But watching the latest ad - when Ben Nelson promises "I'll keep fighting to eliminate the death tax" - my God, this wasn't what I had in mind for our new identity.
Let's get something straight - for the Democratic Party to even allow this little bit of GOP sloganeering (the sinister-sounding "death tax") into its advertising is a shameless betrayal of the principles for which it supposedly stands.
Ben Nelson is, of course, his own man - he may vote as he sees fit and be as wrong as he damn well pleases on the issue of the estate tax, but in advertising to which the NDP has attached its name - going so far as to claim "the Nebraska Democratic Party is responsible for the content of this advertising" - a duty is owed to true blue Nebraska Democrats not to demean their most fundamental beliefs for the sake of any single candidate or campaign.
Simply put, if Nelson wants to run against the estate tax, he shouldn't be doing it on the Nebraska Democratic Party's dime. Why? Because there is no reconciling this particular position with the core values of Nebraska Democrats.
Reform the estate tax? Yeah, sure, we can always find a way to make these things more equitable. But no, Nelson - the great compromiser, himself - has actually rejected any such bipartisan effort, demanding outright repeal in the name of an ideology to which Democrats simply do not and cannot subscribe.
I don't say that to denounce Nelson, and it certainly shouldn't be perceived as a call for Dems to turn their back on him. Nevertheless, you do have to wonder at a Democratic Party "tent" big enough to include the belief that inherited wealth is a birthright to which the state has no claim - in other words, belief in the establishment of an untouchable American aristocracy.
One cannot fail to recognize that a Democrat who opposes the estate tax on ideological grounds has already forsaken the bedrock principles on which the progressive income tax rests as well. Is the Democratic Party's "big tent" honestly big enough to include the call for a flat tax - or even the national sales tax - that is the next logical progression?
No matter the terminology employed, the facts remain the same: only the richest of every 200 estates are currently subject to the estate tax. These are all multi-millionaires. These are people of wealth and means. And, were it not for the votes of 38 Democrats, 1 Independent, and 2 Republican yesterday, Ben Nelson's vote to repeal the estate tax would have resulted in another trillion dollars in tax cuts over the next 10 years for only the wealthiest Americans, with the tab to be picked-up by everybody else.
While it's one thing for a single candidate to break the mold - running on a campaign theme that comes down to what's mine is mine, what's yours is yours - Nebraska Democrats have no place in any way supporting such a notion. Sure, they can make allowances for Nelson, but that doesn't excuse adopting his agenda as their/our own in the manner this latest advertisement suggests.
I appreciate the emphasis Ben Nelson has put on cutting taxes throughout his political career. No doubt, the people of Nebraska do as well. Here, however, Nelson is completely off-base. The only thing Nebraskans and the larger American public dislike about the "death tax" is the name attributed to it.
To rely on this assumed ignorance and give in to it - rather than challenging it and putting some actual faith in the voters - is certainly no testament to the man's leadership.
And - any way you look at it - for the Nebraska Democratic Party to join Nelson in such foolish and unprincipled positioning is certainly no testament to its own.