Thursday, December 20, 2012

An open letter to the Nebraska Democratic Party

Nebraska Democratic Party,

I won't ask how you feel about last month's election here in Nebraska. Obviously, it couldn't have gone worse for you. With the defeat of Bob Kerrey for the Senate seat currently held by Ben Nelson, Republicans now control pretty much the whole state.

The governor is Republican. Every Nebraska representative in Congress is a Republican. Both of our senators will now be Republicans. The lieutenant governor, the attorney general, the secretary of state, the state treasurer, the state auditor - Republican, Republican, Republican, Republican, Republican.

Luckily, our state legislature is officially non-partisan (though, of course, Republicans completely dominate there, too).

So, given all this, how do you feel about Ben Nelson's twelve years as Nebraska's top Democrat? How has that worked out for you, for us? He's been the standard-bearer for Nebraska Democrats for twelve years (and governor for eight years before that, of course).

During that time, he tried to out-Republican the Republicans. He did his best to show Nebraskans that he was just as Republican as anyone in the GOP. He supported the worst policies of George W. Bush, and when the Democrats took Congress, he joined Republican filibusters.

Nelson actively ran away from the Democratic Party. He campaigned against Democratic issues. Even when he could be persuaded to vote for Democratic bills, he worked to weaken them. Inevitably, it seemed, he'd criticize the best parts of those bills and praise the worst parts of them (Congress being, inevitably, all about compromise, so there's always good and bad).

I'm not asking Ben Nelson what he thinks about this. After all, it worked for him. He got re-elected twice (and once as governor). But how did that work for the Nebraska Democratic Party? How did not standing for anything work for you? Do you like the results of that?

Ben Nelson, as the standard-bearer of the Nebraska Democratic Party, refused to stand up for Democratic principles. He barely acknowledged that he was a Democrat at all, and then only with a wink and a nod. Oh, sure, there was a 'D' behind his name, but that didn't mean anything. Just look at what he said and what he did. He was actually a Republican through and through. After all, who would support those socialist Democrats, huh?

As I say, that worked for him, but how did it work for you? Even in 2008, after eight years of the unmitigated disaster that was George W. Bush (who was strongly supported by Ben Nelson, of course), even when Barack Obama took Nebraska's 2nd congressional district, Democrats in Nebraska still lost. Well, what were Democrats in Nebraska but Republican wannabes?

I'd always gritted my teeth and voted for Ben Nelson as the lesser of two evils. Well, what choice did I have? But I'd finally decided that I'd had enough. No matter what, I wasn't going to vote for him again. And as it turned out, I didn't have to worry about that. He retired.

I'd never donated money to the Nebraska Democratic Party, because I didn't want to support Ben Nelson or similar candidates. In fact, I stopped giving money to the national party, too, because they kept supporting people like him. I just donate to individual candidates now.

And I'd respected Bob Kerrey in the past, even if I didn't agree with him about too much. In fact, I actually sent him a small campaign donation. Then, every time I went to YouTube, I started hearing this: "The Democrats keep saying all we need to do is spend more money." Yes, he was taking a page from Nelson's playbook, running away from his own party.

Now, I'm used to lies in political campaigns. But only in the Nebraska Democratic Party do politicians seem to sling mud against their own side. I mean, I couldn't blame him too much if he told uncomfortable truths, but a bald-faced lie like that? Against his own side? How crazy is that?

As you know, from the beginning, Democrats have been suggesting tax increases and spending cuts, as a way to repair what the Republican Party has done to our federal budget. And as you also know, the best thing we can do for the deficit is to get out of this economic collapse they caused. But "all we need to do is spend more money"? Where did that come from? Oh, yeah, from the Republican Party playbook.

Of course, Bob Kerrey lost. So how did that work out for you? How did badmouthing your own side work out for the Nebraska Democratic Party? How has that worked for you these past twelve years? Has it worked well enough that you plan to continue the tactic?

Would you be worse off today if Democratic politicians in Nebraska had actually stood up for Democratic values? Would you be worse off if you'd supported Barack Obama? Would you be worse off if you'd fought for your side, for our side? You might have lost, but you lost, anyway.

