What a Letter to Chuck Hagel from a Pissed-off Nebraska Republican Says About the 2006 Electionsby Kyle Michaelis
Take it away, Gunscribe [sic, as follows]:
Senator Hagel we the strong minded, God fearing Republican Christians of Nebraska DID NOT send you to Washington to be your own man. We sent you to the Nations Capitol to toe the party line. You told us you were the same kind of Republican we are and we believed you. We expected as a former Military man that you would be loyal to those that entrusted you with your office.
Senator Hagel not only have you not been loyal to the party you claim you belong to, you have not been loyal to the constituints that elected you.
Since you are a Republican, it is not incumbant upon us to call or write your office everytime a bill comes up for a vote or a position needs to be articulated or the President needs to be supported. It is expected on our part that you will follow the party platform on your part.
You have chosen to turn you back on the President and the people that elected you to represent us Senator Hagel. It is not your lot in life to tell us how things will be and how you are going to vote. It is your duty to vote the way we expect you to as a Republican.
Senator Hagel, you ran as a Republican, "We the People" elected you as a Republican. With that comes certain resposponsibilities on your part. Namely we expect you to act like a Republican.
1. Support and defend the Constitution
2. Support and defend the policies of a Republican Administration
3. Support the Republican Party with your votes in the Senate.
You are entitled to your own opinions on the issues Senator, but that is and always will be secondary to to the "Will of the People" that elected you.
Well, that one really just speaks for itself. Doesn't it?
What's probably most interesting about this post is its specifically announcing that Hagel was not elected to be his "own man." In the new Republican idea of governance - driven by the criminal likes of Rush Limbaugh and Tom DeLay - Hagel's supposed to be nothing more than a rubber stamp for the Republican leadership and another mouthpiece for the Bush Administration's rhetoric. Straying from the party line is not only a betrayal; it's a sin.
Of course, these same people will denounce Democrats as Communists and accuse them of being soft on Fascism without ever acknowledging that the key component of both these ideologies is the unquestioning allegiance to Party before conscience or country that they emulate and expect of their own representatives.
What's most ironic about Gunscribe's attack on Hagel's pretensions of being his "own man" is that 1st District Congressman Jeff Fortenberry made the case for his reelection in the Lincoln Journal-Star last week with that very phrase:
High-profile fundraising assistance from key Bush administration and House leaders does not influence his independence, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry says.
“I’m my own man. I make my own judgments,” the 1st District congressman said in a Lincoln interview a week before Vice President Dick Cheney comes to Nebraska to raise money for him....
Cheney’s visit will follow fund-raising appearances for Fortenberry by the two top Republican House leaders, Speaker Dennis Hastert and Majority Leader John Boehner.
Those trips prompted Maxine Moul, the congressman’s Democratic opponent, to suggest the Republican leadership is rewarding Fortenberry for “his rubber stamp votes.”
Moreover, Moul said: “When three of the very top people in the Republican leadership come to Nebraska, that means they are very concerned about this race.”
Of course, Gunscribe never takes Fortenberry to task for committing that greatest of sins by asserting his indepenedence. That shouldn't come as a surprise because Fortenberry's record makes it perfectly clear that this is nothing more than his telling voters what they want to hear to get reelected.
Sure, there's a lot of hype and exaggeration when mention is made of Hagel's independence, but, with Fortenberry, such a suggestion really is an absurdist proposition and an outright lie - perfectly fine with the likes of Gunscribe because it serves that highest Republican ideal: holding onto power.
Behold the disconnect at the heart of modern Republican politics: Senators and Congressmman imagine that they have been elected to serve the R next to their name rather than the voters who put them in office. Yet, with a false heart and a fake smile, they campaign on themes totally contrary to their slavish adherence to the party line - leaving Fortenberry to feign independence despite his voting with the House Republican leadership 95% of the time, with little to no concern for what actually serves the best interests of Nebraska.
No wonder the Nebraska Republican Party reserves such venom for Sen. Ben Nelson. His entire record and his entire campaign have been built around putting Nebraska first. With Republican candidates hardly able to pretend anything of the sort with a straight face, Nelson not only stands in the way of their goal of total one-party domination but also sets a standard for leadership to which no Republican can even hold a candle.
Nelson makes Nebraska Republicans look bad. By transcending party politics, he sets an example for independent and thoughtful leadership that Nebraska voters respect and desire. And, this election year - against the likes of Fortenberry, 2nd District Congressman Lee Terry, and 3rd District candidate Adrian Smith - there's no doubt that the only candidates offering anything remotely approaching Nelson's brand of "Nebraska First, Nebraska Always" leadership are the Democratic challengers: Moul, Jim Esch of Omaha, and the Third District's own Scott Kleeb.
