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The Fight Worth Fighting: Preserving American Exceptionalism

Battleground: Wisconsin

Many thanks to EPU for introducing me to RedState readers last week. As noted in his article, “Meet David Westlake…the Cure for Russ Feingold,” we indeed had a great discussion that covered numerous topics, including the fact that politics ultimately comes into play in nearly every aspect of the “American Experience.”

Of particular note, we broached the greatest threat to America today—a tacit willingness to separate ourselves from American Exceptionalism. It’s the cause Conservatives are always at “war” to defend in politics—the greatness of this nation and all she embodies. Focusing on any individual—or individual component—in a campaign only perpetuates the scourge of “politics as usual”…a gateway drug for apathy…which, in turn, carries a surgeon general-approved warning of bigger government, less freedom, and more problems. Make no mistake about it, “politics as usual” is the first step down the slippery slope to disaster.

As such, my campaign here in Wisconsin is not so much a “war” with Sen. Russ Feingold; rather he is the threshold that I must battle first before moving on toward a decisive victory against the socialist motives plaguing America right now. American Exceptionalism in all its forms, rooted in conservative values, is therefore the arsenal with which I must now engage the enemy.

It’s not easy. But now is our time, and I take inspiration from the fact that equally terrible enemies have been defeated by this same arsenal in other times and historical settings.

The Greatest Generation’s Defining Moment

In the pre-dawn hours of June 6th, 1944, America and her Allies launched the largest invasion force in the history of modern warfare. Aimed at the shores of Normandy, France, were 150,000 troops, 11,000 vessels and landing craft. To prepare the battlefield for attack, 12,000 aircraft flew 14,000 sorties. Awaiting the allied landing—across 1,000 yards of surf, another 200 yards of beachhead, thousands of mines and barbed-wire obstacles, and up 100-foot shear cliffs was an entrenched German Army. They had artillery guns configured for direct-fire; mortar and machine-gun nests not only covered and concealed but also fortified with seemingly endless rounds of ammunition; and Panzer unit reinforcements behind the Atlantic Wall line.

The Germans appeared to have nearly all the advantages. Between overlapping fields of fire, weapon placement, and force positioning, the stage had been set as a devastating kill zone.

And a kill zone it was.

In the opening hours of the invasion, over 4,400 Allied soldiers died and more than double that were wounded. Before the battle of Normandy was over, the Allies suffered more than 200,000 casualties—over 50,000 of those killed in action.

I paint this stark reminder of the reality of what the Allies faced on D-Day to illustrate a point. The odds were incredibly steep. But we attacked the Wehrmacht at Normandy because a greater cause was in peril—freedom. The risk was significant but defending freedom was both just and necessary. Moreover, the cost of other options—namely containing or appeasing national socialism—was simply too great. Indeed, it would have been even greater than that absorbed on the shores of Normandy on that bloody morning. Sheer bravery and willingness to risk for higher principles—the essence of American Exceptionalism—ensured a different outcome.

In our current political environment, we’re seeing a parallel playing out before us now in our current political environment—and the antidote to the problems are the same now as they were 66 years ago: American Exceptionalism rooted in conservative values.

(Note: To be clear, this analogy should in no way be taken as a direct comparison between Senator Feingold or the current administration in Washington to Nazis.)

The Politics of War…and the War of Politics

Too often, the political process pits one individual against another—candidate v. candidate, war chest v. war chest, party affiliation v. party affiliation. This perspective fails to address what American political campaigns ultimately MUST now be about: staving off the natural predators of our Republic: expansion of government, out of control spending, crippling taxes, and the erosion of individual liberties. Focusing solely on an opposing candidate, for example, misses the point. To say the problem lies exclusively with a person is like saying that the Allies were at war simply to take back the beaches of Normandy. Then as now, the real enemy was an ideology. In 1944 we were at war to stop a crazed zealot’s belief that he could—and should—rule all of humanity. Sure, we battled the German forces at Normandy, but that was not the entirety of the war…it was a threshold we had to cross to achieve victory—and a high one, at that.

