Senators: Stand with Feingold

Russ Feingold is a hero in a country embarrassingly and perhaps fatally lacking in heroes.

We are in very grave danger. We have an elected leader who claims that he is not subject to the rule of law and has acted, secretly, in controversion of the law. He says that his subverting the law is for us, that it's what we want, what we "hired him" to do.

We have one kind of government. When our elected leader makes and acts on such a novel claim, what follows is a different kind of government. (It is probably not a unilateral decision, of course. Usually, for a decision like that -- going suddenly from one kind of government to another -- all the important generals have to be on board.)

That strong new government -- the one where the Rule of the Ruler (and his Junta) supplants the Rule of Law, may function very efficiently, with trains running on time and fewer messy strikes or protests, and it will almost certainly bring great happiness to most of the rich. (The rule of the strong man is generally a very cozy and productive time for the rich.) It may be a wonderful government in all respects, just what the doctor (Frist?) ordered, but of course it is not democracy.

Calling that new government by its real name when we see it rearing its terrible smirking, leering head in the United States is considered uncivil and potentially alienating and extreme -- as extreme, for example, as censuring a president who openly brings on that new government ("Bring it on!") by fiat -- by claiming he can decide which laws apply to him, ignore the others, and make up useful new ones (or useful new interpretations of old ones) all by himself, without any oversight, without any checks and balances, without a peep from you or from us. (Besides, if you try to interfere, he'll just take you out back and veto the daylights out of you, won't he?)

He's doing it for our own good, of course. Of course. But has any elected government ever been subverted for any other reason than to save it?

Make no mistake, Feingold's motion to censure is not a foolish nuisance interrupting your busy lawmaking schedules, not an unnecessary distraction from the great work of appealing as unspecifically as possible to enough disgruntled Republicans that we can eke out a tarnished and compromised numerical victory in November. It goes to the heart of what the United States is and means. It also goes to the heart of the responsibility we have given you -- and you have accepted -- to preserve and protect our country.

Stand with Feingold for the democracy, or pass -- and continue, as a party, to stand for as little as possible. Alienate no one, appeal mildly and broadly, and then be buried forever in the hapless, dithering, frightened irrelevance that is the Democratic Party's astonishing achievement in these terrible times. Stand with Feingold or don't bother standing for any more elections. If you can't censure this President for such a patent and chilling offense, it probably won't matter much to anyone but you whether you're re-elected or not. This country may soon be past needing the little that you find yourselves able -- or willing -- to do for it.