Russ Feingold’s re-election effort was defeated in November. Citizens of America and of Wisconsin who want clean, uncorrupted government that exists to serve the people, rather than to serve the profits of corporations and the super-rich, did not need that to happen. The loss of his representation, and of the long independent maverick tradition he established since he first became our Senator in D.C., and of the “Listening Sessions” he held in each and every county of the state, every year, will be missed and felt more than most people even can begin to realize. Russ Feingold, along with Independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont and the late Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, was the strongest (and among the very, very few) committed enemies of corruption of elections and government by well-heeled special interests that yet remained in the U.S. Senate. That was a tragic loss of one of the only U.S. Senators (perhaps the only one) who, like most of us, is not a millionaire, and who made a point of standing for (not just paying lip service to) the Constitution, and for the everyday people, our rights, our freedoms, and our general welfare.
As in the rest of the country, the majority in certain regions and communities of Wisconsin support one candidate, while the majority in other regions and communities support another candidate. But three counties (out of 72 total in Wisconsin) this November (and as has been the case in the past) take “first prize” by providing the most lop-sided votes of all, overwhelmingly favoring one party and that party’s candidates.
A simple survey of the unofficial county election results from the Government Accountability Board shows that the margins given to Feingold’s Republican opponent, Ronald Johnson, in the three notorious contiguous counties of Waukesha, Washington, and Ozaukee (immediately north and west of Milwaukee) provided Johnson with MORE than the total margin that put Johnson over the top in the entire state. In simple terms, if voters in Waukesha, Washington, and Ozaukee counties had split 50-50 in this last election, Russ Feingold would have been re-elected by the rest of Wisconsin.
That is also exactly true of the 2010 election for Governor. If Waukesha, Washington, and Ozaukee counties alone had been hotly contested in the election, rather than lop-sided, one-party-rule counties, Democrat Tom Barrett instead of Republican Scott Walker would have been elected Governor.
On a recent historical note relevant to this analysis, remember when Justice Louis Butler was running for re-election to the Supreme Court against mediocre partisan hack Mike Gableman? (Gableman was publicly endorsed by Republican County Sheriff Maury Straub and Republican Caucus Chair Glenn Grothman, in an ugly campaign that exploited unreasoning fear and racism, funded by massive amounts of anonymous corporate “donations” for attack ads.) Again, if it weren’t for the lop-sided vote against Justice Butler from Waukesha, Washington, and Ozaukee counties, Louis Butler would have been easily re-elected to his seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court by the majority of voters in the rest of the state.
Apparently, only 31 percent of Ozaukee voters, 28 percent of Waukesha voters and a startling 25 percent of Washington County voters chose Feingold. (Hell, I got 20 percent running there 2 years ago as a completely unknown Independent with no funding, no campaign committee, no ads, no straight party-line votes, nothing but a four month solo door-to-door campaign with 30,000 handmade leaflets about four issues, against previously uncontested Republican Party leader Glenn Grothman. And Russ Feingold only got 25 percent?! That’s almost beyond belief.)
The population of those three counties, combined, is now just under 11 percent of the population of Wisconsin.
Yet those three counties, alone, effectively countermanded the majority vote of the people in the entire rest of the state for Governor and for U.S. Senator and for Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice.
The number of people who voted statewide in November 2010 was only 38% of the 2009 estimated state population.
But the number of votes cast in Waukesha, Washington, and Ozaukee counties totaled 48% of the estimated 2009 population of those three counties.
If the number of votes cast in the other 69 counties had represented the same percentage of the population there as the percentage of votes cast in the three named counties, there would have been about 567,000 more votes cast in the other 69 counties than were cast in November. That would have provided more than five times as many votes as the 105 thousand vote margin that gave Johnson the election over Feingold – a margin which was, in effect, provided entirely by the remarkably lopsided tallies of just Washington, Waukesha, and Ozaukee counties.
It should be obvious to all in Wisconsin, by now, that the political process and the political consciousness of the people within Waukesha, Washington, and Ozaukee counties has an important relevance to all of the people, and to the political process, in the entire state of Wisconsin.
That relevance can only continue to be ignored to our mutual detriment.
P.S. A Personal Note:
There are an awful lot of American citizens who disdain voting simply because an individual’s vote in a democracy (whether the political process is corrupted to the core or not) is not a magic bullet and because voting does not make the voter feel as though he or she individually actually controls the process or the outcome. People often feel that there is no point in “getting involved” or even voting, that their vote and their opinion doesn’t matter, that government is inherently incapable of doing right, and that voting only encourages “them”.
Why are people not comfortable with the fact that in a true democracy, no one person is supposed to decide what happens? In a municipality of ten thousand people (let alone in a country of 350 million people!) you or I can vote in every election, all our lives, and never personally, appear to directly affect the outcome of a single election. That is absolutely not a valid argument against voting. Voting is a collective, community activity, not an exercise of an individual’s power. (Go to the gym and climb in the ring, or get out the chess set, or deal the cards for that.) People who are frustrated by that simple reality and by the genius represented by the concept of “one person, one vote” – no more and no less – can only find satisfaction for their frustration in a dictatorship in which they are the dictator, or in an infantile philosophy of withdrawal which holds that, “Since I can’t control this game myself, and I don’t think I can win today, I won’t play at all”.
You think that thinking clearly about the political process, and then voting doesn’t matter?
That’s why Russ Feingold lost, and that’s going to directly harm you, our country, and those you care about.
At any time and in any place, every good citizen should always vote (regardless of corruption and injustice and disappointment) – unless he or she is committed to, and engaged in, substantive, active revolution.