Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Taking Another Swing...

If you're a Nebraskan, by birth or choice, who's lived for any serious time in Nebraska over the last forty years, you likely know the two words that strike terror into the hearts of virtually every citizen of any political background who's ever been a Nebraska state senator: Ernie Chambers.

We say that humorously and with a great deal of respect for Sen. Chambers. In our combined knowledge of local, state, and federal legislators, we've rarely seen anyone as well-versed, legislatively, as Sen. Chambers and almost never anyone as devoted to his constituents.

The fact is, the words "Senator Ernie Chambers" will once again be uttered in the halls of the Nebraska Unicameral, after the 2012 elections, as Mr. Chambers won back the legislative seat he'd previously held for 38 years. Some media outlets are reporting that a number of Nebraska politicians - including Republican Gov. Dave Heineman - are embracing Chambers' return.

The truth is, there are more than a few less-then-astute Nebraska politicos who would like to take a swing at Sen. Chambers. However, as we've already noted, Chambers' ability to advocate for his constituents is something most legislators can't hold a candle to. His return will be a real wakeup to some, especially political neophytes.

What may be an even bigger wakeup though, is the fact that Nebraska Democrats didn't fare as badly in last week's election as we and others initially thought.

We're all aware that at the national level, the sorrow of Republican political operatives still seems to be everywhere. The losses of the GOP have induced all kinds of crazy actions from threatening secession, to GOP anti-tax lobbyist Grover Norquist calling Mitt Romney a "poopy-head" on live TV. At the state level though, things are different.

In the immediate wake of the election, we've been concerned about the lack of political representation for Nebraskans who aren't extremist conservative whackjobs. With the loss of Ben Nelson's seat, and the loss by former Sen. Kerrey, moderate Republicans, along with all Nebraska Democrats and Independents really have no federal representatives willing to advocate for their needs with the same fervor Sen. Chambers' constituents enjoy in Omaha.

After looking a bit deeper though, we are not as worried as we once were.

For one thing, while Republicans held onto their overall majority in the Nebraska Legislature, the new balance in the Nebraska Legislature will be 30-17 - meaning Democrats and Democratic-leaning politicos did not lose any seats this year at the state level.

Further, Sen. Brad Ashford - a former Republican who left his party because he could go along with his party's extremist ways - and Sen. Chambers are both technically registered Independents. Both will likely side with Democrats in Nebraska's so-called "non-partisan" legislature far more often than state Republican political leaders wish they would.

Add to that a growing number of moderate Nebraska Republicans who are growing less afraid of the extremists in their party, and you can see the real reason politicians like Gov. Dave Heineman are saying nice things about someone like Ernie Chambers.

We still think the Nebraska Democratic Party is far weaker than it should ever have been allowed to become and those responsible for overseeing it's demise over the last two decades should be ashamed. That said, we are not as distressed about the future for Democrats in Nebraska as extremists at the national level like Mr. Norquist seem to be about the GOP.

Nebraska, like most states, may just be worth keeping in the Union after all.

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