I'll probably never say this again, but I can't recommend highly enough the latest discussion at the Leavenworth Street blog. Leavenworth - whether intentionally or not - has opened up a real can of worms for the Nebraska Republican Party by inviting readers to offer substantive commentary about the Lincoln city elections.
Considering State Sen. Chris Beutler's outright dominance over Svoboda, the GOP's supposed golden boy, it shouldn't surprise that years-old questions about the competency of the current Republican leadership have come to the forefront. This is particularly the case because of the Nebraska Republican Party's going zero-for-five in their targeted legislative races during the 2006 election cycle. And, Sen. Ben Nelson's landslide victory over that bald guy with lots of money - what was his name, again? - certainly plays a role in the prevailing dissatisfaction as well.
Public criticism? Self-reflection? These are not Republican Party traits, here or nationally. It's a demonstration of just how demoralized Republicans are - across the country, largely thanks to the disastrous course of George W. Bush's Presidency - that we're even seeing this sort of discussion. Needless to say, Nebraska Republicans might be especially demoralized with their being torn by the desire to label Sen. Chuck Hagel a Benedict Arnold while knowing full well that their party has lost its way and their President has gone off his rocker.
While Beutler is a great candidate with an almost peerless record of service to the city of Lincoln - who has not only been working harder on the campaign trail but also speaking with a clearer message - it seems only natural that the turning of the tide against Republican politicians has hurt the over-confident and cocksure Svoboda. All politics may be local, but that doesn't mean local politics exist in a vacuum.
After 12 years in the Congressional majority - the last 6 with a Republican President - the empty heart of the Republican Party has been pretty much laid bare for all to see. Iraq shows all the signs of being the Republican Party's own personal Vietnam, except they are nowhere close to coming to grips with the disaster they have wrought - neither personally, politically, or internationally. And the last remaining principle that any Republican can claim with a straight face is that the GOP truly does stand for the economic elite, the corporate fatcats, and the war-monger$ against the interests of the American people.
Nebraska has been slow to feel this effect, which is quite understandable. We are a majority Republican state that has bordered on one-party rule for the last eight years. We have little independent media of which to speak. We are relatively rural, traditional, and - to be quite honest - sheltered from the the moods and trends that might be sweeping the nation to our east or west.
Of course, Leavenworth's comments do sport their share of Nebraska GOP apologists. Acknowledging their continued dominance in state politics, I can't help but agree that some of the Chicken Little-hysterics are a little bit over the top. But, in the Republican Party, it's not so much the weight of the dissent that matters - just the fact that there is any dissent whatsoever speaks volumes in a political organization that has become totally reliant upon and an absolute victim to its own groupthink, egomania, and feedback loops.
In other words, Republicans have lost the capacity for self-criticism and long ago started valuing blind party loyalty above all else, so there's bound to be some pain, discomfort, and hopefully some further losses as they wake to the consequences of their having violated every campaign promise and every trust imaginable.
Chris Beutler is a great candidate for mayor of Nebraska's capital city, but Svoboda's coming in with only 35% in the primary against Beutler's 48% is an absolutely dreadful performance. Anyone who has been a party to Lincoln politics the last three years, witnessing the negativity directed at Democratic Mayor Coleen Seng in the media and across the city, has to admit that this sort of performance suggests a total failure by Svoboda and the Republican Party to connect with voters on any level.
Some of that failure is local. Some of that blame certainly does rest with local and state GOP leaders. But, the blame also lies with the Republican voter - even those right here in Nebraska - who ever let their party become this monstrous, power-mad entity that for so long has cared about nothing but winning elections with no concern at all for their choices' consequence.
Guilt, remorse, and shame do not make for an excited base. I'd contend that Svoboda and the Nebraska Republican Party are learning that the hard way in this race - easily 2007's most important in the state. Whether or not this works to the long-term benefit of Nebraska's Democratic minority remains to be seen and to be earned. But, an opportunity does seem to have presented itself - evident even on a Republican blog in a vastly Republican state.
For now, Beutler and the city of Lincoln reap the reward but - played correctly - it might soon be shared by all Nebraskans .... change taking hold within our own borders and at our own kitchen tables with the same force and magnitude that have been seen across the country.