Monday, March 20, 2006

Return of the "Republican- for-a-Day" Phenomenon

by Kyle Michaelis
Last fall, I wrote on the possibility that Nebraska Democrats would change their voter registration to have a say in the GOPs May 2006 primaries, especially in the important but thus far incredibly dull Tom Osborne-Dave Heineman race for governor.

Well, with the primary election now just around the corner, it's not surprising that this possibility is suddenly attracting a lot of media attention. In a close race, the "Republican-for-a-Day" vote could prove a real force in deciding who wins Nebraska's GOP primaries. Tim Rinne, a well-known liberal activist, acknowledged as much in a guest column that ran in the Lincoln Journal-Star on February 27.

Rinne wrote:
If a liberal like me doesn't want the Don Stenberg wing of the Republican Party deciding who the next governor of the state of Nebraska is going to be for the next four and conceivably the next eight years, I need to have an 'R' behind my name so I can have a say May 9....

I confess, it's not easy to know I'm a member of the same party as Dick Cheney. But if I want to do more than look on in horror as Don Stenberg and his fundamentalist cohorts pick who our governor will be possibly through the year 2014, I'll bite the bullet and be a member of the GOP.

And if you're a Democrat or an Independent and want to have a say in your destiny, you'll exercise your democratic right and do the same.

Of course, it's important to note that a postscript after Rinne's column informed readers he will be "re-registering as a Democrat May 10, the day after the primary." That's all well and good. I hope he remembers because the Democrats' registration disadvantage in this state is daunting enough as it is.

Yet, no offense to Rinne, but the real reason the media has been reporting on this phenomenon came with last week's announcement by Warren Buffet, Nebraska Democrat and 2nd richest man in the world, that he would be temporarily changing his registration to support Osborne in the governor's race. Buffett also volunteered to oversee the performance audit of state government that Osborne has been vaguely alluding to since the beginning of his campaign.

On the heels of Buffett's announcement, the Channel 7 News then ran this report (with video) showing non-billionaire and life-long Democrat, Deborah Gilg, making the same decision to temporarily change her registration.

Personally, I would only even consider changing my registration for one reason - the lower profile but still contested race for Treasurer between Ron Ross and Shane Osborn. With the Nebraska Democratic Party failing to recruit a candidate for this office, I am troubled that I might be left disenfranchised entirely in this race. That is an incredible let-down that, as a responsible citizen and voter, deserves some serious consideration.

Sadly, the offices of State Auditor and Attorney General look to be uncontested in both the primary and the general election, so there's no need to worry about changing your registration to have a say. In fact, without someone stepping up and getting their name on the ballot one way or another, we may as well not even vote. Breaks my heart to write that, but it actually makes me outraged to think about what this says about our democracy.

Then, there are the races receiving all the attention, the ones that have drawn Rinne, Buffett, Gilg, and others to become "Republicans-for-a-Day." To be honest, though, I don't support this crossing of enemy lines. It's not a big deal, but I just don't think it's called-for.

Between Osborne, Heineman, or Nabity for governor and Stenberg, Ricketts, or Kramer for Senate, I've paid a lot of attention and am generally left cold on the whole damn lot of them. Each is using the same soundbytes to appeal to the same reactionary mind-set, so - unless you're a big Husker fan or a Husker-hater - I can't really see having a say in these races being worth the trouble of re-registering....especially when I can proudly cast my vote for David Hahn for governor - a Democrat with some actual vision - and Ben Nelson for Senate - a man who, at the very least, has experience and integrity putting him head and shoulders above any of his competitors.

Still, voters must do as they see fit. Note that you have until April 21st to re-register by mail and May 1st to re-register in person at the election office. Just remember to save a stamp or to make another trip on May 10th because, eventually, we're going to have to quit playing games and start playing for keeps.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

this is scary. hopefully bush will go on a massive nationwide tour with his unparalleled unpopularity and ruin his party's chances for congress like Clinton did in 1994.


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