Friday, February 24, 2006

Nelson More Popular Than Ever?

by Kyle Michaelis
Last week, SurveyUSA updated it's monthly 50 state tracking poll of every U.S. Senator's approval rating. While Nebraska's Democratic Senator Ben Nelson has consistently outpolled his Republican counterpart Sen. Chuck Hagel in these ratings, what is most impressive about Nelson's latest results is that they rank him as one of the most popular senators in the country.

As Nelson's would-be challengers duke it out for the Republican Party's nomination, he has to feel pretty good about receiving a 68% approval rating in February, a new personal best. With numbers like that in an election year, it's pretty clear that whoever wins the right to take on Nelson is going to have a hard time getting any real fire under his campaign. At the end of the day, regardless of political affiliation, voters tend to stick with a guy they like.....and Nebraskans like Ben Nelson. Hell, some downright love him because he's plain-spoken, honest, and more concerned about getting things done than playing political games.

Nelson's remarkable showing puts him tied with three other Democrats as the 7th most popular Senator in the nation. As such, he is one of seven Democrats holding spots in the top ten (note, on the other hand, that Republicans hold 14 of the 18 worst approval ratings in the Senate).

While Nelson scored big, it was more of the same for Hagel, who has shown no real movement one way or the other since polling began last spring. Still, his 59% approval rating was good enough to rank him at the tail end of the Senate's upper-third. So, for all the protests by hardcore Republican activists about Hagel's outspoken criticism of the Bush Administration's foreign policy, it seems Hagel can pretty well rely on the core supporters he's got and should continue to demand some measure of accountibility from this White House that has made an art of shifting blame and disregarding the facts.

But, enough about that. The day is Sen. Nelson's. With the election coming up, his numbers seem cause for celebration...even if Nebraska's Republican registration advantage leaves one hesitant to ever take anything for granted. Nelson's been able to overcome that disadvantage at the ballot box, and here's proof that he continues to do so in voters' hearts. No matter where he falls in ones subjective notions of what a true Democrat should be, I feel confident joining with the rest of the state in the opinion that this man is a great representative and a true asset to the people of Nebraska.


Anonymous Nelson Voter NO MORE! said...

I DO NOT share Kyle's enthusiasm for 'the nation's 7th most favorite Demo?' In fact it begs the question - why should Michaelis, New Nebraska Network or ANY Nebraska Democrat whatsoever - support Ben Nelson at the polls, WHILE HE REPEATEDLY FAILS TO SUPPORT established party platforms like 'freedom of choice' and 'advise and consent?'

I find his own answers of 'religious principle' and 'presidential perogative' fail to resonate with any recognizable reasoning. Putting it bluntly, Senator Nelson's explanations for representing HIS OWN VIEWS over those of Nebraska voters - have the hollowest ring I've heard for some time.

As a 'Native' Nebraskan from Senator Ben's hometown, I now find myself in the unfamiliar stance of OPPOSING ANY AND ALL FURTHER CAMPAIGNS FOR POLITICAL OFFICE by the freshman senator and former governor of our great state.

I made this 'anti-homer' decision, and with considerable conviction, following what I feel was the senator's questionable behavior during the lengthy process of confirming the Bush judicial appointees.

Suffice to say that Mr. Nelson simply abandoned his constituents' and party's opposition to what can only be described as the President's unabashedly transparent campaign to 'pack the federal bench' with 'religious right' ideologues as payment for that faction's votes in the historically close re-election.

If the good senator really believes that Nebraskans at large applaud his choices because of any political leverage his actions may have won for our citizens - suffice to say that even here, in the often-neglected rural corners of this state...NOBODY THINKS THEY NEED HIS HELP THAT MUCH!

After all, we got along with the dubious representation of Curtis and Hruska for decades. Rural Nebraskans labor under FEW DELUSIONS about politicians - regardless of whether they have little donkeys or little elephants on their desks, if they're living in the selfserving climes of Lincoln-Omaha, or shacking up at the Watergate penthouse in D.C.

