Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Ben Nelson Plays "the Liberal Card" Against Republican Opponent

by Kyle Michaelis
Sen. Ben Nelson's latest campaign advertisement denounces Republican challenger Pete Ricketts for supporting amnesty for illegal immigrants by saying Ricketts stood "with Kennedy and Kerry" on the issue this spring.

Now, there is much I've tolerated and kept my mouth shut about in this ugly race, particularly where Nelson's campaign has stooped to the same spurrious and outlandish attacks that Ricketts set the standard for months ago. But here, where Nelson is playing on the very Anti-Democratic sentiment that christened the fall campaign - when Ricketts put the conservative Nelson in league with "liberals" such as Hillary Clinton, Ted Kennedy, and John Kerry - things have come full circle to an absolutely disturbing degree.

Regardless of the merits of Nelson's claim about Ricketts' immigration position (which has made a considerable rightward shift over the last few months), I am just sickened and disheartened to see this particular tactic of identifying ones opponent with "the liberals" used by a Democratic Senator.

Many, including myself, have defended Nelson from detractors by pointing out that, unlike Sen. Joe Lieberman, he doesn't make a habit of insulting fellow Democrats for his own political advantage. While simply mentioning "Kennedy and Kerry" can't really be called an insult, using these honorable mens' names as liabilities is an act of unimaginable cynicism of which I could hardly imagine even Lieberman would be capable.

I don't care how effective such a tactic is where Republicans reign supreme. I don't care that the Democratic Party establishment - of which both "Kennedy and Kerry" are a part - will tolerate this sort of denigrating name-dropping, turning a blind eye to its long-term destructiveness.

There was no justification for naming "Kennedy and Kerry" in this ad - none but playing on Rush Limbaugh-inspired liberal cariactures that have made a complete mockery of our once venerable democracy. Pete Ricketts was wrong to play "the liberal card" on Ben Nelson this summer, and Nelson is every bit as wrong to return the favor by implication with the election just around the corner.

Of course, it's only three words in just one more throw-away campaign ad. Perhaps Nebraska Democrats don't need to be outraged, but they should definitely be disappointed. While it's perhaps clever to use Ricketts own pathetic strategy against him, those of us who are trying to build something lasting and respectable of the Nebraska Democratic Party should not be asked to tolerate this blatant show of disrespect and disregard from the man we hold out as our standard-bearer.

Ben Nelson isn't a liberal - not by any stretch of the imagination. That's just fine and dandy. But those of a more progressive persuasion who've stood by Nelson despite their many differences of opinion deserve better than to see leaders like "Kennedy and Kerry" associated with Pete Ricketts. Things are hard enough for liberals in Nebraska without being unjustly linked in voters' minds and memories with that particularly embarrassing candidate or his meaningless campaign.

26 Comments:

Blogger Dave said...

Don't know about you, Kyle, but me and several others in UNO Democrats received direct mail pieces from Pete Ricketts. At first I didn't think much of it, thought it was my dad's, but then hearing from some of my other liberal friends, I figured it must have been addressed to me. It doesn't say Republican on the mailpiece once.

Good to know that Pete Ricketts is wasting money sending direct mail to Democrats who have already cast their ballots for Ben Nelson.

10/05/2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've had it with Nelson because he has always been a DINO. What did it for me was his vote for the torture bill.

I wrote and lamblasted him over his vote and let him know he just lost my vote.

Now this! I can't believe he's trashing Kennedy and Kerry. How low can he stoop? Kennedy has always defended the middle class and the poor. Kerry has spoken out against Bush on many issues since he had the election stolen from him and, of course, during his campaign.

I see nothing wrong with Senators Kennedy and Kerry and for Ben Nelson to use them as a negative in his ads is simply baffling.

Nelson has always defended his voting record by wimping out and saying that 60% of Nebraskans are Republicans.

I haven't seen any polls lately on the Nelson-Ricketts rate, but I do know Nelson was favored at one time. Now I consider him a complete lost cause and not much better than Ricketts. That is saying something since I can't stand Ricketts.

