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Supporting Our Candidates

We here at the NDP want to recognize a county party that is leading the way in supporting the great candidates we have running across the state. Sunday night, the Saunders County Democratic Party was the first county party to donate to Maxine Moul's campaign when they presented her with a $500 check. The party worked hard to raise the money, and many people at the meeting wrote additional checks to Maxine's campaign.

The hard work of the Saunders County Democrats has not gone unnoticed and will hopefully encourage other county parties to do the same for other candidates. Your generosity will help get Democrats elected in November.

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Salt Valley Sally

The anger of Democrats is the New Black, and it suits three groups of folks perfectly: Republican strategists, slacker journalists and fundraising careerists.

Republican strategists want to paint the Democrats as angry because anger is so unattractive. Though the Republican leadership has fueled and exploited Angry Man Politics with its famous wedge issues (abortion and guns, for two), any fool can see how tired Americans are growing of being angry and afraid. Both President Bush and Vice President Cheney limit exposure to real journalists and the public generally, because both have tempers, and the camera catches the bone-deep ugliness behind the eyes of this administration. Paint the Democrats as angry, Karl Rove and Andrew Card are thinking, and they'll BECOME angry, angry and scary. And disoriented. The Democrats will start to eat their own!

Slacker journalists like the angle because they thought of it. Every major paper in the U.S. has run the Angry Democrats story in various forms several times over the past few weeks. Going back to Howard Dean's yelp, this is a non-story that works on the principle of the hors d'oevre--tiny tasty bites that leave people wanting more and another drink to go with.

Liberal fundraisers live by Democratic anger. The Wonder Kids at MoveOn.org just passed around a "survey" last week asking, "Who's up for targeting right of center Democrats?" (This survey is of course non-scientific, as responders are entirely self-selected.) 84% of responders said go for it. MoveOn.org already has most of the responders' credit card numbers on file--that's how a person gets to BE a survey participant--and I reckon they will have raised a half million dollars or more by now towards the goal of unseating Rep. Henry Cullar (D-TX).

Cullar may well be worth targeting, IF the voters in that district are inclined to elect someone more progressive. His personal style is said to be mocking and surly, and he votes against his own party often enough to make MoveOn.org mad.

But Democrats have bigger fish to fry. 2006 can be THE year things start to turn around for this country, but only if the Democrats can manage two things--party unity and winning and holding seats in Congress.

All the rest--sending a message by punishing Democrats for not being liberal enough or not passing some lefty litmus test--is kid stuff and counterproductive. Anger among Democrats towards Democrats in so-called red states looks a lot like the classic midlife crisis--a lifetime of buyer's remorse for not moving to San Francisco or New York or Canada when you had the chance.

The serious Democrats I know, the kind of folks who get things done, in the community and in the party, are more sad than angry right now. They FEEL anger--towards the state of the nation and the state of the world--but the truth is, real grown ups don't get MAD. That's a perk enjoyed legitimately only by children, and it's one of the things we give up for adult perks, like sex and voting, neither of which is much good done in anger.

The Bush Administration and this Republican Congress together seem intent on a reckless, even apocalyptic course. I blame in part Republican exploitation of the religious right, which I believe creates apocalyptic words and images, and therefore apocalyptic thinking and doing, at home and abroad. The language of apocalypse is understood perfectly in translation by radical Islamists, fueling the worldwide culture war that has people dying in the street over CARTOONS.

Anger will not win the midterm elections. Bridge-builders like Barak Obama and, yes, Ben Nelson are the future. The national Republican leadership is spinning out of control, like the world's biggest and most dangerous dysfunctional family. We need ADULTS in Washington, not to kick ass but to ACT like adults, with an adult seriousness of purpose and an adult sense of responsibility equal to the tremendous mess that must begin to be set to rights.

The world, much less this country, cannot afford for Democrats to **** (supply your four letter word of choice) up in the midterm elections or to **** around. The Bush administration may be coming to pieces before our eyes, yet these people can and mean to do a lot of mischief yet--on the war, on the budget deficit, on the TRADE deficit, on the environment, on Gulf Coast reconstruction, on energy, on the farm bill, on Social Security, on the health insurance industry, on immigration, on the poor.

Anger is about personality, not policy, but it is policy that will determine the course of this century, when the personalities are all gone to the next world. Thanks to the foresight of the Founding Fathers, there is one thing in THIS world that can now put a brake on the Bush administration, but only one--a Democratic Congress.

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President's Day Open Thread

Come on Mr. Gale--sunshine is the best disinfectant

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Electile Dysfunction

We've got a big problem and we need your help to solve it.