On the other hand, we might have held out hope, even for a little while, that Ben Nelson's legacy of government service might have been more in the mold of that fellow McCookite - whose own sense of 'statesmanship' guided him to invent the country's only Unicameral legislature, along with historic public works like TVA flood control and irrigation, and nothing less than the way-overdue REA 'electrification of rural America.' And Senator George Norris (as a Democrat, as a Republican AND as an Independent) did all this WHILE OPPOSING HIS PRESIDENT on major issues (LIKE WAR) instead of gathering a 'gang' of back-room powerbrokers to make deals across the aisle and under the table, and to curry favor with the Commander-in-Chief.

This will be the first election in my adult life that I felt absolutely compelled to re-register as an 'Independent' instead of 'Democrat,' and the FIRST TIME EVER THAT I WILL NOT BE MARKING MY BALLOT FOR BEN NELSON!

The reasoning behind my judgement boils down to a long-simmering suspicion that Mr. Nelson has simply become too willing to sacrifice 'statesmanship' for political expediency. From his fiasco with the Nuclear Waste Compact, to his opposition of Pro-Choice, to the smoke filled rooms where Bush judges won confirmation - the Ben Nelson model of public service portrays a very thin slice indeed of anything resembling a highly principled style of leadership, AT ANY LEVEL OF PUBLIC LIFE.

I'd say it's high time to get back to corporate business or academia or some other American Institution (hey, there's a lobbying job just came open) where pragmatism and opportunism operate without even the slightest pretense of such ethereal ideals as public service for the greater good of all. What the hell were we thinking anyway?

Blogger Kyle Michaelis said...

No More!-

Thank you for your comment, though I think you're being incredibly unfair to Nebraska's junior senator...particularly in your suggestion that Nelson's voting record doesn't reflect the desires of Nebraska voters. Say what you or I may about the federal judiciary or the war in Iraq, it is wishful thinking of the absolute HIGHEST order to contend that Nebraska voters aren't in agreement with Nelson on these issues. Sucks for you. Sucks for me. Sucks for women and damn near any minority imaginable, but that's the simple truth of the matter.

You can suggest that Nelson should put a higher priority on doing what is right rather than doing what his constituents want, but to suggest that he fails so badly on both accounts is just plain out-of-touch.

No offense, but when you start blaming the nuclear waste fiasco on Ben Nelson, you're either buying into Republican spin or revealing the Republican operative within. The extent of your personal attack on Nelson that follows betrays such misinformation further (whether intentional or not).

For all your talk of not needing Nelson, your comment is also note-worthy for offering nothing in the way of an alternative. If you really think Sen. Don Stenberg is going to better represent this state (or you), you're frickin' nuts.

Nelson's "questionable behavior"? You can question his vote, but his approach to the judicial nominations was very much above-the-board and in the spotlight. Any suggestion to the contrary is BS...the motives of which, being from an anonymous source, I simply can't help considering highly, HIGHLY suspect.

But, again, thanks for your comment.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kyle, if I were (god help us) a Republican "operative" as you suggest, wouldn't I have chosen a blog thread where dozens of folks were making comment about Ben Nelson's candidacy?

Southwest Nebraska is one 'big' LITTLE TOWN. If you're not 'related' to the guy on your left, then you've been friends with the gal on your right all your life.

This is a place where the axiom, "Never discuss politics or religion in polite company," is deeply rooted in the stark social realities of rural living. In this environment, the proverbial 'tyranny of the majority' is a fact of life.

Therefore, maybe you can understand why a blogger with opinions seemingly 'outside the mainstream' would be wise to choose the specific option WHICH YOU OFFER - to make comments anonymously.

I stumbled across your 'press release' type story about the allegedly growing popularity of McCook's 'favored' son. If your report had included even a couple of the 'disclaimers' mentioned in your reply and quoted below, perhaps I'd have felt less compelled to comment at all.