I shall vote for neither. I had planned to hold my nose and vote for Nelson. Forget about it!!!

By the way, how come you didn't promote the world can't wait protest for Oct. 5? Everyone is supposed to show up at their local downtown at noon to push to oust Bush. This is a nationwide protest and Lincoln is the only city in all of NE that plans to participate. People are walking out of work, school, or wherever for this.

10/05/2006  
Blogger Dave said...

Plus, you want to lose your base? Call your opponent a liberal. Nelson's lucky that I already cast my vote.

10/05/2006  
Anonymous TedK said...

I will hold my nose and vote for Ben, but this is the extent of my support and will be the last time I will do this. Ben is just as bad as Lieberman, only out for himself. Hopefully he won't run again in 6 years, but if he does we'll need a credible primary challenger. I believe that the poilitcal landscape will be completely different by then, and a populist can win this state. Keep working to change, and open the minds of people in this state. It's not enough to just talk with those with like-minded views. We need to work more on persuasion.

10/05/2006  
Blogger Jeff said...

Could it be triangulation?...perhaps he is taking a page from Clinton

10/05/2006  
Anonymous randy said...

Ted i couldn't agree more with you. well said. persuassion is exactly the place our focus should be. given the republicans/conservatives tales of severed deer heads, sexual predators and those that enable them, have lost all authority to moralize. they have proven what i have long suspected; they value nothing. seem like a pretty good time to begin persuading some people.
i respect anyone's decision to vote for nelson. i will not be. i looked the other way when he voted to confirm gonzalez and rice. i looked the other way when he voted for that terrible bankruptcy bill. i looked the other way when proposed building a goddamn fence...to discriminate against american citizens. finally the torture bill was the last fuckin' straw. what a cowardly vote. i found that after that, there wasn't anything else he could do to offend me.

10/05/2006  
Anonymous Ryan Anderson said...

This campaign may have permanently damaged the esteem I had for Senator Nelson. He is sucking the air out of the Nebraska Democratic party, even if he is shoveling a lot of money and national support into it. It is honestly getting to the point where I wonder if he's becoming a burden on our unusually strong downballot, who have difficulty getting out from under the opressive rock of this disgusting campaign and communicating a strong, progressive platform which no longer bares much resemblance to Nelson's own political views.


I used to think Ben Nelson was a conservative Democrat. I'm beginning to think he's just an oppurtunist.

10/05/2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is no doubt in my mind that Nelson's campaign is crippling the rest of the Democratic ticket. For the love of god, we have some of the strongest candidates ever, particularly David Hahn, perhaps the smartest man in the state. Yet, no one knows about him. The NDP won't throw him a bone because they're too busy ramming Nelson down our throats, a man who abandoned us long ago, and continues to prove it.

10/05/2006  
Blogger Dave said...

After this election is over - win or lose - we have a lot of soul-searching to do as a state party. Are we the party of Ben Nelson, or do we want to try and build something real here?

10/05/2006  
Blogger Don Kuhns said...

Rush Limbaugh says that Democrats will do anything, say anything to get elected. Looking at our Nebraska Democratic Party champion,"Thumbscrews" Nelson, why should anyone believe otherwise?

10/05/2006  
Anonymous JFinNE said...

I agree completely with Ryan Anderson. Nelson is sucking the air out of the NDP and his latest support of the Torture bill meets my HAD ENOUGH?

Recently DAily Kos had a love fest over Scott Kleeb that mostly dealt with how "hot" Scott looks. There were commenters who knew Nelson's reputation and most comments were tainted with an "well, this is Nebraska, what can you expect" sort of reply. No more voting with our noses held for odious dinos.

10/06/2006  
Anonymous BlueMonkey said...

Finally. Finally the mask is ripped off of Nelson for once and all. None of this "independent thinking" and "only wanting what's good for Nebraskans." B.S. - plain and simple. DINO Ben strikes again.

