For the past day or so, I’ve been taking sustained cyber-fire from Wisconsin conservatives who are dismayed that I like Russ Feingold and Madison uber-liberals generally. I admit that Feingold is far more idealistic than he is practical, and espouses many initiatives that are highly ill-advised. I also admit that Madison politics suffers far too much from reigns of terror by feminists and multi-culturalists and other -ists. I remember a time when the school newspaper (the Daily Cardinal — !!! ) was run by a girl who was a Socialist multiracial lesbian, or something like that. This gave her an automatic monopoly of moralistic violence, and she went on a rampage. Within a year, she had alienated everyone. But these experiences served to teach me and my friends an important lesson, namely that demagogues and delinquents can be found everywhere on the political spectrum.
My point was really a very personal one. Particularly in Madison and the area around it, Wisconsin liberals have achieved a truly beautiful way of life, rustic and at the same time ultra-literate, in a nest of farmland and forests and lakes, far beyond earshot of the materialism and swirling madness of the big cities on the coasts. I have never been anywhere where social altruism and civic ethics have evolved as far as they have in Wisconsin — except Germany and Switzerland, where most of these people came from. But in Europe social harmony depends on absolute cultural homogeneity (and therefore requires xenophobia as a matter almost of community defense). Wisconsinites, on the other hand, have achieved social harmony in spite of – indeed, they would say because of — their profound ethic of social and cultural tolerance. And in the most mundane day-to-day details of village life, they are very simply the best citizens.
Of course, defending them from distant threats requires fighting their political agenda, which we do in Congress, and in the press. But to exclude them and their idealism altogether would be no victory at all. They deserve a voice, and that’s what Russ Feingold represents. Those who think that partisanship is bad for democracy should wed themselves to the obvious solution: isolate political disagreements, prioritize the things we agree on, and put friendship–and community–above all. That’s the Wisconsin way.