Monday, June 12, 2006

Michaelis' Arrogance REVEALED!!!

by Kyle Michaelis
My post from last Friday about Ben Nelson's proudly proclaiming his opposition to "the Death Tax" invited an anonymous response in Nelson's and the Nebraska Democratic Party's defense to which I feel compelled to answer in-kind.

Remember that this ad is one in a series produced and aired in the name of the NDP, grounds for which I took exception to the party's implied endorsement of both Nelson's position and his use of this lab-tested Republican rhetoric to undermine the entire notion of progressive taxation in America.

Anonymous wrote.....
You could not be more off-base in this posting. First of all, the Nebraska Democratic Party is under no obligation to tow anyone's line in an election. That includes Nelson or, more importantly, you. So you can disagree, but your framing of this as a fundamental betrayal of values is yours alone. you are not the arbitor of Democratic orthodoxy.

furthermore, if you had done a google search on this issue, you would have seen last week's story in the Grand Island Independent where Nelson says he supports full repeal, but would support a compromise as full repeal doesn't have enough votes. This is a far cry from your characterization of his actions.

Third, you give great credit to the NE Dems for running ads and having the resources to do that, but you don't seem to consider that Nelson's considerable weight is a big reason why the party has so many resources at its disposal. You say you're not advocating Democrats turning their backs on Nelson while the entire content of your post suggests otherwise. so i ask you - how many resources do you think the party would have without a single congressional or statewide seat?

Frankly, while I admire your independence, I can't help but notice that in the week leading up to this posting, you had only posted nice things about a single group or officeholder in Nebraska - Republican Senator Chuck Hagel.

Well, thank you Mr. or Mrs. Anonymous for your response. I do appreciate such criticism as an essential check on the veracity and reasonableness of my work at the New Nebraska Network. It would no doubt benefit both myself and my readers to have a wider diversity of thought and, yes, sometimes even a greater depth of understanding than I, alone, can provide.

That said, here is where the smackdown begins!

While I acknowledge the presumptuousness of my personally announcing what is or is not a Democratic value - and am generally loathe to partake in such egotistical behavior - this is one issue where I am proud as a Democrat and shamed as a Nebraska Democrat to stand by my original assessment.

For evidence, you need look no further than today's front page of the Democratic National Committee's website (aptly-titled for the following celebratory announcement:
Today, Senate Democrats led the charge to block a repeal of the Estate Tax, which would have handed the wealthiest Americans a windfall of nearly $1 trillion over the next 10 years.

That not good enough for you? Fair enough - then, may I please direct you to the 2004 Democratic Party Platform, which includes countless statements of principles so clearly out-of-step with the estate tax repeal that it is not even worth debating.

A sample, however, for our anonymous disbeliever (with my alleged Messiah complex, let's just call him Doubting Thomas):
We must restore our values to our tax code. We want a tax code that rewards work and creates wealth for more people, not a tax code that hoards wealth for those who already have it. With the middle class under assault like never before, we simply cannot afford the massive Bush tax cuts for the very wealthiest.

If I can't speak for the Democratic Party, I certainly hope my dear Anonymous will allow the Democratic Party to speak for itself. Again, repealing the estate tax will benefit only the wealthiest one-half of one-percent of estates - the richest five of every 1000 would receive a $1 trillion tax cut while the other 99.5% see nothing but sky-rocketing defecits, greater costs, and fewer services for those in actual need.

Yes, for any Democratic Party worth fighting for, that is a betrayal of its values - now and forever!

As for my supposed mischaracterization of Nelson's demand for repeal rather than reform of the estate tax, the record speaks for itself - as advertised at the NDP's NebraskaFirst website:
Nelson voted against attempts to only partially eliminate the estate tax. He voted against the Dorgan amendment to exempt estates of up to $8 million per couple and the Conrad amendment to exempt estates of up to $7 million per couple.

I must thank Anonymous, however, for drawing my attention to the article in the Independent. I'm glad to see Nelson is adopting a less hard-line stance in this foolish abandonment of fiscal discipline and betrayal of the middle-class.

Having seen the statistics on whom repeal of the estate tax actually benefits, it's quite stomach-churning and painful reading Nelson's apparent attempt to justify his position because it discriminates against those multi-million dollar estates that aren't giving sufficient amounts to charity and weren't planned properly.

Ben Nelson: Fighting for the Super-Rich's Right to be Super-Selfish (and Irresponsible) since 2000! Boy, when can I expect that bumper sticker?

Need I also point out that the article in the Independent reports on the federal study that almost completely debunks the claim that estate tax repeal will help Nebraska family farms? In that case, whose interests does this serve, again?

