Monday, April 03, 2006

Who Will Be The People’s Candidate?

I read a profile of Chilean President Michelle Bachelet this weekend in The Guardian Unlimited, and I find it simultaneously amazing and inspiring that this woman now holds the highest office in that country. Politics in Chile has traditionally been dominated by men, and religion plays a large role in that country, yet this single mother, a self proclaimed agnostic, was able to reach the people of Chile and inspire them to put their fears aside and look to the future, a perfect example of the dramatic social and political shift taking place in Latin America that puts a glaring spotlight on our own fears that seem to be leading us back in time.

While much of the rest of the world is moving away from religion and authoritarian rule, and toward reason and populist ideals, in this country, we seem to be moving in the opposite direction, clamoring for more restrictions on our freedoms in the elusive search for security. But, there are many in this country who are growing tired of being afraid, and the time is right for a leader who will inspire us to move toward a better future and who will help us break the chains of fear that are holding us back. And that inspiration is not going to come from the lackluster Presidential frontrunners currently dominating the stage, but instead will come from someone the D.C. insiders will likely consider a long shot candidate.

I’m sure that when Ms. Bachelet decided to run for President, there were plenty of people who thought she was crazy and plenty more that advised her she didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of pulling it off, but she went ahead anyway. Clearly the Chilean people liked the vision of their country that Ms. Bachelet presented to them, so much so that they were willing to disregard conventional wisdom and throw their support behind her. There’s no reason that people powered politics can’t work just as well in this country, the question is, who will step up and become the people’s candidate?

Now, it’s no secret that I am a big fan of Senator Feingold’s (some have even suggested that I have a crush on the man. I’m not sure that’s true, although I was awfully excited to be sharing cyberspace with him on Smirking Chimp last week, in, I’ll admit, a silly and somewhat girly way) and certainly, conventional wisdom has his chances of winning the Presidency at next to zero, but that doesn’t change the fact that he is the best of the lot of Democratic leaders, at least up to this point. Not only is he willing to stand alone, if necessary, in defense of our constitution and our history as a free and open society, he’s also fighting for our future. I, for one, like the view of America through Feingold’s eyes and I shudder at the future America that John McCain or even Hillary Clinton will usher in if given the chance.

So let’s not be afraid to buck conventional wisdom and instead allow ourselves to consider the best options available to us, whether or not they seem reasonable now. After all, how reasonable was it that a figurehead governor of Texas, with a shady history of substance abuse and a string of failed businesses behind him could not only become President, but could also manage to hold on to the Presidency for a second term? Sure, he did it with a lot of money and family connections (not to mention some suspect political maneuvers), but it can be done without those things as well. Especially if a candidate emerges that really inspires the people, connects with them, speaks to their concerns and who can articulate a positive message and a better future. And just imagine how people would respond if he/she actually believed in the vision being presented. Now that person would be unbeatable.

I’m willing to concede that Senator Feingold has an uphill battle if he does decide to seek the Presidency, as many have pointed out, he’s twice divorced, Jewish, a Senator and has a pretty liberal voting record. But so what? It’s not as if he’s apologizing for any of those things (nor should he, and shame on us for thinking otherwise), and time has proved him to be on the right side of the major issues affecting our country, like the war in Iraq, the overreaching of the Patriot Act and the illegality of Bush’s NSA surveillance program. Seems to me he believes in what he says and he’s not afraid to tackle corruption, abuses of power and infringements on our constitutional rights. If an agnostic single mother can get elected President of Chile, a divorced Jewish Senator can be elected President here. But only if we are willing to show the same kind of courage and optimism as was exhibited by the Chilean people. I think we can do it, what about you?


Blogger Vile Blasphemer said...

You should read the article about progressive women in African politics in the current Newsweek. I'm sure that would make you smile also.

2:41 PM  
Blogger The (liberal)Girl Next Door said...

Vile Blasphemer--I'm going to check it out right now, thanks. Sad that we're not leading the world in much these days, not even democracy and equality.

2:46 PM  
Blogger Yellow Dog said...

LG and Feingold sitting in a tree...hey, if Al doesn't runI promise to vote for Senator McDreamy.

3:34 PM  
Anonymous geocrackr said...


I'm right there with you on most of it (well, except for the girly excitement part), but I can't help thinking about what happened to Dean. Remember that he ran basically as a sensible populist, and the DNC, afraid of someone who's funding was outside of their control, turned all the vitriol that they usually reserve for Nader towards him and ganged up with the establishment (read 'conservative') media to paint him as 'the wild-eyed, out-of-control screamer with the hippy wife' caricature we've come to know and love. Howard's worst enemies were within his own party. There's been absolutely nothing in recent Democratic behavior to suggest that they're not going to turn on Feingold in exactly the same way.

(And to forestall all you strawmen builders out there, I'm not making any statement about whether Dean actually was populist in his policies, only that he was the front-runner in popular support and small-donation funding and the DNC bent all their will towards sabotaging that.)

