Dear Russ Feingold, let me tell you about dancing with the devil

Hey, did you hear? The Senator who lost his seat to a wingnut is now pretending that he's qualified to call the shots on 'strategy' for the president who not only is the first black president of the United States, but has shown strategic brilliance in defeating the Republican legislative agenda time and again. That's right. Russ Feingold is calling President Obama's decision to support Priorities USA, a Democratic super PAC, "dumb strategy", and "dancing with the devil."
"This is dancing with the devil. I know a lot of Democrats in D.C. don’t agree, and I understand the desire to do everything possible to win," Feingold said in a statement. "But this decision will push Democrats to become corporate-lite, and will send us head-on into a battle we know we will lose, because Republicans like Mitt Romney and his friends have and will spend more money."
Dancing with the devil? So because Mitt Romney and his pals "have and will spend more money," our side should just pretend that the rules of the game has not been changed by the Supreme Court and try to compete? And should President Obama's re-election team lend the support to competition, they are "dancing with the devil?"

Since we're talking about dancing with the devil, let me give you a scenario, Mr. Feingold, that gives us a window into what dancing with the devil really looks like. Imagine:

  • A White House, Senate and House controlled by radical wingnuts who are intent on further concentrating economic and political power in the hands of the business elite.
  • A return to the same deregulated wild Wall Street that brought us to the brink of a second great depression.
  • Voucherizing of Medicare and dismantling of every other social insurance, investment and safety net programs, including Social Security, Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act, unemployment insurance, public education, student assistance, food stamps, and job assistance for displaced workers.
  • Redistribution of wealth by eliminating all taxes on inheritance for the super rich and on income from riches (capital gains) while increasing the tax burden of the working poor and the middle class.
  • End of the separation between Church and State.
  • End of the right of workers to collectively bargain.
  • Federal courts packed with activist conservative judges intent on rolling back economic and civil rights of the middle class, the poor, minorities and women.
  • A trigger happy President and White House that will cause more illegal and needless war to send our best and brightest to the face of danger.
  • A country where "states rights" does not include the right of a state to provide its citizens with health care but sure as heck includes the right of a state to hang consenting adults of consenting activities in the privacy of their own home.
America is an idea - that this is the beacon of hope where, for all of our imperfections, we devote ourselves to the ideal that if you work hard and play by the rules, you are limited only by your own imagination or potential. That we are a country where everyone has a fair shot, everyone plays by the same set of rules, and everyone does their fair share to invest in the future. Imagine a country where that quintessentially American ideal has been replaced by a banana republic in which the middle class dwindles to an endangered species, the poor become destitute, and opportunity becomes the birthright of a select few.

If you want to see the the dancing devil looking you in the eyes, Mr. Feingold, you need look no further than the Republican governor of your own state, Scott Walker and those of others who submitted to Republican rule after the 2010 elections. Workers' rights have been attacked, Republican legislatures and governors have claimed the right to dismiss elected local governments and institute dictatorial rule, right wing activists have tried to force women to carry the children of their rapists, and state governments have gone after their own citizens' right to vote at their own convenience.

And here's the thing about how that dancing devil got here and got so far. Part of the problem, frankly, Sen. Feingold, were people like you. People like you who demanded ponies and perfections from President Obama's sweeping reforms Wall Street for example. It was you, Sen. Feingold, who was willing to contribute to Americans' feelings that the government can't do anything right (the Republican argument) by filibustering the most significant re-regulation of the financial sector since 1930s. It was you who was willing to use the "not good enough" excuse to pick up applause lines at pretend-Left spheres rather than doing the hard work of governing and helping this president dig us out of the mess he'd been handed.

What about your pals who are so enthusiastically extolling your "principled" stand on the super PACs, at the Huffington Post? Did you ever think to ask Sam Stein, the reporter giving you the praises, about his employer's corporate selling out to AOL to make its owners rich while costing 200 American jobs? Did you think to ask his boss, Arianna Huffington, about why she is so happy to cash in on the work of unpaid bloggers that made the Huffington Post? You want to talk about dancing with the devil by consorting with big corporate money? The first people you need to talk to are the ones that are using your words to undermine the President.

