By Matt Payne
Original Publication: The Daily Cardinal
This year’s Senate race has turned out to be a challenging one for Wisconsin’s Senator Russ Feingold. In fact the most recent aggregate from pollster.com puts his opponent, business owner and political newcomer Ron Johnson, ahead by one percentage point. The senator, first elected in 1992, is now running in one of the toughest reelection bids he’s ever faced. Johnson has not only shown his ability to run an effective grassroots campaign, but was able to effectively outraise Feingold last reporting period. The race, once thought to be a safe seat for Feingold, has garnered nationwide attention largely due to the fact that it illustrates the deep dissatisfaction the nation has for this administration and Congress.
Yet there’s more to this race than just anti-Washington sentiment. While it’s true that people are tired of Washington insiders like Feingold continuing on with the tired rhetoric that government knows best, Senator Feingold, in the mind of many Wisconsinites, is simply out of touch with the people of the state. Once considered an independent voice for Wisconsin, the senator has become just another Washington politician, accustomed to the business as usual crowd and faithfully following the party line.
In addition to his new role as a party faithful, Senator Feingold and his Democratic colleagues have failed to make the economy a top priority, even with record high unemployment. They opted instead to tackle healthcare reform. Healthcare reform, which a majority of the state’s residents opposed, was passed despite bi-partisan opposition and a majority of Americans against it. Now, according to a recent Gallup/USA Today Poll, 56 percent of Americans still disapprove.
Even many college students, who so hopefully looked to both Barack Obama and Democrats like Senator Feingold for leadership and change are now faced with a 9.5 percent unemployment rate and an economic crisis which until recently, had not been given much attention. College graduates face perhaps the toughest challenge finding a job as companies are less willing to hire new inexperienced workers. Despite the fact that many young people may agree with Senator Feingold on social issues such as gay marriage, the abysmal economic situation has caused many to lose faith in the Democrats who promised to make it a top policy issue.
The only solution Feingold and other Democrats could find for the economy was an $862 billion dollar stimulus package that most economists agree has done nothing substantive for the economy and has cost more than the entire Iraq war. Now he wants yet another $50 billion stimulus package to focus on building new infrastructure such as roads, railways and runways.
The President touted the new plan in Milwaukee over the weekend saying that “Over the next six years, we are going to rebuild 150,000 miles of our roads—enough to circle the world six times.” What President Obama and Senator Feingold don’t understand however, is that right now America doesn’t need to spend $50 billion dollars to rebuild a road that circles the world six times, it needs an economic recovery. More importantly it needs jobs. As we learned through the first stimulus package, building projects like this can create some temporary employment at a high cost, but not neccesarily a permanent job.
Most Wisconsinites are tired of the worn-out rhetoric that the government is the only vehicle by which jobs can be created. They understand that a job isn’t created by a government bureaucrat, but by a small business owner. They understand that the economic recovery cannot be led by a federal government thousands of miles away in Washington, but by local businesses and investors in cities and states across the country, including Wisconsin, that are willing to spend money and hire workers once again. That’s why they’re looking to someone who has private sector experience and a deep understanding of private enterprise and the economy to get us out of this economic mess we have been in for the last two years. They are looking to someone like Ron Johnson who has extensive knowledge of the private sector and will represent the interests of Wisconsin rather than those of Washington.
Feingold is falling in the polls because he and Democrats like him have failed to deliver real solutions to solve our economic woes. In addition, the once independent Feingold who stuck to his principles has become just another Washington politician who is more willing to listen to special interest groups and lobbyists of his party than he is willing to the people of his state.
Matt Payne is a junior majoring in Chinese and economics. Please send all feedback to [email protected]
Comments can be posted anonymously at Daily Cardinal website.