Feingold's Road Trip

Russ Feingold, D-WI, who will be sworn in for his third term on Jan. 4, wrote a piece, published in today's Salon under the title "Goin' South," from which I have heavily excerpted, below. It's a compelling reminder to Democrats that we need to point out at every opportunity the amount of people in this country who vote against their own best interests.
On Nov. 2, I was fortunate enough to be elected by the people of Wisconsin to a third term in the U.S. Senate. Right after the election, I confess I immediately went looking for a warm place to golf. So I piled into a van with some friends in Milwaukee and drove from Wisconsin to Alabama.


As she made the turn onto Exit 130 in Greenville, [my wife Mary] saw the same little building my buddies and I had seen a day earlier. Banners on the roof read "Republican Headquarters" and "George W. Bush." At the very top of the roof, a celebratory message had been unfurled. It read, simply, "Hallelujah." She had the same thought that had occurred to the rest of us when we first saw the tiny structure and the big banners: If the red-and-blue map of the United States were to have an intensity meter, this place may well glow as the reddest spot on the whole map.


After our meal that evening, we drove around Greenville to see what there was to see. And what we saw -- check-cashing stores and abject trailer parks, and some of the hardest-used cars for sale on a very rundown lot -- told us the people there were hurting economically and deserved more than they were getting.


Having held town hall meetings in every one of Wisconsin's 72 counties each year for the past 12 years, I've heard repeatedly of the difficult struggles that so many working families are enduring in both urban and rural areas. And in [Greenville], I connected again to an American experience that isn't dictated by whether you live in a red state or a blue state.

The people of Alabama appear to be among the most generous and most unsung philanthropists in this country. What they give is unimaginable to many others and they give it time and again: They regularly give their turn at the American dream to someone else. And they give it simply because they're asked. So many people in Greenville don't seem to have basic healthcare coverage or promising job opportunities. Meanwhile, their children volunteer to risk their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. I can only be humbled by their sacrifice.

But because I am a lawmaker and a student of history, I also know who has been asking them to give so much. And I can only wonder how many more generations of central Alabamians will say yes when the increasingly powerful Republican Party asks them to be concerned about homosexuality but not about the security of their own health, about abortion but not about the economic futures of their own children. As my wife and I drove through Greenville that night, I thought how fundamentally unfair this all is in order to support an increasingly radical conservative movement.


I'm tired of seeing the power-hungry persuade the hardworking people of this country that the only way to preserve important values is to vote against their own families' basic interests. I believe that the working people of both [Wisconsin and Alabama] have sacrificed for other people's agendas for too long. And I believe that any political party or political movement or political candidate who would consistently say this would be heard throughout America.

We need to go to the Greenvilles of every state, red and blue, and say, "Thank you. You've sacrificed long enough. Now it's your turn at the American dream."

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