Whether or not the Republican candidates subscribe to Gunscribe's party-first philosophy on the campaign trail, their conduct in office serves as all the endorsement and validation he could ever want. To be honest, it's refreshing to see Gunscribe put the underlying idea driving the Republican Party in such plain language - front & center for all of Nebraska to see. Though I and, I believe, a majority of Nebraskans could not disagree more with his crippling and cynical conception of democracy, Gunscribe should be commended for being up-front about his political intentions in a way that the leaders of his own party have forsaken entirely.
Understanding that the reality of their voting records does not reflect the style of leadership desired by most Nebraskans - even most Nebraska Republicans - it's no surprise that Republicans are running on faux-claims of being their own man. It's also no surprise that - with Nelson and his record of actual leadership front & center this November - they're scared of his appeal spilling over into the Congressional races, particularly Moul's and Kleeb's.
If there has been any doubt about Fortenberry's vulnerability this year, the following passage from the Journal-Star should relieve that:
[Cheney's] fund-raising appearance for Fortenberry reflects a decision by the National Republican Congressional Committee to center on its incumbents in a volatile election year, committee spokesman Alex Burgos said Monday.
“We know Democrats are targeting (Fortenberry) and we recognize this is a difficult national environment,” he said. “We take nothing for granted.”
Fortenberry is a freshman House member “facing a Democrat who has won statewide office before,” Burgos said.
The Vice-President and the top two Republican leaders in the House have both campaigned in Nebraska on Fortenberry's behalf in the last month. They are doing everything they can to put the resources in Fortenberry's hands so that Moul's challenge never builds into the referendum on his pathetic and embarrassing record that it could and should be. The fact that Moul backs up her campaign with years of experience serving alongside and in the same vein as Sen. Nelson gives her immediate credibility with any voter looking for something more than a rubber stamp from his or her representatives in Washington D.C.
Kleeb's race, which drew Cheney to Grand Island earlier this summer, is somewhat different because he's a true political newcomer. He has a background that shatters stereotypes and promises vision and energy that the voters of Nebraska's Third District could have hardly imagined possible. Still, for all Kleeb's assets, his greatest is the total deficiency of Republican nominee Adrian Smith, who served for eight years in the Nebraska legislature without distinction and who is running as a wholly-owned subsidiary of a radical, out-of-state special interest group, the Club for Growth, whose overwhelmingly corporate interests could not be further removed from those of the vastly rural population of Nebraska's Third District. Kleeb is infinitely more impressive than Smith, but it's really the liability of Smith's selling-out to the Club for Growth and putting ideology before his would-be constituents that makes this race one to watch.
There's no doubt, however, that Jeff Fortenberry and Adrian Smith would be precisely the sort of Republicans for which Gunscribe calls. Without question and without fail they promise to support and defend the policies of the Bush Administration, while - first and foremost - supporting the Republican Party with their votes.
That's what Gunscribe wants. That's what he would get with Fortenberry or Smith - probably all-but indistinguishable from one another except for Fortenberry's offering at least some degree of polish and intelligence. The problem is that Gunscribe and his like are flat-out wrong if they really believe their expectations are the same as those of Nebraska's voters, in general. Nebraskans may tend and trend Republican, but it has never been with the blindness towards the facts of who has the better record and who will truly be a voice for their interests that is being asked of them this election year.
The Republican Party knows this. That's why they're not taking "anything for granted," sending their biggest names to campaign and raise money in the First and Third Districts, which, respectively, haven't elected a Democrat in 40 years and haven't elected a Democrat ever.
Clearly, the Republican Party has reason to worry. For all their problems across the country, right here in Nebraska they've recognized that all their advantages historically and in terms of voter registration may not be enough to overcome the disgust of voters at how they've mismanaged the federal government, not to mention the superior caliber of our 2006 candidates who also have the good fortune of running behind a legacy as strong, as principled, and as popular as Sen. Ben Nelson's.
The Republicans are right to take heed. They are right to worry. Voters are fed-up with politics for politics' sake. They want competence and common sense from a Congress that dismissed both in service to a radical agenda conservative in name only. It's time for voters to realize that the Republican Party, as it stands today, is Gunscribe's Republican Party, and - so long as they maintain their stranglehold on power - there will be no reform of their approach. They will stay the course across the board - more empty promises, more deception, and more silence.
That's what Gunscribe wants. He's been quite clear about that, and he's welcome to it by voting for one of the Republican Congressional candidates. But, the people have higher expectations. They know they deserve better - they feel it in their bones. Now, it simply falls to Moul and Kleeb, not to mention their counterparts across the country, to prove that a better way is precisely what they're offering.