Oh, that's right - the Super-Rich! And, of course, let's not forget the Super-Super-Rich!

Anonymous then suggests that my earlier post was a de facto call for Nebraska Democrats to turn their back on Nelson - despite my outright stating such was not the case. Oh, how the tables so quickly turn. Having made a considerable investment of time and thought to defending Nelson from precisely this sort of "with us or against us" mentality on the part of liberal Democrats, this is certainly an ironic testament to the sheer convenience of such attacks.

Of course, the entire thrust of the post in question was not to revel in my outrage at Nelson's recent votes but to challenge whether the Nebraska Democratic Party should be attaching its name to those positions taken by Nelson where he breaks with his party and its most commonly-accepted principles (in addition to the estate tax, Nelson also directly contradicts the 2004 Democratic Platform on the Federal Marriage Amendment and immigration reform).

It is and has been my contention that Nebraka Democrats can and should make allowances for Nelson, but the same freedom should not be extended to the party apparatus expected to serve their interests. No matter how dependent the NDP may be on Nelson for survival (in terms of funding and legitimacy), the Party must respect its first responsibility to the voters.

Where Nelson wants to establish his independence and his breaking with Democratic orthodoxy, he can consult his conscience and balance his electoral concerns in whatever manner he sees fit - accepting the resulting trade-offs - but there are this case, there is contrary to the Democratic Party's stated purpose that the NDP has no place swallowing (and selling) that piece of the Nelson pie.

Finally, Anonymous makes what I can only assume was an attempt to shame me into silence by pointing out that my kindest words - of late - have been for Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel. This is an illegitimate criticism with no basis in my actual writing, dependent on an entirely partisan worldview to which I refuse to subscribe. To it, I will not lower myself with any further response unless someone can offer an honest example from the NNN archives amounting to more than innuendo. Happy hunting!


Blogger Dave said...

You posted a short time ago about the efforts Ben Nelson is making toward party-building. These are admirable indeed - and necessary. And it's exactly why Nelson's need to paint himself as nothing like the national Democratic Party is so disturbing. We have candidates for Congress whose only chance of victory is painting the Republican Congress in a negative light, and presenting a viable alternative to their policies. Ben Nelson is coming out in favor of just about every wrong-headed idea that's being pushed by this Congress: Immigration, the FMA, the estate tax. You name it, he's on the wrong side of it. It's a major problem for us when he's the top of the ticket, and our candidates need to run against incumbents who support the same policies. Ben Nelson's not just betraying Democratic principles here - he's cutting the legs out from under the rest of our candidates.

Anonymous JFinNe said...

I question whether the NDP is getting more donations because OF Ben Nelson. When we are called to contribute, we tell the caller that we will give to individual candidates but not to the party because OF Ben Nelson. The response is usually "I hear you."

Ben Nelson is not a Democrat.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"That said, Hagel's actions on immigration and the Constitutional Amendment banning gay marriage undoubtedly conform better to my own personal feelings than the actions of Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson."

Pleased to see that rather than reply to legitimate criticism, you become as arrogant and sacarcastic as Bill O'Reilly. And AGAIN take the opportunity to slam the only Democratic statewide office holder in Nebraska.

I could probably find a million examples of where liberals such as Kennedy, Clinton and Boxer diverge from the Party platform. Adherance to that document is not a requirement of membership in the party, nor a litmus test.

However, if you are seeking to push reasonable people away from the party because of your own need for ideological purity, you're off to a good start.

Again, just because someone doesn't hold the same values as you doesn't mean they are not a democrat. And the Nebraska Democratic Party has every right to make the most effective arguments in its advertising. You clearly have the energy for a fight, it's a shame you direct it toward your own side.

Blogger Kyle Michaelis said...

I have not SLAMMED Ben Nelson. I have not INSULTED Ben Nelson. I have not accused Ben Nelson of NOT BEING A DEMOCRAT. All I have done is put a spotlight on an issue (several, of late) where Nelson has broken with - what I deem and what I've supported as - Democratic Party principles.

I'm not trying to tie Nelson to the Democratic Party platform. I've stated NUMEROUS times that he has every right to break with it and probably even benefits by doing so. But, the Nebraska Democratic Party should not be attaching its name to Nelson's efforts along these lines.

This latest advertisment is INAPPROPRIATE - that is and remains the sum of my "ideological purity."

What is this crazed defensiveness of Nelson? If I'd gone on the attack against Nelson, you'd damn well know it.