Earlier today, I testified at a public hearing in the Unicameral on the rules and regulations for satellite voting. Partisan Republicans have cooked up the current scheme: it will boost Republican turnout in Lincoln and set a dangerous precedent for elections to come.

Satellite voting is the process of designating convenient, accessible locations where citizens may vote in the weeks leading up to Election Day. We're in favor of it, but we want it done right. It shouldn't be a handout from Republican election officials to their Party.

The controversy hinges around the site selection process. Currently, the regulations do not provide for any citizen input in the site selection process. The Nebraska Democratic Party has been advocating making the site selection process transparent and fair. It should take into account the socioeconomic, racial, and partisan diversity of each community that utilizes it.

However, we've been told directly by a high-level election official that "that just isn't going to happen." Instead, the Republican Election Commissioner (appointed by the Republican Governor) proposes sites to the Republican Secretary of State for approval.

Because Lancaster County may be the first county to use this program, we've been studying the effects it will have in the Capital City. The Bennett Martin Library is the largest and most-used public library in Lancaster County, because it is conveniently located in the heart of downtown Lincoln. Unfortunately, the Republicans told us that they didn't want to select Bennett Martin. Instead, they're planning on selecting three libraries in neighborhoods where Republicans outnumber Democrats, by almost two to one.

This is a big deal. In Omaha, it would be the equivalent of putting all Douglas County voting locations in Ralston, Millard, and Elkhorn, and nothing east of 72nd Street.

Just when we thought the Republicans couldn't go any further, they have. Now they're resorting to backroom, partisan politics to decide something as important as where people vote.

It's an outrage, and we won't stand for it.

Here's the bottom line: If we don't tell them to stop, they might just get away with this. It's up to each of us--as Nebraskans--to voice our concerns and then spread the word.

Even Secretary of State Gale admitted that "[i]f there is too much controversy about it, then the Lancaster County Election Commissioner and all of us will decide let's postpone it…"

Secretary of State Gale works for you -- the taxpayer. Let him know what you think about this partisan scheme:

john.gale@sos.ne.gov

If you want to, forward a copy of what you send him to us at info@nebraskademocrats.org and we'll post the best ones on the website.

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Straw Poll Results

After weeks (okay, months) of anticipation, here are the much awaited results of our Presidential Straw Poll.

Over 700 people voted in our straw poll. The top 5 results were:

And the total breakdown:

Here are the top five names people want to learn more about

And the full results:

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More Mud-Slinging: Cheney Shoots a Man

Lincoln, Nebraska native Dick Cheney has shot a man. The Associated Press reports:

Harry Whittington, a millionaire attorney from Austin, was "alert and doing fine" in a Corpus Christi hospital Sunday after he was shot by Cheney on a ranch in south Texas….

Whittington, 78, was mostly injured on his right side, with the pellets hitting his cheek, neck and chest during the incident which occurred late afternoon on Saturday….

"The vice president didn't see him…the covey flushed and the vice president picked out a bird and was following it and shot. And by god, Harry was in the line of fire and got peppered pretty good."

Whittington has been a private practice attorney in Austin since 1950 and has long been active in Texas Republican politics. He's been appointed to several state boards, including when then-Gov. George W. Bush named him to the Texas Funeral Service Commission.

Ironically, even beyond the almost prophetic Texas Funeral Service Commission appointment, Whittington appears to have received near immediate medical attention because Cheney always has an ambulance on-call. It's not everyday that your life is saved by your shooter's having a heart condition.

Anyone have any inappropriate, off-color jokes to share? Anyone have any thoughts on whom Cheney might have been better off taking a shot? And, is it treason to ask such questions? Perhaps poor taste? Guess we'll find out Monday night when the late-night comics get their first crack at the story.

On top of the "mishandling" of facts leading up to the Iraq invasion, the leaking of Valerie Plame's identity, and the undue influence granted oil companies in writing the Bush Administration's energy policy, who thinks poor hunter safety skills bordering on criminal negligence might bolster the lonely but ever-present calls for Cheney's impeachment?

Certainly not advocating…just asking…

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Salt Valley Sally

Betty Friedan (1921-2006) died the day after my last post, in which I mentioned that once, through no merit of my own, Ms. Friedan bought me supper. Of course I misspoke when I said she was researching The Feminine Mystique. That book was published in 1963, and my supper came later, in 1967 or thereabouts.

Donna's mother came flying into their house one afternoon and told us we were going to dinner with a great woman writer. "No time to take you home," Donna's mother said, looking at me doubtfully. "You're going to have to wear something of mine." Unlike Donna, I had breasts.

