Monday, February 26, 2007

Hypocrites, Hatchetmen... and Hope

by Ryan Anderson
Dismayed that Mike Fahey has somehow weathered scandalous charges that his administration (*gasp*) refuses to raise taxes, former OWH publisher/current Republican hatchetman Harold Andersen took the Mayor to task on Sunday for daring to dream of a career outside city hall:
Omaha's genial mayor, Mike Fahey, is definitely showing signs of "politicus incurabilis." The two term mayor has indicated that he is pondering not so much whether he should run for office again but rather whether he should run for a third term as mayor or possibly seek to become a U.S. Senator.

In regard to the Senate seat, Fahey's comments seem to indicate that if he doesn't run for the Senate, his decision will be based not on lack of desire but on the practical consideration that no incumbent U.S. senator seeking re-election in Nebraska has been unseated since 1942.
Of course, Andersen offers no such diagnosis for Senator Hagel, despite the appearance of this quote in the same edition of the World Herald:
[Hagel] said he won't run unless he's confident he could win, but it's even more important to him that he feels passionately about the race.
But enough of that nonsense. Pointing out these logical inconsistencies might be fun (and it is, believe me, it is), but it's also rather useless. Andersen is nothing more than a partisan hack, and like any partisan hack he lacks the ability to distinguish virtue and vice absent party labels. This is a fact, a perhaps immutable part of human nature, and not the sort of thing a humble young blogger is likely to change with blockquotes and hyperlinks.

Asinine as Andersen's commentary may be, it is possible to extract from this column a question worth asking: why are Democrats so willing to give Hagel a free ride? More importantly, why are we, the "progressive blogosphere", apparently resigned to roll over and play dead if this Hamlet on the Platte decides to stick around for another term in the Senate?

Andersen's criticism of Fahey is unwarranted because candidates -all candidates- naturally have concerns about getting mixed up in races they can't win. Why spend all that time away from your family, groveling for dollars and scrambling from one city to the next if Election Day promises little more than a shot to the ego and a kick in the ass? Similarly, parties, PACs and 527s have to worry about protecting limited resources and reassuring dubious donors. The whole system might grind to a halt tomorrow if it weren't for that one magical component that separates politics from so many other endeavors: hopelessly irrational, starry-eyed optimism.

It's the belief that miracles can happen, that it is possible to effect real change through this convoluted system of democracy... it's that dream that convinces qualified and talented individuals to give up promising careers in the private sector to pursue public life. It's that irrational, illogical, indefensible belief that keeps those coffers filled (well, maybe not filled...), those volunteers plentiful (well, maybe not plentiful...) and those voters lined up.

If the blogosphere -we who can dream without suffering the pains of electioneering- can't supply that hope, can't find it in ourselves to produce that one element capable of lubricating the cogs of doubt and despair, then we're pretty damned useless ourselves.

Can Hagel be defeated? Hell yes he can. Senator Hagel has the misfortune of serving in a field where he can be dismissed for any reason or no reason at all. It's possible to defeat a Goliath with a David... Hagel did it himself in '96, coming out of nowhere to win in a landslide over a popular sitting Governor. But you just can't kill a giant with an empty ballot line.

Let's leave the worry and the practical considerations to others. At the very least, let's leave it to later. If hopeless (even losing) Senate campaigns against powerful incumbent Republicans can lead to a Democratic renaissance in Montana and Virginia, why not here? We need to be bold so others can be brave. Brave enough to give up a promising career in the private sector. Brave enough to weather a shot to the ego or kick in the ass. Brave enough, at least, to stand up to the Harold Andersens of the world and remind voters that virtue knows no party.

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Blogger Kyle Michaelis said...

I'm glad Ryan responded to that column by Andersen - it was quite atrocious and generally nonsensical, particularly for its unfair targeting of Mayor Mike Fahey for scorn.

Still, I'd be remiss not to point out that - at last mention - Andersen had changed his official voter registration to "non-partisan" after the Terri Schiavo affair demonstrated how far the Republicans had sold-out to religious extremists. I've heard no mention of his changing back.

