Go ahead and laugh at me, but I think it’s possible that Russ Feingold could actually lose a Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate seat he held for three terms before being defeated by far-right Republican Ron Johnson in 2010.
During his 18 years in the U.S. Senate, Feingold became famous for his advocacy for progressive ideals on a wide array of issues, especially civil liberties and campaign finance reform, and, because of that, he is regarded as a political institution in Wisconsin, especially among progressives. However, it is possible for a Democratic primary challenger to stake out ground to Feingold’s left. One issue where this is possible is on guns. In a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court case in which the right-wing majority on the bench prohibited state and local governments from banning firearms, Feingold signed an amicus curiae brief in opposition to the Chicago, Illinois handgun ban that was struck down in the case, although a handgun ban is considered so left-wing of an idea in American politics nowadays that even many progressives refuse to support handgun bans. Another issue where this is possible is on is, believe it or not, regulation of the financial industry. While Feingold actually opposed this from the left, he voted against the Dodd-Frank bill that, among other things, created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to regulate the financial sector of the economy, and it wouldn’t be completely unthinkable for a Democratic primary challenger to Feingold to attack him over this and what few other issues Feingold has opposed Democratic and progressive policies and positions and gain political traction.
One strategy that would not work is running in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate in Wisconsin against Russ Feingold and running to Feingold’s right, as that would do nothing but help Feingold galvanize his progressive base of support, and any Democrat who were to run against Feingold and attack him from the right would face nearly non-stop criticism from progressives. Additionally, if the Democratic establishment in Wisconsin were to throw Feingold under the bus by discouraging him from running for his old U.S. Senate seat, like they’ve done to people like Barbara Lawton, Mark Harris, and Kathleen Vinehout in past gubernatorial elections in Wisconsin, and push an corporate establishment candidate like Ron Kind or Chris “Boss” Abele, you’d never hear the end of the outrage from Wisconsin progressives, even long after my time on this planet has passed and my body is buried somewhere in Dane County, Wisconsin.
While I highly doubt that anyone would run against Russ Feingold in a Democratic primary, it’s not completely impossible for Feingold to lose a Democratic primary for his former U.S. Senate seat.