And how does the future look for the Democratic Party in Nebraska? Has it been successful for you, pretending to be just as Republican as the Republicans? Are you happy with the current state of affairs here in our state? Are you proud of what you've accomplished?

Would you be any worse off if you'd stood up for Democratic principles? And looking ahead, what do you see in the future? Nebraskans hear the right-wing side of every issue, from Republicans and Democrats alike, so does it surprise you that they believe it? We hear Republicans and Democrats alike badmouthing the Democratic Party. So does it surprise you that Nebraskans believe that?

But I'm sure you have a plan going forward, right? No doubt you plan to find a rich man who'll like the prestige of calling himself governor or senator. He won't care about anything but his own ambition, but he'll have the money to waste on a long-shot bid. And, of course, he'll try to be as Republican as possible, because his campaign consultants will convince him that's his best shot at winning.

Well, no doubt that will be true. After all, with no one ever standing up for our side, the progressive side, what else would we expect? In Nebraska, the Democratic Party is just an alternative - not a particularly good alternative, admittedly - for people who don't think they can win the Republican nomination.

OK, I'm generalizing, and that's not fair. I know that. And it's hard to find candidates when they know they're going to lose. But my question stands. Are you happy with the results of the past twelve years? Are you happy with what having Ben Nelson as your highest elected official has meant to the Nebraska Democratic Party? Would actually standing for something have produced worse results? I can't imagine how.

And at least Nebraskans would be given a choice! Do you know how sick I am at having to choose between two Republicans, both eager to criticize the Democratic Party? If my candidate loses, fine. But give me a choice. Stand up for Democratic values. Stand up for Democratic principles. Just stand up!

Forget about the next election. Look to the future, even the distant future. If we never have anyone in Nebraska standing up for what's right, how can you ever expect change? Sure, it'll be an uphill fight. But what's the alternative? Are you happy with how your current tactics have worked? Could you actually do any worse than you're doing right now?


Chimeradave said...

Being a dem candidate in Nebraska has to be nearly impossible. Do you stand up for Democratic principles which are not popular in the state? Or do you try to as you said to seem more Republican? you can't do anything if you dont get elected. So i imagine that four letter word compromise is really the only solution. I mean you could get elected saying one thing and then push nothing but progressive ideas but lying might not help you get reelected or help your party's overall credibility.

WCG said...

Well, that's just it, John. What they've been doing has been a complete failure - at least, if their goal is to elect Democrats and/or to increase the number of Democratic voters in the state.

So why not stand for something? They couldn't do any worse. And maybe, just maybe, they could begin a dialogue which would lead to an improvement in the future.

I have no problem supporting a politician when I disagree with them about some things. Heck, I don't agree with anyone about everything. But if I wanted a Republican in office, I'd vote Republican.

If my candidate loses the election, fine. But I want him to stand for something. I want someone standing up for what I believe, arguing for rational, evidence-based thinking, making the points which really need to be made in our state (and nationally, too).

I'd love to see someone like Elizabeth Warren running for office here, whether she had the slightest chance of winning or not. (But not in a third party. I don't want to throw my vote away, actually making it easier for the loons to get elected.)

Chimeradave said...

It just seems to me that Democrats are not popular in your state so candidates that follow your advice will get to make some nice speeches and give some great interviews but they will not get elected. But i guess thats your point to speak the truth and wait for the rest of the state to realize you're right. I sincerely hope that works but i fear it might take quite a while

WCG said...

They're not getting elected now, John. So what's the difference?

From my point of view, the difference is that Nebraskans tend to hear the right-wing side of issues from both sides. So if no one ever defends progressive values, progressive ideas, progressive ways of thinking, how will Nebraska ever change?

Someone had to be the first politician to oppose slavery, don't you think? Or should you wait until everyone already agrees with you before standing up and arguing for what's right?

Yes, politicians have to get elected, so they probably can't be too far ahead of their constituents. But there's such a thing as leadership, too.