Quietly Disproving a Republican Lieby Ryan Anderson
In December, Scott Kleeb posited that the most effective attack on his candidacy was “the claim that was, on its face, the easiest claim to make, but the one that I actually think was the most wrong. Which was... not being from here.” I happened to agree, and so too did the state’s conservative bloggers, who couldn’t seem to cover this race in any capacity without some gratuitous attack on Kleeb’s heritage and identity:
“enough of the indignation about his family being from
. His parents are. He’s not.” “he has no legitimate ties to western Nebraska ”, “I consider him a carpet-bagger, and nothing I can find out about the man changes my mind....” Nebraska
Not content with merely slashing and rehashing Kleeb’s past (you know, the awful sins of growing up on a military base and attending school at Yale), the conservative attack dogs offered a glimpse into the future, informing us helpfully that Kleeb “already has his saddlebags packed and the stagecoach tickets bought” in order to flee the state after losing the election:
“Don’t cry for Scooter Kleeb,
- by sun-up this morning he was doubtless humming “I’m Leaving on a Jet Plane” while thumbing through his Rolodex in search of what he hopes this time will be a real soft spot in the underbelly of the great American Body Politic.” Argentina
So successful was this attack in the blogosphere that by fall the fantasy of a Kleeb exodus had reached more legitimate partners in the “vast rightwing conspiracy”, with the Grand Island Independent suggesting “it will be interesting to see if Kleeb stays on as a highly-educated ranch hand or vanishes like tumbleweed on a high plains wind if he loses this contest.”
It’s difficult to overestimate the nastiness of this attack or its devastating impact on the state as a whole. This was not a policy difference or a shot at Kleeb’s resume and experience. There was no suggestion of either professional or personal wrong-doing, no gaffe-induced feeding frenzy… no attack on anything Kleeb had ever said or done.
No, this was a coordinated effort to rob a man of an identity he’s held his entire life. An identity as a Nebraskan. And in doing so, the conservative blogosphere and its mainstream allies have helped rob this state of a "Husker Nation" that extends far beyond the number of Nebraska ballots or driver’s licenses. A community that includes a great number of people seeking a path that may wind its way around the world but always (hopefully, always) finds its way back home.
Before you make an argument like that, you’d better be damn sure. But on this matter our would-be punditry was damn wrong:
Scott Kleeb is a Nebraskan... not just by heritage, but by choice. His journey has brought him halfway around the world. It could've brought him back to Yale, or at least (for those cynics out there) to greener political pastures. But instead it brought him back to Nebraska, the one place that always was and always will be "home".
Former Democratic congressional candidate Scott Kleeb turned down a chance to return to his alma mater, Yale University, but says staying in Nebraska doesn't necessarily mean he's decided to run for office again...
This week, Kleeb took his name out of consideration for a job directing the Yale-based World Fellows Program, a training program for young leaders.
Kleeb was a fellow in the program in 2002 and three times has hosted fellows on an educational tour of his relatives' ranch near Dunning, Neb. That is the ranch where Kleeb worked during breaks between studies at Yale and the University of Colorado and where he established his residence.
Kleeb said the Yale job was hard to turn down, but Nebraska "is home. This is where I need to be. This is where I belong."Kleeb recently married Jane Fleming, the outgoing executive director of Young Democrats of America, whom he met during the campaign. The couple reside in Hastings.
Kleeb has been hired to teach an introductory course in American history at Hastings College, said Rich Lloyd, academic dean of the school. Currently, Kleeb is working for a Nebraska ranch to build its international beef sales and helping form a coalition of agricultural and environmental groups on climate-change issues. (Omaha World Herald April 14, 2007)
The least he deserved for making that decision was to be taken seriously as a candidate, to be allowed into a dialog of ideas and to be heard. That's the least Western Nebraska deserved as well. They didn't get it in 2006.
Unfortunately, I think the only thing the attack dogs learned from this ordeal is that such "below-the-belt" strategies work, that they might even be their only weapon against the inevitable erosion of our rural one-party system. Already it seems they're gearing up for the next election, this time turning their rhetorical guns on Kleeb's wife, another (new) Nebraskan by choice.
What can I say? Some things never change. But for the sake of our politics and the future of this state, some things must. We can no longer afford this despicable attack, this self-defeating notion that a man can't cross our borders and remain a Nebraskan at heart.
The Husker Nation deserves better. Scott Kleeb deserves better. And we sure as hell deserve more.