On Sunday, former Senator Russ Feingold will pick up an honorary degree and deliver our Commencement speech as our seniors prepare to march off in glory. Feingold was a notoriously independent voice, as evidenced by his lone vote against the PATRIOT Act. Illustrating the odd second dimension of American politics, this week Tea Party hero, Rand Paul, nearly derailed the reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act by fundamentally siding with Senator Feingold’s position on the encroachment of federal power.
Indeed, the libertarian press shed a tear for Feingold, even comparing him to the incomparable Wisconsin icon, Robert LaFollette.
As H.L. Mencken wrote of the original LaFollette:
There is no ring in his nose. Nobody owns him. Nobody bosses him. Nobody even advises him. Right or wrong, he has stood on his own bottom, firmly and resolutely, since the day he was first heard of in politics, battling for his ideas in good weather and bad, facing great odds gladly, going against his followers as well as with his followers, taking his own line always and sticking to it with superb courage and resolution.
Suppose all Americans were like LaFollette? What a country it would be! No more depressing goose-stepping. No more gorillas in hysterical herds. No more trimming and trembling. Does it matter what his ideas are? Personally, I am against four-fifths of them, but what are the odds?…You may fancy them or you may dislike them, but you can’t get away from the fact that they are whooped by a man who, as politicians go among us, is almost miraculously frank, courageous, honest and first-rate.
So farewell to Feingold.
Indeed, I bet civil libertarians miss Senator Feingold on the floor, as he and Paul would have made for interesting bedfellow. Here’s Lynne Kiesling at Knowledge Problem on some recent trends in security versus liberty tradeoffs.