Who, How, and Why We Fightby Kyle Michaelis
Reasons to Celebrate as a Nebraska Democrat
Reason #1 - Our True Enemy Revealed.
Pete Ricketts, in his return to television after giving voters and viewers a much needed but not nearly long enough one month vacation, has demonstrated to the people of Nebraska just what kind of candidate he is - going negative right out of the gate.
Unable to beat Ben Nelson on the issues, with no record of his own to run on, Ricketts is already scraping the bottom of the barrel - five months from the general election - relying on images of Democratic Senators Ted Kennedy and Hillary Clinton, with scary talk of the liberal agenda of tax hikes and increased government spending, to make his case for so-called conservative change.
Of course, you've got to love the government spending bit. As if 100 Ted Kennedy clones could possibly be more fiscally reckless than the Republican Congress we have currently. Conservative change, for all its finely-tuned vagary, isn't going to be enough to overcome the record of 12 years of Republican Party rule that has left this nation with higher debts and a worse trade defecit than ever before in history. Well, it might be enough, I suppose, if no one challenges him on it. Or if Nebraska voters are really so deeply partisan that they just don't care about the hypocrisy. Hmmm....maybe this ad isn't something to celebrate at all....
Pushing that thought out of my mind, let's move on.
Reason #2 - NE Dems' Resurgence Recieves National Attention
From Wednesday's USA Today:
Early organizing, early advertising and a full slate of candidates for Congress are among the signs of hope for Democrats in this conservative farm state with a streak of prairie populism....
When Howard Dean ran for chairman of the Democratic National Committee, he promised state parties he would spread money and professionals around the country in a long-term quest for viability in "red" Republican states. He's followed through with a 50-state plan to revive moribund state and local organizations....
Of the $731 million the party raised for the 2004 elections, Nebraska got $12,000. "The national Democrats were sucking money and volunteers" out of Nebraska, state party chairman Steve Achelpol says. Adds executive director Barry Rubin, "They called us an 'export state.' "
Times have changed. The DNC is now spending $120,000 a year to pay the salaries of three organizers and a spokesman here. Nationwide, the party has hired and trained about 190 people in 50 states in its $10-million-a-year program. The goal is to create voter lists and activist networks that don't vanish when campaigns are over or powerful Democrats retire....
Two years ago, 11 Democrats were on the November ballot for the state Legislature; this fall there will be 15. Four years ago, Democrats had a candidate in one of three races for Congress. This year they have candidates for all three seats: cattle rancher Scott Kleeb, attorney Jim Esch and former lieutenant governor Maxine Moul.
All three are "a cut or two above" the usual in quality, says state politics expert Robert Sittig, a retired University of Nebraska professor.
Some observers say the Democrats are more visible and quicker off the mark than in past years. For more than a month the party has been running three statewide TV ads touting Nelson's record. Sara Crook, a political scientist at Peru State College, south of Omaha, said it's "extremely unusual" to see ads so early.
Here in Fremont, the Democrats opened a campaign office to help candidates up and down the ticket. "Usually at this stage we're just trying to get a couple of people to parades," activist and attorney Richard Register says. He also says the party usually has to "twist arms" to find delegates to the state convention. At this meeting, volunteers had to be turned away.
"The wind is coming back into the sails of the Democratic Party," says David Hahn, the party's nominee against Republican Gov. Dave Heineman.
Lots of good stuff there. No doubt, Nebraska Democrats are being given an opportunity to make something happen in 2006. Between Howard Dean's dream for a truly national Democratic Party, as well as the vital, probably make-or-break reelection campaign of Sen. Nelson, there's a definite energy that hasn't been felt in this state for years.
The danger is that all will be negated come November. Should Howard Dean have nothing to show for his 50 state focus, it's going to be impossible to sustain the support promised states like Nebraska heading into a presidential election cycle. And, especially at the county level, where so many strides have been made, it can't be emphasized enough that - no matter the election day outcome - the battle for Nebraska's future has only just begun.
