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A number of you have told me that you don’t look forward to reading the column on your computer screen. That’s not necessary if you have a printer. Print out the column and take it with you to the breakfast table or wherever else you choose to read printed material. (You can also call up past columns in case you missed them.)
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July 15, 2010
The Nebraska Democratic Party obviously has a major problem, and it didn’t begin two weeks ago when the party’s nominee for governor dropped out of the race.
The facts are, of course, that the Democratic nominee was a political unknown—evidence that the party’s problem began earlier when the party was unable to recruit a credible gubernatorial candidate or any candidate at all for attorney general or auditor.
I offer this opinion with more than a little sadness. The two-party system has served this nation, Nebraska included, very well over the years. True, Nebraska has elected more Republicans than Democrats to state and national office.
But the state’s political history over the past century has included the names of Democrats like Senator Gilbert M. Hitchcock and, more recently, Senators Ed Zorinsky, Jim Exon, Bob Kerrey and Ben Nelson.
And the governorship has been won by Democrats like Charles W. Bryan and Roy Cochran in the 1920s and 1930s, Ralph Brooks in 1959-60 and in the past 50 years by Frank Morrison and Kerrey and Exon and Nelson.
And congressmen the caliber of Harry Coffee of Chadron, Don McGinley of Ogallala and Peter Hoagland and John Cavanaugh of Omaha were Democrats who served well.
But in this election year, it’s clear that the Nebraska Democratic Party’s continuing problem didn’t start two weeks ago. Even if the party’s gubernatorial nominee had stayed on the ballot, the party would have been left without nominees for two other of the five major state offices—attorney general and auditor.
So if Nebraska Democrats fail to find a candidate to be nominated at their state convention the weekend of July 23, it would mean that the party could find no candidates at all, much less credible candidates, for three of the five state government elective offices.
Next week, an apparently forgotten lesson from history: The year Nebraska Democrats nominated a bus boy for governor.
* * *
A note of optimism was sounded last week by a well-known Nebraska Democrat, Dick Fellman, in a long “Midlands Voices” column in The World-Herald.
Fellman said there has been little party-building since the days of Jim Exon “back in the 1970s and ‘80s.” Yet, wrote the former state senator, chairman of the Douglas County Board and Congressional nominee in 1966, “there is no reason why a strong Democratic candidate won’t step forward for the governor’s office.”
Fellman who currently teaches in the political science department at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, said Republican Governor Dave Heineman faces “many difficult challenges.” Then he offered two arguments which, he said, could be used effectively against Heineman by a Democratic nominee:
First, Heineman could be challenged to promise that he would serve out the entire four-year term.
Heineman would be foolish to make such a promise, thereby foreclosing a 2012 try, of course, for the Senate seat now held by Democrat Ben Nelson.
Heineman’s entirely predictable declination of a challenge to make a full-four-year-term promise could then be used effectively against him, in Fellman’s reasoning.
Is it possible that Fellman has forgotten that Ben Nelson made such a promise in the middle of his second term as governor, then broke his word and ran for the Senate when Jim Exon decided not to seek another term? Nelson was soundly defeated by Republican Chuck Hagel.
If Democrat Ben Nelson decided that a full-four-year pledge proved to be an unreasonable restriction, how could a Democratic candidate now justify trying to extract such a pledge from a Republican governor?
The second major issue which, Fellman argued, could be used against Heineman was his refusal to allocate public funds for prenatal treatment of pregnant illegal immigrants. This issue flared up briefly but subsided quickly when the pregnant illegal immigrants were offered prenatal treatment financed by other sources.
In promoting the use of the prenatal care issue against Heineman, Fellman offered what seems to me to be a bizarre argument:
Since the children born to illegal immigrant mothers become United States citizens “eligible to serve as President of the United States, how can we not provide medical care?” This seems to me to be a suggestion that Heineman’s position on prenatal care has the potential of killing a future president or presidents, sort of an in-the-womb assassination. That’s an argument that I think Dick Fellman might better have left out.
Then there is the question of the political practicality of focusing on an illegal immigrant issue at a time when an increasing number of Americans are not thinking in terms of making life more comfortable for people who are in this country illegally.
* * *
I have sympathy for my friends in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln athletic department as they consider the question of possibly increasing the seating capacity of Memorial Stadium.
A poll of a large sample of current ticket holders found strong support for more seats for Husker football fans but also strong opposition to seating expansion if it threatened the end of the 47-year-old tradition of every Husker home game being a sell-out.
This fan’s opinion: You can’t have it both ways. Significant stadium expansion not inevitably but very likely would jeopardize the stadium sell- out record. There is an inescapable relationship between the difficulty in obtaining a relatively scarce popular commodity and the public’s desire to be among those fortunate enough to get their hands on that scarce commodity—in this case, Husker football tickets.
At what size would Memorial Stadium seating capacity make fans not eager enough to buy every available ticket? Think Western Kentucky, Troy or Nichols State and whether the stadium would continue to be sold out for such early-season patsies.
Incidentally, I wish journalists would stop saying the numbers which the UNL Athletic Department releases for every home game represent people sitting in the stadium. They don’t.
The numbers include the total of tickets sold for that game. The Athletic Department total carefully refers not to capacity crowds but to tickets sold.
No one, including supposedly knowledgeable journalists who write about the Huskers all the time, knows exactly how many people are watching each game in Memorial Stadium.
* * *
In furtherance of my self-assigned responsibility for pointing out some of the errors which come to my attention, either electronically or in print:
A recent ad for an auto insurance company gets your attention with this statement: “Every day an average of 11 teens die in car crashes.”
No way. What they had meant to convey was the fact that if you took the totals of all teens who die each year in car crashes and divide it by 365, you would get an average, but that average wouldn’t occur “every day.”
A news story said a record crowd estimated at 80,000 turned out for the annual Memorial Park free Fourth of July concert and fireworks show. But no mention of who made the estimate and on what the estimate was based. Beware such unsubstantiated crowd estimates.
A newspaper commentary referred to the brave conduct of President James Madison’s wife, Dolley, during the British invasion of our nation during the War of 1812. But the commentator misspelled the name as “Dolly.” “Dolley” is such an unusual spelling that you might think it would have stuck in the memories of students of American history.
* * *
For those who say they particularly enjoy columns which end with something about Marian and/or our two cocker spaniels:
For years now, through a succession of cocker spaniels, it has been traditional that either two or three dogs currently beloved members of the family sit patiently beside me while I eat breakfast in our garden room, waiting for the customary bite or two of whatever I may be having for breakfast.
Charlotte, our six-year-old, has become very strongly attached to the tradition. The other day Marian headed up to her favorite spot beside the swimming pool, accompanied as is usual by Charlotte and her eight-year-old “sister” Claire. But Charlotte somehow noticed or just took a chance that I might be still at the garden room table and came back from the pool to stand patiently outside the garden room door, looking plaintively/hungrily at me.
I had finished breakfast two hours before as Charlotte might have remembered, but perhaps she thought I was having lunch. Whatever, she continued to sit at the door until I let her in, and she immediately began scouting all around the table, looking for the smallest morsel she might find.
No morsels, but Charlotte stayed with me, perhaps in anticipation of lunch, which included a peanut butter sandwich, a small portion of which I did indeed share with her.
What else is a fellow to do when a beloved canine member of the family sits looking up at you with quiet confidence?
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