Suppose this supports the theory that you can take the hack out of the party but not the party out of the hack.

Anonymous Dave Sund said...

I agree with the substance, here - Fahey's making a calculated decision, a smart decision, based on whether he can win or not. This is Politics 101. If Fahey can't win a race for higher office, why the hell would he run and risk losing the job he's got?

But as someone who is very much in favor of competing in every race, who got supremely pissed at the state party for undercutting candidates, who worked his ass off for Jim Esch in a race no one thought was winnable... We can't beat Chuck Hagel. It pains me to say it. But it's just not possible.

The most important thing in any election is to draw contrast. Point out the negatives in your opponent while emphasizing your positives. Unfortunately for us, Hagel is at least rhetorically on our side with regards to Iraq. I find very little fault in what Hagel says about the war.

No campaign against Hagel is going to be able to escape the war as an issue. We'd have to take it on. Running to the right of Hagel on the war is out of the question. If we nominated a pro-war candidate, I'd vote for Hagel. Running to the left of Hagel isn't very effective. Essentially, his rhetoric is dead-on, but his actions are empty. It's a weak argument to make - especially in Nebraska.

Hopefully this is all moot and Hagel opts to retire or run for President. But anyone who runs against him is going to have to come up with a damn good answer for "why" in order to gain any ground against him.

Blogger Ryan Anderson said...

"We can't beat Chuck Hagel. It pains me to say it. But it's just not possible. "

That's just not true. What's more, it's not important. We don't grow as a party by stockpiling resources and pulling punches. We can grow only by expanding our bench and getting our message out there. A statewide campaign, even a hopeless campaign, even a losing campaign... is a terrific platform for both tasks. It was Brian Schweitzer's losing campaign against a then popular incumbent Senator that led to the Democratic party in his state to claim the governors mansion, the state Senate (and near control of the state House) and a Senate seat. Mark Warner's campaign against John Warner worked similar miracles for Virginia. And the hopeless Senate candidacies of Baron Hill and Lloyd Doggett helped propel both men into careers in the House.

Look, we ran a candidate in the most hopeless federal race in the state and lost. But in losing we gained a great future candidate and made valuable inroads into a part of the state that might one day be more favorable to our party. On the other hand, we ran nobody in the hopeless race against Attorney General Jon Bruning, leaving the man in a dominating position to run for a Senate vacancy in '08.

Additionally, I disagree with your assessment of how a race against Hagel would go. As you mention, the Democratic candidate could gain no ground by making Iraq a signature issue: Hagel's positioned himself in such a way that we could run neither left or right without losing support.

But if Hagel tries to make the race about Iraq, he just reminds conservatives why they don't like him. Then a Democratic candidate could swoop in and run to Hagel's left on bread and butter issues like the minimum wage, holding on to the Democratic base. That's a pretty rough game plan... necessarily so, as we don't know what the terrain will look like in '08. The only given is that we can't win this seat if we don't contest it.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andersen's hypocricy is astounding. He never mentions perennial candidate Hal Daub in his column despite the fact Hal has thrown his hat in to the ring for every conceivable race out t here.

And what about "wealthicus boredicus"? - the affliction that makes bored rich kids like Pete Ricketts (Who Andersen so clearly supported) run for office when the snowmobiling gets to mundane.

Blogger John said...

My opinion has become that Fahey should run if Hagel doesn't... though he should wait a little bit to let a draft movement pull him in.

That would serve two good purposes:
-energize and build grassroots support
-make his choice to enter look less calculating/based on Hagel's choices.

If Hagel doesn't drop out, I don't think Fahey should run yet. I'd rather see Kleeb take an amazing shot at it.

That's a race I'd almost be happier to have... because there'd be nothing to loose, and it would be really fun to have Esch and Kleeb on the same ticket. But, like Fahey, I think it would take a Draft movement to pull Kleeb into a race against Hagel. And for good reason, if Kleeb lost two high profile races in a row, it would be a decade before he could try to run for office again and have any credibility with donors or media.

But either way, I like the way the '08 Senate picture is shaping up for Nebraska.


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