is hard to know that when too many Democrats act as it they are spooked by their own shadow.
I am perplexed with Democrats who can not stand up and take credit for the good things that been done over the past two years, or refuse to stand alongside those who brought them to the dance. One of the main problems for Democrats as the mid-term elections approach is the lack of spine in strutting their accomplishments. While Democrats limp along without cheering for what was gained, Republicans are more than happy to spin the past two years into a frightful liberal nightmare.
Health care legislation was a victory, as was financial reform, and the stimulus bill. None was easy, but all were needed. When Democrats do not stand up and defend their actions they allow the opposition to paint the picture and fill in the words. That allows for distortion and an erosion of support among the electorate. If Democrats will not stand up for their own list of accomplishments, how can they compete against an energized Republican opponent?
While Feingold did praise the President in Janesville, stating he stands with Obama and is supportive of his efforts to rejuvenate the economy, it would have been far more appropriate to have truly stood with him in person.
It makes Senator Feingold look weak when Republicans are able to spook him into not standing with the President when he visits Wisconsin. That is not the image Democrats want to convey with only about 60 days to go until we cast votes.
There is another reason I have problems with Feingold’s decision not to stand with Obama. It just was not a very classy thing to do. Regardless of politics you should always stand with your friends. There comes a time when you say, whatever the effects, I will not turn my back on the leader of the free world. The President is coming to my state, and by God I will be there with him. That may seem corny and outdated in this era of slash and burn politics, but it is a standard I still think has merit. It is a value I think many of my fellow citizens share, even in this jaded time in which we live.
Republicans would have tried to use the event to their advantage with pictures and ads. Let them. It is not as if these antics have not been done before.
But by not standing shoulder to shoulder with President Obama on Labor Day another picture has emerged of Senator Feingold.
In this one he looks smaller. Weaker.
And the voters see that.