Reason #3 - Decline to Sign
In probably one of the most neglectful and inexcusable oversights since this site began, I haven't written a damn thing about the atrocious petition effort to put a cap on state spending into the Nebraska Constitution. Even worse, while I've been harping over the Nebraska Democratic Party's hand in a 2 second soundbyte in an ad supporting Ben Nelson's reelection, I haven't given the party or its gubernatorial candidate, David Hahn, any credit for being front-and-center in challenging this most dire threat to the state's entire future.
Check out the NDP, rising to the occassion last week with this message to Nebraska Democrats:
A national right wing organization, Americans for Limited Government, has pumped $100,000 into a campaign to place an OPPRESSIVE spending lid on Nebraska State Government in the Constitution. The group, calling themselves “Stop Over Spending Nebraska” is paying circulators (most of who are from out of state) over $2.50 per signature they get on the petition. They need to get approximately 115,000 signatures by July 7th to place this on the November ballot.....
While these circulators will SAY ANYTHING to get this petition signed, the impact this will have on our state is scary. Negative impacts of this amendment to the Constitution include:
Drastic Cuts to Our Most Vulnerable Citizens - children, elderly and low income families will suffer most if this petition is successful. A state spending lid will prevent key programs for our neediest citizens from being funded.
Drastic Cuts to Public Education - if this amendment had been in place prior to the 05-07 biennium budget, funding for K-12 Education would have been cut by $86 million, the University of Nebraska by $51 million and community colleges by nearly $2 million.
Drastic Impacts to Public Safety - cities and counties get a great deal of money from the state to hire police officers and firefighters. If funds from the state are cut for these groups our ability to address the scourge of methamphetamine and sex offenders will be dramatically reduced.
Higher Property Taxes - According to the League of Nebraska Municipalities, a state spending lid will drive up local property taxes, as the state reduces state aid to local governments and pushes off more responsibilities to local government. When state funding for local schools, cities, counties, fire and police is cut, property taxes will increase to make up the difference.
The message goes on to direct people to the webpage of the Nebraskans for the Good Life coalition, asking that they help out the coalition in any way possible and, most definitely, tell all their family and friends not to sign this horrible petition.
Before even the Democratic Party's praise-worthy response, however, Hahn deserves credit for really taking the lead in bringing this challenge. In a press release almost 10 days ago, he announced:
"This petition proposes a change in the state constitution that would do nothing but make a mess of government services and force the one thing Nebraskans most want government not to do – increase local property taxes....
"This proposal is not fiscal surgery, it is irresponsible butchery.
"The petition represents ridiculous, irresponsible policy. I will not sign it....
"A good way to judge this initiative is to study the experience of others who have suffered through these euphemism-driven positions. Our neighbor to the west, Colorado, has only seen a decline in education, public health programs, medical insurance coverage for children and seniors; and numerous other negative consequences from the enactment of such a proposal. It was a disaster there and it would be a disaster here."
Unsurprisingly, the Omaha World-Herald reported:
Republican Gov. Dave Heineman had not decided if he would support the petition because he has not had time to review it in detail, said spokesman Aaron Sanderford.
The Democratic Party taking the lead in beating back a political ploy that would do untold harm to Nebraska. A Democratic candidate for governor speaking the truth and demonstrating all the difference in the world between real leadership and whatever it is that Dave Heineman does.
This is some awesome news - an uplifting sign that reaffirms who we are and where we are headed. Of course, this petition measure still has a chance to get on the November ballot. That would be unfortunate for the people of Nebraska to even run that risk. But, with leadership like this, at the very least the people are going to know the choices and the stakes before them.
Today, I am proud of our candidate for Governor. I am proud of my party. It's a wondeful feeling, and - with Ricketts' strategy revealed, our gains noted, and a message bold and true on an issue that could not be of more importance - there is no longer any excuse for distraction.
The lines have been drawn. The choices are clear. Let's get to work.