Amid a robust discussion about the future of youth-oriented progressive politics, the Young Democrats of America convention is about to gavel down in San Francisco. It's a good time to think about what can be done here in Nebraska to energize the Nebraska Young Democrats as they work to build the youth wing of our party. They're already active on campuses and in communities across the state -- and on at least one campus, they're doing great online work too.
Is last week's heat wave making me hallucinate?
Is there a Christmas in July haunt from the past floating around the capitol building?
Nope. Its real and it is definitely sending a repetitive message: the State Treasure's Office is jinxed by its Republican occupants.
No one can forget the scandal that unfolded just a few years ago swirling around Lorelee Byrd and the infamous extra $300,000 in checks she packed away "just in case." The story made headlines all the way up the media food-chain.
Governor Johanns replaced Byrd with Ron Ross. Ross claimed he would clean up the office. He even passed his son over for a job to make it look like he was making sacrifices to keep the office clean and take the heat off. Well, while the heat was "off," he decided to make a family affair out of his hiring practices. This act stars another familiar name: Tom Nesbitt, the former State Patrol Superintendent…who just happens to be Ross's best friend.
Today's Lincoln Journal Star featured the cronyism on its front page. Ross brought Nesbitt's father and his son on board in his office last year. Then when Nesbitt was, as he puts it, forced out of the State Patrol by Heineman, a newly created position just happened to become available in the Treasurer's office within weeks…and no other applicants were considered. [LSJ 6-30-05]
How is it possible for so many family members to be hired by one man, you ask? Since the State Treasurer is an elected official (Ross was appointed, not elected), the treasurer does not have to abide by state personnel rules like other state agencies. Today's LJS article says if similar hiring practices were used in a state agency, a formal inquiry would be launched. This is outrageous. Ron Ross was never elected by the people of Nebraska and is now using tax payer dollars to support his best friend who couldn't keep his day job and to support his family as well. He not only favors hiring his friends, but I've heard he favors hitting the golf course with them on Friday afternoons instead of working.
Not only is the State Treasurer's Office haunted by past Republican abuses, the culture of corruption continues today and will continue until Nebraskans wake up and make a change.
This is my first blog post, so please bear with me. My name is Amanda McGill, your new NDP Director of Communications and Research. With 6 full days under my belt, I felt now would be a good time to introduce myself and get some feedback about what you need from me to help promote our Democratic agenda and fight back against the GOP to take back our state in 2006 and beyond.
Here's a short bit about where I come from: I've been a television reporter for the last two and half years. Contrary to the Republican Party noise machine, there is no "liberal media establishment", only good journalists who are out to seek the truth and make our communities more aware of the activities going on around them. I have dual degrees in Political Science and Broadcasting from UNL, I live in Lincoln, I drive a Ford Taurus, and I love football.
So enough about me…I want to find out more about you and what tools and information you need from the NDP to effectively persuade and broadcast our message of ‘change.' I know that fact-based research is always needed to help make our arguments stronger against the ill-informed and often made-up arguments of the GOP.
What issues are being discussed at the local water-cooler? What arguments have the GOP been using to back up their version of Rove Gate or to lay the blame on someone else about Nebraska finishing 50th in economic growth last year?
I'm currently working on producing more talking points and research documents for the site as well as revamping our SpeakOut section of the site to make it more interactive. If you have any suggestions, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can get some input about what you need from NebraskaDemocrats.org.
I gotta run, but I want to thank you for visiting nebraskademocrats.org and learning a little bit about me and what we have in the communications hopper.
I truly believe that we can change the political and media landscape of Nebrask…but we need you to lead the charge.
An interesting email from the Nebraska GOP came my way on Friday that focused on supporting Bush
Click on this and read about Nebraska's Senator Ben Nelson in U.S. News. I especially enjoyed his line about how, "Democrats too often allow Republicans to define them. I don't want to ban the Bible, I don't want to burn the flag, I don't want to take away their guns, and I don't want to rewrite the Pledge of Allegiance."
I'm blogging from Washington, DC, where I'm spending a couple of days at the Democratic National Committee discussing how they'll be helping us execute our 93 County Strategy.
Organizing in Nebraska is part of the DNC's plan to build a strong Democratic Party across our country, starting in ‘red states' like ours. By investing in Nebraska, they're investing in the future: over the next few months, we'll be recruiting candidates to run for office up and down the ballot, helping them set up their campaigns -- whether they're running for school board or Congress -- and organizing in communities across Nebraska to build a lasting Democratic Party.