And, to suggest that my admitting my personal feelings on immigration fall more in line with Hagel than with Nelson reveals some sort of bias FOR Hagel (ha!) - when the VAST majority of Democrats in the United States Senate would say the exact same thing - amounts to intellectual treason.

I support Ben Nelson. That doesn't mean I have to like everything he does. And it sure as hell doesn't mean I have to hold my tongue and shut my mouth in the name of party allegiance. That's not why I do this. That's not who I am.

My fight here is not with Nelson and it sure as hell isn't against the Nebraska Democratic Party. I'm doing my best to provide honest commentary about the issues facing this state and the ideas that will shape its future. I take no pleasure in criticizing a man for whom I will vote or a party to which I am devoted - but I would not be keeping faith with either by letting those actions with which I disagree go unchallenged.

Ben Nelson is a Democrat. But, so am I. So are "Dave" and "jfinne" above, as well as a whole lot of Nebraskans who are disenchanted and disappointed with a couple of Nelson's most recent votes. I have not demanded that Nelson stand alongside us, but as our Senator - regardless of party - he at least owes us the respect to hear us out.

And, if he can refrain from dragging the NDP into the service of the richest 1/2 of 1% of Americans, that would be appreciated as well.

Anonymous TedK said...

Dave has got it exactly right. While Nelson may be a plus for Democrats countrywide (only for his vote for Dem leadership), he is a disaster for any other Democratic campaign in Nebraska. It may be a good political strategy for Nelson personally to not let Ricketts get to the right of him, but it hurts every other Dem candidate. Especially when the NDP aligns itself so closely with Nelson. The base will not vote if their candidates do not promote a new direction (see Busby in California). And with Nelson parroting every nutty Republican stand, a Dem candidate is put in a tough position. If I campaign with traditional Dem values, I'm at odds with the top of the ticket. It may work for Nelson, but any other Dem candidate running as Repub lite will get beat by the real thing.

Anonymous TedK said...

More about the estate tax. From, in 2000 a CNN poll found that 39% believed that they were either in the wealthiest 1% or would be there soon. Talk about delusion! This is why the estate tax repeal has legs. Too bad our leaders, such as Nelson, can't speak the truth but instead take the easy political path. With new higher eligibility limits taking effect, only 3 / 1000 estates will be liable for any estate tax. With our current debt and deficits, we can't afford to reduce any taxes without corresponding cuts in spending. Otherwise we pass the bill to our descendants. I recently called Hagel's office and asked his aide to query the Senator on how he planned to make up the $1 trillion revenue hole the estate tax repeal would cause. No answer yet!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

TedK - you could have 100% turnout of the Democratic base and not have enough vote to win in Nebraska. There's just not enough of us. We have to have candidates that appeal to Republicans and Independents (and conservative Democrats) to win. A Democrat running with a traditional message would be very unlikely to win in this state - and not because of Nelson, but because this state is conservative. Until the registration and mindset changes, we have to campaign in that reality.

I've never met a candidate I agree with 100% of the time. That includes folks on the right AND left. So I have two choices: I can run myself, or I can work hard for the individual who is closest to me. Sometimes it's pretty close, sometimes it's not, but we have to understand that that person needs to appeal to a lot of folks who might have different views to win.

We complain that Nelson doesn't tow the line, but he gets 70% approval rating BECAUSE of his positions, not in spite of them.

Anonymous TedK said...

Anonymous, you're missing the point I was making. Of course a Democrat can only win in this state by attracting Republicans and Independents. I don't expect a liberal Dem to be successful. However a Dem that takes positions far to the right will not engender any passion in the Dem base. This will affect Dem turnout and hurt lower tier Dem candidates who need every Dem vote they can get to have a chance. Sure Nelson gets 70% support. He follows the general public. However I thought we elected people to lead. A good example is the estate tax. If I see that commerical with Nelson promising to abolish the "death" tax one more time, I'm throwing something through my TV set! Repeal would harm 99% of Nebraskans. It shouldn't be that difficult for Nelson to explain that only 3 / 1000 estates will be affected, or that the rich have already done very well with tax cuts. However he doesn't even try.

Blogger Dave said...

Not to mention the fact that Republicans won't vote for a Democrat against an incumbent Republican unless that Republican is really screwing up, badly. The reverse is also true in incredibly blue states. Why do you think incumbency rates are so high?

So, here's where the problem comes in:

Our candidates need to criticize their opponents in order to have a chance at winning. But when Ben Nelson takes the same positions as their opponents, what does that do to them? They either criticize the top of their ticket, or they take the same position as their opponent. Both are bad for the challenger.


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