The President was the only person with enough courage to call out the Supreme Court on their Citizens United decision while the justices sat in the audience.

You, Sen. Feingold, voted to confirm Chief Justice Roberts, who was one of the 5 Supreme Court votes to bring about Citizens United.

President Obama has strongly supported the DISCLOSE Act as well as a Constitutional amendment to reduce the political influence of money. And maybe if you and your pals at the Huffington Post weren't so zealous about tearing down the President throughout his first two years in office (and your zeal seems to have continued unabated), maybe Democrats would not have faced the electoral disaster they did in 2010, and maybe, just maybe, we would be somewhere with at least the DISCLOSE Act.

So don't tell the Obama campaign about dancing with the devil. Don't lecture the president's supporters who are trying to do our best to reduce the influence of big money in politics but who refuse to fight with one hand tied behind our backs. Let us be very clear on what the President's campaign has decided:
The President opposed the Citizens United decision. He understood that with the dramatic growth in opportunities to raise and spend unlimited special-interest money, we would see new strategies to hide it from public view. He continues to support a law to force full disclosure of all funding intended to influence our elections, a reform that was blocked in 2010 by a unanimous Republican filibuster in the U.S. Senate. And the President favors action—by constitutional amendment, if necessary—to place reasonable limits on all such spending.

But this cycle, our campaign has to face the reality of the law as it currently stands.

Over the last few months, Super PACs affiliated with Republican presidential candidates have spent more than $40 million on television and radio, almost all of it for negative ads.

Last week, filings showed that the Super PAC affiliated with Mitt Romney's campaign raised $30 million in 2011 from fewer than 200 contributors, most of them from the financial sector. Governor Romney personally helped raise money for this group, which is run by some of his closest allies.

Meanwhile, other Super PACs established for the sole purpose of defeating the President—along with "nonprofits" that also aren't required to disclose the sources of their funding—have raised more than $50 million. In the aggregate, these groups are expected to spend half a billion dollars, above and beyond what the Republican nominee and party are expected to commit to try to defeat the President.

With so much at stake, we can't allow for two sets of rules in this election whereby the Republican nominee is the beneficiary of unlimited spending and Democrats unilaterally disarm.
Feingold just six months ago called the President's re-election "absolute imperative for our economy, our judicial system, for progressives and for our country." I agree. But Feingold seems confused about what it might take in today's political environment to meet that imperative. As the Obama campaign announced, the President will continue to be in the forefront of the fight for campaign finance reform to enact it legislatively, but he will not let the Republicans bury him under a half billion dollars of negative advertising funded by the Koch brothers. No one can, nor should. In order to do anything on campaign finance reform, we are going to need President Obama and more Democrats in Congress. If, as Russ Feingold would have us do, we unilaterally disarm from the fight, the cause of reducing moneyed influence on politics will be only be set back.

There is no conflict between playing by the rules as they are now and also wanting to change those rules to make it more fair. Support for changing the rules cannot mean unilaterally laying down your arms so your opponent's campaign can lead you to slaughter. This is a battle for the preservation and resurgence of America, and we need to fight to win. And ideologues and pretend-Leftists need to understand that right now, we need our own weapon to neutralize the right wing money barrage, rather than surrendering the fight.

These are realities we need to understand. As opposed to the Republican funding outfits, Priorities USA will be supporting a candidate who has demonstrated his commitment to the middle class and his commitment to making the super rich pay a more fair share of the taxes. They will be supporting a candidate who has and will continue to fight for American workers, organized labor, sensible regulations on business, and for campaign finance reform. We cannot risk losing this election - meeting the very imperative Feingold himself outlined - simply because we are not willing to fight back against the right wing money machine. Because that would really be dancing with the devil.

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