I, too, have had to try to look the other way over Benator's most egregious votes. The torture vote did me in. I don't give a damn who wins because of it.

I had planned to vote for Nelson, send him a check, send more money to the NDP. After the torture vote I changed my mind. The checks went to the ACLU, Amnesty International, Planned Parenthood and Russ Feingold's new group (since he seems to be serious about forcing the Dems in the progressive direction).

The "D" after Nelson's name is not enough now and it will never be again. The NDP had better pony up something better than the likes of Ben in the future because if they don't they'll continue to sabotage their own truly Dem candidates. The NDP is dead to me and most life-long Dems that I know.

10/06/2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is the largest collection of shortsighted allegedly politically savvy people I've ever seen.

Once again, you all fall into the trap and focus your energy in the wrong direction. If there was another credible Dem anywhere in NE wouldn't they be running as an incumbent member of Congress right now?

you all have developed a genius strategy - dump Nelson for....????????????????

Get real. Nelson supports the minumum wage, protecting social security, funding education, protecting health care, expanding health insurance, earmarks for NE, preserving Medicaid and Medicare, balancing the budget, and he singlehandedly funds the NDP.

Some of the conservative positions he takes are because he is actually a conservative but also because he's outnumbered and outgunned in NE. If he voted against the torture plan he would have four members of congress and his billionaire opponent attacking him needlessly.

And, if he takes your liberal positions, who rallies to his defense? You Don Kuhns? These blog positings are not really effective against $1 million in attack ads on TV calling Nelson a friend of the terrorists. But I bet you guys would feel good about yourselves.

So maybe he's an opportunist - but his opportunity is the only hope for the NDP - Kleeb, Moul, Esch, all nice people but not elected yet.

Ask yourself where would the NDP be without Ben Nelson? Defunct, bankrupt, flacid, ineffective. But you guys would be happy I bet. You'd be progressive and without a voice anywhere in elected government.

10/06/2006  
Anonymous BlueMonkey said...

Sometimes the final straw is the final straw. Whether an individual's last straw is the torture vote, the TV ad, the confirmation of bad nominees, the gay marriage amendment, etc., it's still the individual's last straw.

Some things are bigger than winning elections. Like voting your conscience, not voting what you think will keep you from getting attacked by an opponent.

I've written to Nelson's office several times and each time have received a lame response blaming his votes on the Republican-controlled Senate. "They decide what bill come to a vote." That may be true, but that doesn't mean you have to vote with them. And if Ben really did vote his conscience on all of the latest boondoggles, then he isn't really my Senator anyway.

10/06/2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Monkey -

Easy for you to say.
Have fun in oblivion. Anyone ever think about when Ben Nelson gets tired of all the whining and has his "last straw" with all of you?

10/06/2006  
Anonymous JFinNE said...

Off Topic, but check out Scott Kleeb's new ad on DailyKos.

His new love fest has just begun.

On topic: Ben Nelson dropped off our last bale of straw/hay many years ago. Been hungry for fresh sweet new grass ever since.

10/06/2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems to me from these comments that there are folks who haven't been paying much attention this campaign season. Someone else already mentioned how much money Nelson has put into the Democratic Party in NE, which has financed a terrific coordinated staff that helps everyone. So I don't need to go into that.

But I do want to point out that Nelson has a huge lead over his Republican opponent. He's been very effective in making Ricketts toxic which has a trickle down effect on other GOP candidates (see today's World Herald letters for evidence of that). And it means the NEGOP has to devote time and resources to shoring up Petey rather than helping Smith and Fortenberry.

Nelson has coattails and that's good for all Democrats. Furthermore, he shows Nebraska Republicans and Independents that they can vote for Ds and not end up with people who are anthema to their values. And, let's face it, we need Rs and Is in every race.

Finally, for the argument that he hurts other candidates, that's a joke. Just look at the campaigns of our two most likely pick-ups - Moul and Kleeb. They are running with positions v. close to Nelson's and they refer to him in their respective races as the type of representatives they would be. Moul talked about nelson in her first ads and Kleeb often mentioned Nelson in his debates. They do this for a reason - Nelson helps moderate Democrats attract Republican support.

