"The big lie"? The "big lie" is a lie that has "a certain force of credibility" precisely because it is so big:
[T]he broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.Those aren't Feingold's words. Those are the words of Adolf Hitler, which Feingold evoked when he used the historically resonant expression "the big lie." In accusing his opponents of employing "the big lie," Feingold is likening them to Hitler.
Let me remind you that the Wisconsin protesters have been equating Scott Walker with Hitler since last winter. From last March, here's a protester explaining why Scott Walker is like Hitler. Here's another explanation, from a woman with a sign portraying Scott Walker as Hitler. Here's a photo I took last February. I vividly remember this woman:
I asked her if she thought Scott Walker was like Hitler...
... and she said "Yes." So I said, "Are you saying that you think fascism could come to America," and she said, "It's what's happening."Russ Feingold is a very intelligent and informed man. His allusion to Hitler is subtle, not — I think — accidental. He's sounding the deep chord. His speech continues:
"How can they even say it with a straight face? This movement is so grass-roots, so red-and-white Wisconsin, that it is absolutely ridiculous to say that."Can you look at this picture of a truck parked on the Capitol Square during yesterday's rally and maintain a straight face?
It says: "Kentucky/West Virginia/Indiana." (And here's a golden oldie from last March: "Chicago is up in the house... Everyone left is from Chicago.")
Now, we've got a great football team. They may not be #1, except for a couple little problems there, but they're darned close, but when it comes to grass-roots activism that is all Badger, we are #1.All right. Quite aside from the truth of the assertion that the recall movement is totally in-state and grass-roots, how can he say "Now, we've got a great football team. They may not be #1"? We've got a great football team that is most certainly #1, but it's not in Madison, Wisconsin. It's in Green Bay. You can even hear an audience member yell out "Two!" in a prompt that Feingold could have heard. But it's a Madison, Wisconsin crowd, and Feingold is Madison-focused. He used the expression "red-and-white Wisconsin" as if the colors of the University of Wisconsin—Madison were the state colors. Red-and-white Wisconsin? What about green-gold-and-white Wisconsin? Feingold is unwittingly displaying that he is out of touch with the rest of the state — which voted him out of the U.S. Senate in 2010, despite his vast popularity in Madison.
And this is the state that voted in Scott Walker. The people of Madison never supported him, but they weren't in synch with the majority of the state in 2010. Now, it's a year later, and the people of Madison want to force another election, using the recall mechanism from the Wisconsin constitution, which doesn't limit the reasons why we might recall a governor. Russ Feingold addressed the question of when recalls are justified:
Our law says you can be recalled if you simply attack the people of the State of Wisconsin, and that is what this is all about.The state constitution says no such thing. "Attack the people"? It is for us, the people of Wisconsin, to decide when and why we want to use the recall device. There's no attack-the-people standard, whatever that's supposed to mean. Feingold attempts to infuse meaning into his made-up standard:
Now, I'm going to be the first to say I don't believe you should do recalls just any old time. I don't think that's a good idea. I think it could be damaging.I agree!
For example, I don't think it would be a valid basis to recall Walker because he ruined our chances to have a railroad system. I mean that was totally dumb. It was $800 million from the federal government that he just threw away.He just threw it away. Isn't it shocking to think of federal money like that? The federal government is deeply in debt. There is no money to throw away. Once the federal government offers money for some specific purpose it may seem to acquire reality, and if you are completely fixated on what you want for yourself, you may think, I'd better snap that up now or I'm going to lose it, but that's a delusion. There is no money. And if we'd taken the money for the railroad line (to connect Madison to Milwaukee), we would have been on the hook — as a state — for endless additional expenses over the years.
But according to Feingold, the railroad "was our future." It's not right to recall Scott Walker over that, however, Feingold says, because "he said he was going to do that." (That is true. It's why I voted for Walker.) What Walker didn't say, and what is therefore the reason to recall him, Feingold says, "was that he was going to go at the basic collective bargaining rights and voting rights of every citizen in this state. That's a big deal. That goes to the foundation of who we are."
Now, Walker didn't go after "the basic collective bargaining rights... of every citizen in this state." He only went after some of the collective bargaining rights of some public employees. And he didn't go after the "voting rights of every citizen in this state" — only the "rights" of citizens who haven't yet acquired a state-issued photo ID.
But Feingold is stirring up the crowd. And the fact is, he's a great speaker. He ends: "Where do I sign?" and signs a recall petition.
Our recall procedure requires an election with an opposition candidate, and what's the point of going through the collection of all these signatures unless the governor can be ousted? Who will oppose Scott Walker? The only candidate with a real chance, it seems, is Russ Feingold, but Russ says he's not running. That's what he's saying now, before the signatures are collected. I happen to believe that if there is a recall election, Feingold will run. But that is a subject for another post.