Say what you or I may about the federal judiciary or the war in Iraq, it is wishful thinking of the absolute HIGHEST order to contend that Nebraska voters aren't in agreement with Nelson on these issues. Sucks for you. Sucks for me. Sucks for women and damn near any minority imaginable, but that's the simple truth of the matter.

I thought I should take time to offer your blog at least ONE RESPONSE on this topic, but I'm not surprised that you don't agree with my opposing opinion. I'd say your quoted comments portray perfectly your complete approval of Nelson's 'politics of expediency.'

Let me ask you this simple question - if Senator Nelson squawks and walks like a duck, who are we kidding by pretending he's a swan??? Are you voting for this incumbent BECAUSE OF WHAT HE DOES for Nebraska, OR because of what the Republican challengers MIGHT DO if our 'pacaderm in donkey skin' were defeated.

Also VERRRY interesting, is this self-defeating mythology that's commonly worshiped by 'big city' Nebraskans - to the effect that the 'silent majority' of all voters residing anywhere west of York, are so 'politically ignorant' that even a populist Democrat (like Nelson? HA HA) has to behave like a Republican conservative in order to win election.

So if Ben Nelson doesn't need 'liberal' or even 'moderate' Democrats to win...and he doesn't need Hispanics, presuming they're duly offended by his proposal for a prison fence on the entire border with Mexico...and he doesn't need the American majority who wants us out of Iraq...or the Stenberg supporters...uh, who's left to vote for him - besides REPUBLICANS fer chrissake! The senator is not now, nor has he EVER been, ANY KIND of 'Democrat'...except maybe a FAKE ONE!

Just a few more comments concerning the Nelson re-election ad campaign. I feel like it's poetic justice for the senator to hype his so-called 'stand with the president' on military matters, at precisely the time when 'Middle America' support for this war is OVER!

Does Ben not know by now - that Nebraska's 'citizen soldiers' who were lucky enough to return in one piece (more or less) from Bush's phony war on terror, mostly agree it's past time to get the hell out of Iraq, and they should never have been pulled out of Afghanistan to become sitting ducks in Zarquawi's shooting gallery?

Most baby boomer parents I've talked with share a profound disdain for 'Halliburton's Hell,' and sincerely believe it will be a long time (if ever) that rural reserve units reach full strength again. So how about it Ben - ya wanna sponsor a bill to re-instate the draft?

On the other divisive issue of out time, I challenge Mr. Nelson to go ahead and 'stand' with those South Dakota types here in our own state, so his education can continue on yet another of his 'expedient positions.' He'll find out just what the women of Nebraska and the men who support them REALLY believe, if he chooses to pander to the religious right
'wingnuts' because he thinks that's what the unwashed masses of rural Nebraska want. Trust me, WE'RE NOT AS DUMB AS HE (or you?)THINKS...just because we helped elect him a couple times. I suspect Ben is starting to believe his own bull! Bad mistake.

Kyle, do you see what I mean about pandering to extremists, fear-mongering and political expediency, as absolutely NON-JUSTIFIABLE MEANS TO AN END of winning one goddam election?


So it's RURAL NEBRASKA'S FAULT that Senator Nelson can't represent URBAN NEBRASKA DEMOCRATS (or any of us) as a true statesman - instead of a political opportunist.

In any case, judging by the senator's few responses to my various expressed concerns by snail and e-mail, fax and phone, along with the 'bottom line' of his voting record, it's obvious that dissenting opinions (and the citizens who voice them) will be consistently 'marginalized' by Senator Nelson. Apparently, those of us who have 'resigned' as registered Democrats - in favor of non-alignment as 'Independents' - are simply bid a cheery "Good Riddance" by the good senator from Nebraska, whose sole guiding principle is just getting elected.

I tell you - George W. Norris is turning over in his grave!


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