As scores of petitions begin appearing on the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (GAB) website in the form of scanned pdf files (for all the world to see and verify), it will become obvious in the coming weeks that a recall election is inevitable. The grassroots have its wish – a constitutional referendum on Scott Walker’s power grab, after only one year in office. The time has come for a Progressive wake-up call, or reality check, in the form of who is willing, able, and ready to step up and replace Scott Walker. And based on recent social (and mainstream) media chatter, some of you will want to sit down and take a deep breath before you read any further.
It is time for Democrats, Progressives, Socialists, moderate Republicans, and all who are looking for Scott Walker’s replacement to concede one major point. For the good of the movement, and the people who struggle every day against Scott Walker and the GOP’s draconian measures in Wisconsin, it is time for us to acknowledge that Russ Feingold will not run in a recall election against Scott Walker. This is not a popular statement to make – but it is true. Allow this writer to assure you that there are sources close to Senator Feingold who have consistently confirmed this fact. Out of respect for Feingold’s years of tireless and selfless progressive service to Wisconsin, we ought heed his decision – and rally behind what it means to this movement of the people.
Russ Feingold’s decision not to run does not mean the loss or lack of a Progressive Champion for Wisconsin. On the contrary – it makes room for something that has been desperately needed in the last decade. A NEW champion for progressive values, and the people. It is time for the new progressives, arising from this grassroots movement, to take hold of this moment and champion the cause of the people. Feingold will undoubtedly continue to champion our cause, through Progressives United and support of Progressive candidates; indeed, his time to represent the people will most certainly come again. However, in his stepping back, he has given us a great opportunity, if we seize it, to determine the direction Wisconsin Government will take for generations. From the Governor’s Office to Senate and Assembly seats, to the State Supreme Court, to local elections, the people may now choose a NEW politic to lead them – if we recognize the rare moment we are poised upon. It is now our obligation to engage in consideration of future generations and the leadership yet to come.
For the moment, and the movement, let go of Russ Feingold, and embrace the potential that new leadership can bring to Wisconsin. Our common foe is the greed, avarice, and corporate plutocracy represented by Scott Walker and his GOP allies around the country. Just as we united to collect over one million signatures, let us now unite to begin electing a new generation of representative government, keeping a vigilant eye on corporatic power …and don’t worry, Russ Feingold will be back to represent us as an elected official, in his time, just as he now represents us as “Citizen Feingold.”
In this early debate of candidates, Badger Democracy would like to offer its current (and subject to change – as John Nichols said, “politics is evolutionary”) top three potential candidates, in no particular order:
1. Peter Barca – Barca, the Assembly Minority Leader from the 64th, has been an outspoken critic of Scott Walker and the GOP power grab from day one. More importantly, Barca has been a lifelong resident of Wisconsin, served his area as both Congressman and Assemblyman, and has always been a champion of social, economic, and labor justice. One downside for Barca would be his Congressional seat loss to Mark Neumann, but his approachability and demeanor would play well statewide. Not to mention, he hails from outside Milwaukee and Dane Counties – something this writer feels is a necessity in this tumultuous and divisive time. Barca has not formally declared his candidacy.
2. Steve Kagen – The former Congressman from the 8th District is also a Wisconsin native, still living in Appleton, only leaving Wisconsin for Medical training at Northwestern University. Prior to attending UW-Madison, Kagen worked as a Teamster in a dairy. A renowned allergist in private practice, Kagen’s voting record as a Congressman displays highly progressive values in health care, wage reform, and justice. He refused to participate in the Congressional health plan until all Americans had access to affordable care. As with Barca, his loss (to Reid Ribble in the tea party wave of 2010) can be overcome by his voting record and statewide appeal as a Fox Valley Progressive – a key area of the state in any election. Kagen has not formally declared his candidacy.
3. Kathleen Vinehout – The State Senator from the 31st (Western Wisconsin), Vinehout was relatively unknown statewide until recently. She has grabbed the attention of many outside her district – and for good reason. Vinehout holds a PhD, M.P.H., and has an Associate Degree in Agriculture. She has a background in Healthcare Management, focusing on state healthcare reform and management – especially in rural areas. Vinehout hails from a family of labor and nursing with both parents having also served in the military. She and her family formerly operated an organic dairy farm, and also has a rich background in the state’s dairy industry. Vinehout drafted her own budget, in response to Scott Walker’s in 2011. She has long been a champion of Wisconsin Labor, families, health care reform and affordability, and would have great appeal in a critical statewide race focusing on grassroots politics. Vinehout arose with a grassroots campaign to beat a Republican in 2006, and successfully defended against the late Ed Thompson in 2010 – a year which saw many Democrats lose to Republicans in the tea party wave. Kathleen Vinehout has not formally declared her candidacy.
This is the people’s chance to make history and a new politic. Embrace this moment – and keep your eye on Scott Walker and the GOP. United, we will elect a replacement for them and put Wisconsin on the path of progressivism once again. Fighting Bob lives.