We stuffed me into an orange cocktail dress two sizes too small. Donna's mother eyed my feet. "Just wear your loafers."

Ill-dressed in my case, rushed and steamy to a woman, we hastened into the Marriott and found the restaurant. Ms. Friedan was there and stood for us, looking over her glasses. She was doing research for ANOTHER book, and she wanted to know about our relationships with men. After a bit, I realized she meant our relationships with boys, not the flirting and dating so much as our relationships at school.

My high school was severely academic. Several lady teachers drove me like a mule to push me towards my POTENTIAL, with way more stick than carrot, thank you very much. Boys were insignificant as academic competitors, as very many of the other top students in my class were also girls. Boys were my HOBBY.

I could not say this before Donna's mother, who would immediately rat me out to MY mother. Clearly, this was a trap. I said as little as possible, volunteering nothing. Donna had a lot of brothers and was more forthcoming with her strongly held opinions, an early version of girls rule, boys drool.

Ms. Friedan was a good talker and a good questioner both, and she didn't try to put words in anyone's mouth. She was smart and funny. She didn't get drunk. She ordered Black Forest Cake all around for dessert.

I confess I do not know her work, really, but I know that she set an avalanche, as you might say, rolling, with her analysis of post WWII American middle class women and their discontent, "the problem with no name." It may be an exaggeration to call her the mother of modern feminism, but she was a great warrior in her causes, and she is gone. Betty Friedan gets both my salute and my prayer.

As phat said, two great women have gone from us in one week. Coretta Scott King and Betty Friedan were not much alike superficially, the Jewish intellectual and the great man's widow and lady of the old school. I doubt they agreed on every point of policy, but both were Democrats, bless them.

If you want to honor the work and spirit of either woman, or both, or some other great woman who was a mighty Democrat, keep it simple. Send a check to the Democrats. We have some terrific Democratic women running for public office this cycle, including Annette Dubas and Danielle Nantkes for Nebraska State Legislature and Maxine Moul for Congress in the 1st District.

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Don Stenberg's Winners-Envy

On Friday, a Lancaster County District Court Judge rejected the first challenge to Nebraska's legislative term limits taking effect this election year. In response, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Don Stenberg was quoted by the Omaha World-Herald saying of the state senators responsible for the challenge:

"My position is they should respect the will of the people and just give it up."

Harsh words from a man who has already twice been rejected by voters in his multiple Senate bids. Surely, there will come a time when Stenberg will have to take his own advice and just give up his fruitless ambitions of being Nebraska's chief Republican lackey. Would we be asking too much that a third strike this year might finally do the charm?

And, seriously, isn't there just a hint of hypocrisy in this statement coming from a man who consistently used the issue of term limits to his advantage over the years yet held onto his former position as Attorney General for a third term, politicizing the job in unprecedented fashion only to boost his chances at attaining higher office?

Now, without a political office to call his own, he sits in judgment on those state senators who still want to serve the public without having been personally rejected by voters a la Stenberg ‘96 and Stenberg ‘00. Is this more a case of "winners-envy" or just another instance of Stenberg saying whatever is politically-convenient at the time, as has been his M.O. for 15 years?

Whether strike three comes in May's Republican primary or the November general election, you can't help hoping this guy will finally take a hint, for his own sake if nothing else --

Don, don't go away mad. Just go away!

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The Case for Ben Nelson, Democrat

Adapted from the New Nebraska Network:

Sen. Ben Nelson officially declared his candidacy for re-election Friday. Thank God because Nebraska needs him. I write that without reservation and without relying on the absolutely horrifying Republican alternatives (though, I must admit, the very idea of "U.S. Senator Don Stenberg" makes me feel dirty and sick to my stomach).

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, currently with a very impressive two-thirds approval rating, 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.

Still, I would be remiss not to acknowledge and express the frustration I share with many fellow Democrats at Nelson's voting record. Last week, a report was released by Congressional Quarterly indicating that in 2005 Nelson actually broke rank with fellow Democrats more often than he voted with them on clearly partisan issues.

The Lincoln-Journal Star reported:

Nelson split from the Democratic majority 53.9 percent of the time on key votes that divided the two parties. He supported the Republican president's positions 75.6 percent of the time….

"If Congressional Quarterly had a way to measure Senator Nelson's votes in support of Nebraska values, his number would be 100 percent," said David DiMartino, the senator's spokesman in Washington.

"Every year, the CQ study underscores Nelson's bipartisanship and independence," DiMartino said.

Republican State Chairman Mark Quandahl of Omaha said being ranked as the strongest Democratic supporter of the president "still doesn't make him Bush's strongest supporter."