So it is with politics: the opposing candidate is simply the adversary we battle in order to ultimately eradicate the threats to our form of government and way of life. And, as with our alternatives in WWII, containment and appeasement are not valid choices.

Missing the Target

Correctly identifying the armament necessary to win the war for our future is where the traditional political insiders have missed the target in this race. Since the beginning of the election cycle, politicos across the nation have been watching the horizon for a challenger who can match Senator Feingold dollar-for-dollar in the campaign chess match.

This hasn’t worked in the past and won’t work now…not in Wisconsin, anyway.

Unfortunately, this single-dimension approach shows a woeful lack of understanding with respect to the breadth of the principles of strategy…or, for that matter, the principles of war. Senator Feingold’s main asset has NEVER been his money—it’s his ability to frame himself as a “common man” who can relate to blue-collar workers and farmers that make up a majority of this state. Money doesn’t speak to these people—commonality does. It’s just about impossible to convince the average Wisconsin farmer that you’re like him and experiencing the same pain he is when you pull up to his pasture in a $90,000 car, step in his herd’s “fertilizer” with your Armani shoes, and start talking about milk prices when the only milk you buy comes foamed in your Starbucks latte. Sure, that guy’s got the money to spend on running against Feingold, but he’ll lose every single time because, even in a year that is supposedly bad for Democrats, Senator Feingold will be able to portray him as out of touch with most Wisconsin voters…and, frankly, he’s right.

Since his first race for the U.S. Senate in 1992, Senator Feingold has been dead on about a couple of things: 1) Wisconsin voters do indeed like a maverick…someone who doesn’t fit the “mold,” and 2) Wisconsin voters like an underdog. Senator Feingold has successfully, if disingenuously, portrayed himself as both each time he’s run. Why? Because the GOP has consistently sought a candidate with money first and left as an afterthought all other details necessary to win against the man. That’s like launching the assault on the beachhead at Normandy first, then figuring out that you need battlefield intelligence, close-air support, a deception maneuver to draw the enemy’s main element away, off-shore indirect fire, an airborne element to drop troops behind enemy lines, a Ranger battalion to scale the shear cliffs, a multi-prong attack to initiate a turning movement with the enemy, etc. Don’t get me wrong—money is great in campaigns. And, heck, I wish we had more of it. But just like firing bullets alone does not win the battle, a candidate who is financially attractive first and substance-ready second (if at all) won’t even make it to the beach against Senator Feingold.

Give the People What They Want

The voters of Wisconsin want to get behind—and ultimately elect—someone they can feel good about. Someone in whom they can see something truly of themselves. For 18 years, Senator Feingold has not been that except during campaign season—but he’s been the best alternative to it available. This time is different. I’m challenging him on territory where he’s never had to fight before. He’ll have to contend against a REAL “common man” background. This simple fact nullifies his ability to frame me as a “big, evil, rich Republican” and him as “the little guy just fighting for the good folks from Wisconsin.” In fact, it exposes him for what he’s been all along but seldom allows Wisconsinites to see: the most liberal Senator in the United States whose big-government agenda is both bad for our future and nothing close to the “maverick” reputation he’s spent so many years cultivating.

It’s Senator Feingold’s Achilles’ heel…and I’m the only candidate running who’s able to expose it.

I’ve spent months studying Senator Feingold. Like a well-orchestrated military operation, our campaign set out to accomplish the goal of winning this battle methodically and in synchronization with what the voters of this state are ready for. And my message of American Exceptionalism based on conservative values has remained constant throughout. This unwavering approach—like that which fueled the victory at Normandy—is the true north that will guide America back onto the right path.

The battle lines are drawn. The objectives are clear. In 2010 we must restore belief that America is exceptional…

…and Wisconsin will lead the way.

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