Move over, Hillary: Russ Feingold is going to be the Democratic nominee for president in 2008.
For far too long the assumption has been that the former first lady would be the Dems' obvious pick. The storyline had dynastic flair, plus the sexy-milestone first-woman-president aspect. It had the wronged-woman-coming-out-on-top Style-section and glossy-headline opportunities. The idea launched many a Clinton-hater (hey, nothing wrong with that, I'm a card-carrier) book. It was scary while it lasted. But the moment's gone.
Enter Sen. Russell Feingold, three-term Democrat from Wisconsin.
He's positioned himself as the antiwar alternative. He's got the advantage of being able to say to anyone disillusioned about Iraq that he was (in his mind) right all along -- unlike Johnny-come-latelies like former Democratic vice president nominee John Edwards, who recently apologized for his 2002 Senate vote for the Iraq invasion. And with the recent defeat of Joe Lieberman in the Connecticut Democratic primary, it's Feingold's hour. It's his party and he can run if he wants to. The red carpet is out.
And it's really no surprise. I was talking about the Democratic 2008 options with a smart Republican Beltwayer, pre-Connecticut, and he saw the 2006 Democratic party for what it is: "The Democrat base is dominated by the Cossacks, Cindy Sheehan disciples, and Big Labor special interests who are increasingly devoted to a cause-oriented political jihad against what they view as a Democrat Establishment. Their disagreement with the Establishment is born out of their belief that: moderation is akin to treason towards the liberal doctrine; support for the war in Iraq is the political equivalent of having '666' marked on your skull. You're either with them or against them."
It's a depressing reality, especially if you support our effort in Iraq -- that one of our two leading parties might well ostracize anyone who continues to support that effort. But that's exactly what Lieberman's loss -- and national left-wing celebration of it -- suggests. It's a free country and you can oppose the war if you want to, of course. But a party with no disagreement is the kinda party where the guests you want sticking around are going to leave early, or not show at all.