Senator Russ Feingold discusses government legitimacy at dean’s discussion

Feingold to be SIS Distinguished Executive in Residence this semester

Senator Russ Feingold discusses government legitimacy at dean’s discussion

Former Sen. Russ Feingold and SIS Dean James Goldgeier in an interview entitled “The Undermining of the Legitimacy of the American Government" on March 1. 

Students and faculty came together in the Abramson Family Founders Room where SIS Dean James Goldgeier welcomed special guest, former Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, as part of the Dean’s Discussion series on March 1. Each semester, Dean Goldgeier invites an expert to campus so they can have a one-on-one interview discussing critical topics relating to international affairs.

Senator Feingold was a Democratic senator for 18 years. He is most well known for having a strong code of ethics and for being vocal on sensitive issues, at times when other senators were working in opposition to his views. He was the only senator who voted against the PATRIOT Act when it was first proposed in 2001.

Feingold recently joined the AU community as a distinguished executive in residence. In this role he will teach a series of spring courses in a SIS skills institute, which is meant to introduce students more to the professional world of international service. His course is titled “Diplomatic Challenges and Skills: Case Study—Great Lakes Region of Africa,” and it regards conflicts that occurred throughout the past two decades within the African Great Lake Region, as well as Feingold's own unique perspective regarding American International Affairs with the region.

The title of the Dean’s discussion was “The Undermining of the Legitimacy of the American Government.” The format of the talk included a 30-minute interview between Goldgeier and Feingold, followed by a half-hour of open questions from the students to Feingold.

Goldgeier began the interview by asking Feingold about what he had tried to do for Wisconsin in his almost two decades as its representative.

“I've made a career as a senator going to all 72 counties in the state every year and having a town meeting,” Feingold said. “I want to talk to everyone, whether the county has just 4,000 people, or many times more.”

Following this, Goldgeier asked Feingold what he foresees political campaigns will look like in the future and what problems he has seen arise after the most recent election season, regarding flaws in the voting system itself, and flaws regarding the legality of certain campaigning measured.

The senator said there are four main areas of campaigning that need huge reform: the right to vote, campaign finance, the electoral college and the U.S. Supreme Court.

“An institution of massive concern is the electoral college,” he said, “Two out of the last three presidents didn't win nearly enough votes to get elected but they kept the position anyways.”

After discussing the parts of campaigns that were troubling to him, the senator and the dean talked about the recent presidential election.

“Trump is a big problem,” Feingold said. “The attack of his on the media is really disturbing. We have to protect these institutions. When the president of the United States says the press, the media, is the enemy of people, we have to draw the line.”

Following the interview, many students lined up to ask questions. One question came from Alex de Ramon, a freshman in SIS, who asked Feingold about the path the Democrats should take in the 2018 and 2020 election.

“The hardcore direct talk of Trump appealed to some people,” Feingold said. “I just don't how some people could vote for him after some of the stuff that he has said. Going forward, I think that it would be a huge mistake for the Democrats to try to be a middle party. We need to make a strong message about our democracy.”

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