In talking with folks here at the DNC, I'm impressed by their committment to Governor Dean's vision that "election by election, state by state, precinct by precinct, door by door, vote by vote, we're going to take this country back for the people who built it."
In Nebraska that means:
93 counties. 1668 precincts. About 750,000 doors. 1,160,193 voters.
We can't do it without your help.
Thanks in advance for helping us win back the heartland.
This just keeps getting better. Check out this NEPR Audio Clip
The Lincoln Journal-Star reports on U.S. servicemembers with connections to Nebraska who have fallen in the line of duty:
As of Friday, July 15, 2005, 22 U.S. service members with connections to Nebraska have died in Afghanistan and Iraq since the beginning of military operations following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, according to the Department of Defense and family members.
Many are having misgivings about George W. Bush's actions in Iraq, but the heroism, honor, and bravery demonstrated by the members of our armed forces is unquestionable.
To their memories, we say simply: thank you, from a grateful state and a grateful nation.
Here is a guest post from our good friend at New Nebraska Network
Much has been made of the Democratic Party's winning 2004 formula in Montana that saw the election of a Democratic governor despite President Bush's winning the state by 20-percent. Me…I'm not so sure. Each election in any given year and any separate locale is its own beast not to be confused with any other. Still, this article on the lessons of Montana from IN THESE TIMES, a progressive news magazine, does provide some definite reason to hope.
More than the election of Gov. Brian Schweitzer, what really draws ones attention is the state-wide formula that Montana Democrats needed to win. They came to realize what we in Nebraska have had a hard time coming to grips with: we can not win if we're not going to fight for every vote.
A decade ago, the Montana Democratic Party began a period of rebuilding. The Republican Party held the governor's office and controlled both chambers of the legislature by overwhelming majorities. The Democrats committed themselves to the basics. They engaged in a strategic planning process that defined clear, attainable goals. They focused on recruiting candidates who would work hard and win. And they trained candidates and volunteers in the organizing model of grassroots advocacy groups. Democrats soon started making gains in legislative races….
Democrats decided to make sure that their Montana candidates did not fall prey to national Democratic stereotypes. They sought out key constituencies by starting agriculture, small business and sportsman roundtables. The party hired a communications director to move beyond the basics of press releases. And the party recommitted itself to building its grassroots base--central committees and volunteers.
Montana Democrats realized they had another problem….Voters didn't know that Democrats had an economic plan. "The party did a statewide listening tour," he says. Legislative leaders crossed the state to meet with business and labor leaders and compile an economic plan. "We took it to small towns, large towns. We literally laid out a 22-point plan."
It's good to see the Nebraska Democratic Party has already under-taken many of these efforts. We should take note, though, that:
2000 was to prove a bad year for Montana Democrats. With Al Gore running, the Democrats lost the top-of-the-ticket race by 25 percent. Bush's coattails proved too much to overcome down-ticket and strong, experienced Democrats lost their races for the governor's office and for Montana's lone House seat….
It's not going to happen in a single cycle. There are going to be losses, but we just need to keep learning from and building off them. Right here is the fundamental reason we meed a legitimate Democratic candidate for Governor in 2006. This will be a high-profile race in which we have to offer an alternative -- even if it's an alternative the people aren't yet ready to embrace. The people need a chance to recognize that an alternative even exists.
Meanwhile, for any prospective candidates:
Schweitzer started running for governor virtually the day after he lost his race for the Senate (in 2000). "For a year and a half," he says, "I read all the newspapers in Montana, read the letters to the editor. When I read a cool letter, I would write them a letter and tell them that. So many candidates think that two weeks before the election, they're somehow going to gin up people to write letters for them. We'd build relationships with people who already wrote letters rather than trying to get new people to write letters to the editor."
He drove across the state, meeting people in rural areas and asking what they needed from government. Those discussions resulted in an agenda that included healthcare reform, economic development and a new approach to higher education with an increased emphasis on community colleges and technical schools. Schweitzer then took his new issue agenda and crossed the state again, giving speeches that never fell into wonk speak. Instead, Schweitzer ran on values, delivering a talk about his family homesteading in Montana, building a church and a community with their friends and neighbors. He talked about being a Bobcat (a graduate of Montana State). He talked about talking to people.
The article finally makes these suggestions for Democrats, all of which apply here in Nebraska:
That last lesson is probably the most important one. If we want Nebraskans to expect better than the Republican status quo provides, we have to start by holding ourselves and our candidates to a higher standard. We need to make promises we can keep about who we are and what we'll accomplish. We do that…and we continue to do that…and the voters will come around in time.