What the president would prefer, Quandahl said, is "somebody who votes with him not some of the time, but most, if not all, of the time."

PRESIDENTIAL SUPPORT
Hagel: 89 percent
Fortenberry: 87 percent
Terry, 85 percent
Osborne, 76 percent
Nelson: 76 percent

Still, what might be most interesting about these numbers are the implications that result from Nebraska Republican Chairman Mark Quandahl's pathetic attempt at making them work for his party politically. If Quandahl wants to make an issue of Nelson's not supporting President Bush enough, then he is attacking one of the most prominent Republicans in the state -- not to mention the likely Republican candidate for governor -- for the exact same thing.

Does Quandahl really mean to suggest that Tom Osborne has not voted for the best interests of Nebraska? Does he mean to suggest that Osborne is out-of-touch with Nebraska voters? That certainly seems to be what he's saying because these numbers don't leave much room for interpretation.

That no one has called Quandahl on this blatant double-standard is just another example of the Nebraska press' incompetence. I dare say both Tom Osborne and Ben Nelson deserve an apology.

But back to the question at hand -- to what extent should we as Democrats and progressives embrace Nelson this election year?

Frankly, 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 our state.

We are all Ben Nelson.
There is no shame in that. He is one of us -- as a Nebraskan first and a Democrat second (heck, let's be honest, maybe third or forth). For some, such a trade-off causes considerable and understandable difficulty, particularly those who hold their political ideals so closely to their heart. In matters of conscience, no more should be expected of voters than the representatives they elect -- be sensible but never betray who you are and what you believe.

Here, it's important to remember that 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. Who is it that really fails to understand where America's strength and democracy's greatness lie?

Not me. Not you. Now, let's get to work.

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Salt Valley Sally

To the President, I would like to say this: I knew Coretta King, and you, Sir, are not her.

This story is true. As a young girl in Atlanta in the 1960s, I had a best friend, Donna. Her mother, like Donna's father a psychotherapist, was the sort of early feminist standout who got invited to meet important people. Like a good feminist, she resolutely dragged her only daughter Donna with her, and Donna dragged me. (I once had supper, wearing a size nine borrowed frock, with Betty Freidan, who was researching The Feminine Mystique, but that is another story for another day.)

In March of 1968, we all put on our church clothes and went to tea one afternoon at the home of Dr. and Mrs. King. I have no idea how Donna's mother managed this invitation. There was another girl along too, someone I did not know well and never saw again.

Mrs. King answered the door of the family's house, a modest bungalow in a decent black neighborhood, not far from Ebenezer Church where Dr. King preached. She was young then, not 40, and I thought she was very grave and beautiful. We really did have tea, with lemon or cream, from fine thin cups. There were small sandwiches too and cheese pennies, tiny sharp melting completely addictive biscuits. Cheese pennies attend wedding dinners, white and black, around the South. One is too many and the handfuls I longed to stuff into my mouth would have been, of course, unthinkable in the presence of so great a lady as Mrs. King.

In truth I cannot recall the things we said. She asked us girls about ourselves, our studies and our plans. Then out of the blue, it seems in memory, I asked if I might see the Nobel Peace Prize. Unbelievably, she went through a door into their bedroom, straight to a tall dresser, and took the Prize from a shallow wooden tray, no doubt the same where Dr. King kept his cuff links. It was much smaller than I expected. She let me hold it in my hand.

A few weeks later, on the miserable night of April 4, 1968, it was raining steadily in Atlanta. Dr. King was dead, shot dead in Memphis. There was nothing to be done, and we had to do something, so Donna and her mother and I drove to the King's house and, with a handful of others, black and white, stood vigil. We did not sing or even talk much. Mostly, we cried. The King house was swarming with FBI and Fulton County deputy sheriffs. At some point, one of the FBI officers walked across the street to where we were standing and asked us to follow him. He crossed the street and walked up onto the porch.

Under the yellow porch light, Mrs. King stepped out into the rainy night. She took us one by one into her arms. We murmured to one another in the soft language of grief. Then she was gone back into her house, and Donna and I were speechless, stumbling after Donna's mother through the puddles to the microbus, past the blooming azaleas sagging in the rain.

Even as a stupid callow kid which I was and more, I knew in the moment that act was, as they said, really something. That a person who had lost what she had lost would not give herself the luxury of one evening of private grief, but would step out into the rain to embrace even white folks--I cannot imagine what that cost her, inside.

I had to go to school next day and listen to peckerwoods laugh and crow about the assassination of Dr. King. If you have one instant of doubt that the President was among the laughers and the crowers on April 5, 1968, then you just have not spent enough quality time with peckerwoods.

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