A Breath of Fresh Air: A Partisan Perspective

by rthieme on November 4, 1998

The political campaign this year was claustrophobic, pressing us up against the simplistic misrepresentations and distortions that pass for debate in the digital world.  Much of the time, it felt like a small elevator, stuck between floors.  But the day after the election, there’s a breath of fresh air that reminds me of one definition of a schlemiel, that when he finally leaves the room, it feels like someone we like came in.

It’s been years since we stayed up late to learn who won. This year, it felt like it mattered. We want to believe that ideals to which we once committed our lives still count. We can get a little cynical, after all, and at the least, we want to bequeath a legacy of possibility and promise to the next generation.

And that’s how it felt when Russ Feingold won reelection as a Senator from Wisconsin. What made the difference? The defeat of a guy we saw only in digital images, funded by outside interests? No, I think it was more the feeling that Feingold pretty much maintained his integrity from one term to the next and presented himself pretty much as he really is. His commitment to campaign reform and his personal and public behaviors are congruent, and that’s what a lot of us voted to affirm.

Feingold is not a saint, but his presentation of the various levels of truth about himself was seamless. His re-election was a vote for an image of transparent integrity. That’s what kept us up last night, the desire to see reaffirmed that most people in possession of most facts will pretty much make the right decisions pretty much most of the time.

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