4:04 PM  
Anonymous Dale Hippert said...


They couldn't have 'painted' Dean if he hadn't served up the 'water colors'!

He was both a little too much shoot from the hip and too excitable, at least for one memorable night.

Dukakis in the tank, Gore with his 'lock box' and Kerry lacking the 'reaction time' he had when he hopped off his boat to chase down and kill the VC with the rocket launcher. The Dems seem to provide themselves as fodder too often.

Feingold does not seem to mis-speak himself from what I've seen, and from what the heavily Germanic Christian population of WI has apparently seen.

Last time we ran a Rhodes scholar, we won. Time for another?

4:42 PM  
Anonymous geocrackr said...


They couldn't have 'painted' Dean if he hadn't served up the 'water colors'!

Thank you for proving my point.

You're right of course about the Dem's profound ability to shoot themselves in the foot. The question is, should Feingold decide to go for it, how are they going to sabotage themselves once again by derailing him?

4:51 PM  
Anonymous Poechewe said...

The key about politicians at the moment, and maybe a good part of the time, is that belief is less important than whether they can genuinely offer hope and the leadership to go with it. Feingold has the leadership part down pat because it comes natural to him. It's too early for him to offer his political message but if he can offer a pragmatic vision of hope, he has a chance. At the very least, he may wake up other Democratic candidates on the need to do more than huddle with political consultants (imitating Republicans on this has been a mistake).

Be careful about religion, though. Most Americans are far more open-minded about spiritual and religious values than the right-wingers would like us to believe. Don't let the right-wingers define what religion is. Whether religious or not, the need for meaningfulness in one's life is never something to be taken lightly.

Quick comment for geocrackr: I like Dean, he's a good man, but I never felt he truly had a handle on the leadership issue. Feingold does.

5:14 PM  
Blogger The (liberal)Girl Next Door said...

Yellow Dog--Would you stop pulling my pigtails!

Geocrackr--The good news for someone like Feingold is that Dean is running the DNC now and he's doing it his (our) way regardless of what the establishment Democrats want.

Dale--You're right in that Feingold isn't as "from the hip" as Dean, which will work to his advantage. And yes, I'm ready for another Rhodes scholar, I'm tired of being smarter than my President.

Poechewe--You're right, and I think Feingold is putting forth a vision of hope, the first step being reclaiming our past and appealing to what is best about this country and what we stand for.

5:31 PM  
Blogger BigNewsDay said...

Breaking news from Texas: That a**hole Tom DeLay will announce on Tuesday that he is withdrawing from his re-election bid.


One down, many more to go.

8:15 PM  
Blogger Howard Martin said...

What other choice is there right now, besides Feingold, who we can look at and feel good about supporting?

8:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

LG, I think you are absolutely correct. We should be for the candidate who makes us passionate. Also, we should find a candidate who talks like regular people (uh oh, sitting Senators are in a disadvantage here).

My pick right now would be Gov. Mark Warner. He could campaign here in WA in every single congressional district, which Kerry couldn't (and Feingold probably couldn't). Warner is already running. He's on C-SPAN all the time. Check him out.

9:26 PM  
Blogger The (liberal)Girl Next Door said...

BigNewsDay--I know, isn't it great! Couldn't happen to a nicer exterminator.

Howie--Not anyone else that I can think of.

Will--I can't say that "passionate" and "Mark Warner" go together for me. I know that many moderates are excited by him and I keep hearing that I should be too, but I just can't seem to get it up for him. I'm willing to keep trying, but so far, I'm just not that into him. In fact, if it came down to it, I'd rather vote for Hillary. I'm just really hoping it doesn't come to that.

9:44 PM  
Anonymous Dale Hippert said...


You launch and mix more metaphors than any girl I've known!

Passion has it's role, but notwithstanding your 'get it up' reference I don't see enough passion of a positive nature for Hilary emanating from you, or most Dems, Indies and enough Repugs for her to win.

Gentleman's bet: Your passion will rise in
direct proportion to the poll spread showing a Dem nominee stomping the Repug's nominee!

You will smell blood, your testosterone will rise...yes it will...and you'll be staring at the elecric or manual can opener that you own with the imagery of opening the proverbial can of ass-whup
on the Repugs, swimming through your head!

You WILL be 'into' all of THAT!

11:18 PM  
Blogger Howard Martin said...

If you like slippery, you'll love Mark Warner! But he may be the best our process can produce.

6:36 PM  
Blogger The (liberal)Girl Next Door said...

Dale--I fear you may be right, but up until the point I am forced to admit it, I'm going to pretend you're not.

About the metaphors, I’m sorry. I really am starting to believe you are an English teacher, if not by trade, certainly at heart.

Howie--And I'm not into slippery, I'm still recovering from Clinton.

7:46 PM  

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