Our Lost Opportunity to Expose Nebraska GOPs Extremismby Kyle Michaelis
This does, however, raise one essential question: considering how effective the national sales tax was in portraying Ricketts as out-of-touch with Nebraska voters for wanting to shift the tax burden onto the working class to benefit billionaire families like his own, why didn't Nebraska's 2006 Democratic Congressional challengers do more to piggy-back on the issue to make it work for their own campaigns?
At the very least, incumbent Representatives Jeff Fortenberry and Lee Terry, along with Congressman-elect Adrian Smith, should have been forced by their opponents and the media to choose whether they would take the idea off the table as Ricketts famously refused to do. The fact that they could escape the 2006 political season without committing one way or the other (and accepting the consequences) is not only a failure of the campaigns they faced but of the entire citizenry who lost their best opportunity to force these men to carve out an honest position for which they could be judged and held accountable.
Nebrask FairTax provides a "Congressional Score Card" that reads accordingly:
* Ben Nelson – Completely misrepresenting the FairTax in his re-election campaign. Unabashed #1 FairTax-enemy in Nebraska.It's unfathomable that Fortenberry could get through the campaign season without being called out for his supposed support of so dangerous a scheme as a national sales tax. Considering the flack Ricketts took throughout the summer for holding a similar position, it's hard to understate the lost opportunity of turning this into a multi-pronged, party-defining issue by which down ballot candidates could have gained some early, much-needed momentum.
* Tom Osborne – Officially listed as leaning AGAINST.
* Jeff Fortenberry – Officially listed as leaning TOWARD, but not committed yet.
* Chuck Hagel – Officially listed as un-committed. Running for President so he really owes us a position.
* Lee Terry – Officially listed as un-committed. Has personally told NE volunteers that he supports a ‘flatter’ Income Tax instead.
No mention is made on Nebraska FairTax's website of Adrian Smith's position, but he often spoke in favor of a broad overhaul of the tax system, providing no real specifics. Smith did, however, bring Iowa Congressman Steve King, the defacto leader of the Republican Party's "Right-Wing Wacko" caucus, to Nebraska to campaign on his behalf. No surprise, King is the most vocal supporter of the "FairTax" in Congress.
Considering the lengths to which Smith went to avoid taking a public stance on this unpopular idea, it seems safe to say he'll be following the lead of King and Fortenberry rather than Osborne and Nelson. That we were not more vigilant in demanding honesty and accountability from Smith in his bid for elected office leaves me ashamed as an activist, a Democrat, a journalist, and a citizen.
We let ourselves down with this one. Absent Nelson's stature and his campaign's funding, the same opportunity will not present itself in 2008. But there are lessons to be learned in terms of unity, constant vigilance, and foresight that are universal and eternal. We must recognize those and take them to heart if our passions are ever to translate into significant and sustainable Election Day victories.