"Putting Nebraska First": The Case FOR Ben Nelson's Re-electionby Kyle Michaelis
The following is a repost from early February (preceding the wonderful, tone-setting "Nebraska First" ad campaign). There have been many months, much campaign ugliness, and even some deeply troubling votes in the United States Senate since this post was written, but what I wrote then stands to this day and will guide my vote on Election Day.
Sen. Ben Nelson officially declared his candidacy for re-election yesterday. Thank God because Nebraska needs him. I write that without reservation and without relying on the absolutely horrifying Republican alternative....
No, this isn't about the lesser of two evils. This is about what's best for Nebraska and the nation. There is no doubt about it - Ben Nelson is a good fit for Nebraska voters. The people know him and respect him. In 1994, he won re-election as governor by one of the widest margins in Nebraska history. That he has been able to translate that popularity into national politics...is not particularly suprising and speaks to the trust and faith Nelson has earned with voters.
Few will admit it, but - in many ways - the Nebraska Democratic Party is lucky to have such a standard bearer.....
On so many...issues and simply as a matter of maintaining a functional U.S. Senate, Nelson has proven himself indispensable. He is an important voice in the Democratic Party and an important bridge with midwestern and socially-conservative blue-collar voters who need to be reminded that the Democratic Party not only has a place for them but is, in fact, their natural home on the issues that matter most.
The common refrain about Sen. Nelson is that he puts Nebraska before the Democratic Party - the people before politics. Although certain to result in more frustrations and the occasional disappointment, Nebraska Democrats are asked to make much the same choice by volunteering, voting, and - yes - fighting for Nelson in 2006.
Is he a "good" Democrat? Is he a "real" Democrat? Who, honestly, can say? But I can say, without hesitation, that Nelson has been a great representative of the people of Nebraska.
Some might question whether representing the people really amounts to leadership, but I think the vital, concurrent role Nelson has played (and will continue to play) in bridging this nation's perilous partisan divide should put any such questions to rest. In fact, the country might need Nelson as a voice of compromise, common sense, and partisan restraint every bit as much as we do in Nebraska.
Those able to recognize this and support Nelson to the fullest extent their energy and passion allow are doing more than being pragmatic and practical. This is a choice of principle - in the truest Democratic sense - that puts aside our respective political laundry lists and whatever grudges may from there result in favor of what's best - when the stakes are so very high - for our neighbors, our nation, and Nebraska....
The virtue of democracy does not lie in its ease of use. Democracy does not lend itself to self-indulgence. To reduce it to a clash of ideologies is absurd, if not suicidal as a free society. Politics must be about getting things done and making peoples’ lives better – ideology can not get in the way of that, our highest priority.
To put it in simplest terms, democracy is always a matter of choices. In 2006, in Nebraska, there will be no better choice on the ballot than Sen. Ben Nelson. No one else will have his experience. No one else will have his common touch. What more, as reasonable citizens and responsible voters, do we really need to know before answering the call to do what we can and what we must to see Nelson win a second term?
He is the only politician in the state who can make a straight-faced claim to represent all Nebraskans. Those who would see that as a weakness must ask themselves what this thing called democracy is really all about.
When I had the incredible opportunity to speak with Sen. Barack Obama this spring, he hailed Nelson for his bipartisan, results-oriented approach to politics, while insisting that "every Democrat has a strong interest in re-electing Ben Nelson."
I feel confident going even further and declaring that every Nebraskan has a strong interest in electing Ben Nelson to a second term representing us with honor and distinction in the U.S. Senate. I expect readers and voters to make the same principled, common sense decision on November 7th.