Democrats in Nebraska can disagree with Nelson on issues - no rules saying we can't disagree. We can disagree with him on tactics, although I think we should be fair enough to acknowledge when they work even if we don't like them. But I think it is disengenous to blame him for problems other candidates may be having or the outcome of elections that haven't even occurred yet.

Let's not forget that while other Democratic office-holders have stepped down, left the state or left the party, Nelson is still here.

10/06/2006  
Anonymous Ryan Anderson said...

"Some of the conservative positions he takes are because he is actually a conservative but also because he's outnumbered and outgunned in NE. If he voted against the torture plan he would have four members of congress and his billionaire opponent attacking him needlessly."

Needlessly? No, seriously... *needlessly*? What do you think this is, a game of baseball? We're talking about the official policies of the most powerful nation in the history of the world. These are real lives at stake. Those are real people in American custody being held in unamerican conditions. *Needlessly*? America desperately *needs* leaders right now who won't jeopardize the lives and wellbeing of others -not to mention the integrity of this great nation- just to avoid political conflict.

10/06/2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the coordinated campaign IS the nelson campaign. don't say they help everyone. not unless you got the dollars.

10/06/2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"the coordinated campaign IS the nelson campaign. don't say they help everyone. not unless you got the dollars". what a bunch of crap. clearly you have no clue what you are talking about. coordinated campaigns dont give dollars, they spend candidate dollars to help the entire ticket: like turning out non-mideterm voting demorats via absentee ballot, etc. in this case, the only candidate dollars it is spending seems to be nelsons,and lucky for the rest of your liberal champions running for office, they are still reaping the benefits of a FREE voter contact program and greater democratic turnout - FOR FREE. i'd consider that helping.

10/07/2006  
Blogger Dave said...

Anonymous, I will sign my name to a statement saying that at least in the second district, none of what you say is true. The cooridinated campaign is the Ben Nelson campaign. Do you have that same courage?

10/07/2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Trust me, I know wtf I am talking about. Yeah, coordinated campaigns don't give dollars. Never said they did. But you have to give THEM dollars for them to lift a finger for you. Free voter contact program? Ha! That's a fricken joke. They clearly only help the candidates they think can win. Dave is right, and it's the same in the 1st district. Even candidates who have bought into the coordinated campaign are getting screwed over for ones that haven't, but who have a better chance to win.

10/07/2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is the same type of short-sightedness I've talked about before. Dave - do you really think that calling voters, identifying Democrats, Independents and moderate Republicans, and encouraging them to vote HURTS other Democratic candidates? Because that's pretty much what the coordinated does (as well as distribute yard signs and literature for every candidate who gives them those things).

If identifying voters and getting them to the polls hurts Democratic candidates, then those candidates should probably take a pretty good look at themselves in the mirror.

10/07/2006  
Blogger Kyle Michaelis said...

The extent of this year's coordinated efforts could well help every Nebraska Democrat running for office this cycle and for years to come.

Of course, the best possible outcome on Election Day has Nebraska earning national attention for the surprising performance of its Democratic candidates despite that Republican registration advantage. If we can prove the "50 State Strategy" is working, Nebraska won't have to wait another 6 years before a little help from our friends comes our way again.

Big picture, folks. 2008...2010...they begin right here and now.

10/07/2006  
Blogger Dave said...

Anonymous -

You don't seem to understand. In my district, there is no effort on the part of the coordinated campaign to educate voters on any of the other Democratic candidates. You're telling me how it's supposed to be. I'm telling you how it is.

10/07/2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My kids and I walked an entire 1/2 precinct today in West Omaha and Ben Nelson, David Hahn and Jim Esch were in my walk packet script provided to me by the coordinated campaign staff. In addition, I carried literature for Don Kleine, John Ewing and Lynne Anderson - provided to me by the coordinated campaign staff. First time I can remember a Party organization helping out anybody...

10/07/2006  

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