On Tuesday, Sen. Ben Nelson (NE) announced his retirement. I'd always voted for him - very, very reluctantly - as the lesser of two evils.
But this past year, I'd finally decided that I just couldn't do that anymore. Oh, I certainly wouldn't vote for one of the loons the Republicans have running for this seat, but I didn't want to be even partly responsible for Nelson, either. Not anymore. I'd had enough.
So when I heard the announcement, I guess I agreed with this mailing sent out by Jim Dean at Democracy for America:
I can't say I'm sad to see him go. He's played a major role in slowing down, stopping, or outright defeating some of the most important progressive reforms Democrats have tried to pass. He blocked real bank reform, stalled the fight against climate change, and killed the public option just to name a few.
Good riddance Ben Nelson. Don't let the door hit you on the way out.
However, this does mean it's likely we'll get an actual Republican replacing Senator Nelson in Nebraska --- and one less 'Democrat' in the Senate makes it harder to keep the majority we need to stop a John Boehner Tea Party driven House.
It ups the ante for progressives like us to step up and make the difference by replacing other Senate Republicans with progressive fighters this year. It starts with making sure we do absolutely everything we possibly can to elect Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts. And that's exactly what Democracy for America is going to do.
Contribute $10 right now to help DFA replace bad Democrats like Senator Ben Nelson with great progressives like Elizabeth Warren.
Yup. I agree completely, not just about Ben Nelson, but about Elizabeth Warren, too.
But the Nebraska Democratic Party - yes, there is a Democratic Party in Nebraska, though I can understand how you might be surprised to hear that - wasn't nearly so appreciative. Today, Jim Rogers, the NDP executive director, sent out an email titled "Bad Democrats":
Yesterday, some Democrats in the establishment couldn't resist and reminded us what's wrong with Washington.
Excuse me? "The establishment"? You're the Nebraska Democratic Party. You're the establishment! Democracy for America seems to have relatively little power even in the Democratic Party and hardly any at all in Washington (unfortunately).
The day after Ben Nelson announced he was not seeking re-election, they decided to attack him. In their eyes, his votes to pass historic Wall Street Reform and Health Care Reform just weren't good enough.
Democrats labeling each other as "bad" and "good" Democrats makes compromise in Washington harder and only foretells more gridlock.
Right. It's not Ben Nelson regularly joining Republican filibusters that creates gridlock, huh? (Can you imagine the Republican Party standing for one of their members joining a Democratic filibuster even once? How about the GOP spending vast sums of money to keep that disloyal party member in office? They may be crazy, but they're not that inept, at least not politically.)
And note that Nelson did everything he could to water down both Wall Street reform and health care reform. True, a Republican would have been even worse. But they're Republicans! At least we can fight against Republicans. At least progressives' political donations don't go to support Republicans.
Here's what a Democrat in the senate means to Nebraska: Senator Nelson's record includes a secured STRATCOM that will bring jobs to Nebraska, new veterans clinics, a new veterans' hospital in Omaha, health care reform and the end of Don't Ask Don't Tell.
Yes, Nelson was always pretty good at bringing home the pork. That always makes a politician popular.
As for health care reform and the end of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, well, other Democrats were finally able to twist Nelson's arm. But he did his best to water down those Democratic proposals first.
But that didn't stop one establishment group from attacking Ben Nelson. Rather than try to help build up grassroots support for Democrats in Nebraska, they attacked... [that DFA email was copied below] In the view of these Democrats, Nebraska is a hopeless cause -- they expect "one less Democrat" even before anyone has announced they are running to replace Senator Nelson!
Again that "establishment group"? Apparently, the Nebraska Democratic Party is borrowing more than just their political opinions from the Republicans.
And Democracy for America didn't say that Nebraska was a hopeless cause, just that it was less likely a Democrat would replace Nelson. They're right. Nelson himself had a hard fight ahead of him, and he delayed this decision long enough that the Democrats will have to scramble to find a replacement.
Heck, they might have had to scramble, anyway. The fact is, Democratic politicians in Nebraska are scarcer than hens' teeth.
Whatever the Nebraska Democratic Party has been doing in recent decades, it hasn't worked. Having Ben Nelson as the top Democrat in Nebraska certainly hasn't worked. The Democrats have a hard time even finding someone willing to run for many statewide offices, since the odds are so badly against them.
Anyway, I wasn't too happy with that email, so this is what I sent the Nebraska Democratic Party in reply:
I'm afraid I agree completely with Jim Dean, not with you. If the Democratic Party is dumb enough to support a senator who regularly joins Republican filibusters, I'm certainly not dumb enough to give them money.
I don't require that a politician agree with me about everything. Who does? But if there's no difference between Democrats and Republicans, why should I care?
You can look at this in two ways. First, if the Nebraska Democratic Party doesn't stand for anything, then why would anyone want to be a Democrat? The other way is this: Ben Nelson has been the top Democrat in Nebraska for years. How has the party fared during that time? Are you happy with the number of Democrats in office? How has Nelson been for Democrats in our state?
I do support Barack Obama, but look at what timidity has done for him. When he took office, we were all clamoring for change. Instead, he behaved like a typical Democrat, too spineless and too eager to appease Republicans and Wall Street both. Now, all that enthusiasm is gone. He squandered a unique opportunity to lead our country and maybe even deliver that change he promised. (Admittedly, Democrats like Ben Nelson were no help!)
Do you wonder why Democrats are so enthusiastic about Elizabeth Warren. It's because we get so few candidates like that. Win or lose, she's inspiring. But the Democratic establishment will keep throwing up candidates like Ben Nelson. Or maybe they throw up themselves. [pun intended] They may have the money, the wealthy friends, and the corporate support to compete with Republicans in our money-trumps-all political system, but it does our state no good, it does our country no good, and it does the Democratic Party no good.
I guess I'm not going to be making any friends, huh?
But we Democrats have a hard time here in Nebraska, and it's getting even harder. Maybe that's because we don't seem to stand for anything. Maybe that's because we don't offer an alternative to the GOP. Maybe "not quite as crazy as a Republican" isn't such a winning slogan for a political party.
Wouldn't you like a straight-talking politician for a change? Even if you didn't agree with him, it would be refreshing (which might be why Chris Christie became popular).
Wouldn't you like a politician who stood up against corporate money and dared them to do their worst? (They will, anyway.)
Wouldn't you like a Democrat who stood up for what he believed, who wasn't afraid to argue our side of these issues, whatever the polls said?
Frankly, here in Nebraska, such a Democrat couldn't do any worse. When what you're doing isn't working, don't you think it's time to change course?