What Is On The Line For Nebraskans on Tuesday?

Democrat candidate for Senate, Bob Kerrey participates in a debate against Republican Deb Fischer in Lincoln, Neb., Monday, O
Democrat candidate for Senate, Bob Kerrey participates in a debate against Republican Deb Fischer in Lincoln, Neb., Monday, Oct. 1, 2012. The two are vying for the Senate seat of Ben Nelson, D-Neb., who is not seeking re-election. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

From time to time, our major political parties are taken over and held hostage by the most extreme wing. This time it's the Republican Party's turn. It's unfortunate for the people who regard themselves as life-long centrist, family value conservatives but who don't see eye to eye with the Tea Party far right agenda.

But political parties are not like sports teams you stick with through thick and thin. As Nebraskans, we've got the Huskers' back even when they're having a rough season. We love it when we're winning but we're not fair weather fans. But that's not how we should feel about political parties. They are simply organizations that help us collectively advance our ideas and interests. When a party no longer reflects who we are, what we believe, we should not reward them with our vote. Reagan once said of the Democratic Party, to which he once belonged, that he didn't leave it. Rather, the party left him. Well, despite the idolized mystique he has acquired as a Republican legend, Ronald Reagan would have no place in today's Republican party. It has left him. The fact the Tea Party wing claims him, let alone idolizes him, is somewhat surreal. If you admire and respect Reagan, don't let them distort his record and image by suggesting he would agree with them.

But this election transcends the presidency. Even if you think Romney is reasonable, you must consider what any Republican administration would mean for the country at this particular moment.

This particular election is a bit more critical than most. The far right is putting in danger many of the social advances we've all fought for and enjoyed over the last several decades. For example, Republicans did not support the Lilly Ledbetter Act that guarantees equal pay for women who do the same work as men. That blows my mind. And while Romney has said he wouldn't ban all abortions (at least if you only consider his most recent position), he is likely to appoint Supreme Court justices who would - and with two justices in their 70's, the next term is likely to see an appointment or two. That is really extreme. In fact, the Republican Party is running 12 US Senate candidates across the country who hold that extreme position, and Deb Fischer is one of them. If they win, just imagine the kind of legislation we'll be discussing at our dinner tables for the next four years when what we need to address is the economy, this drought, and America's energy policies.

Do you know some of these people running on the Republican ticket would even enable an employer to prevent women from having contraceptive care covered by their health insurance? Is that really a conversation you think women should have with the boss?

Let's put things into perspective for a moment. When all is said and done, Obama will not likely go down in history as a president who heroically advanced a liberal agenda as much as he will be seen as a President who had to spend most of his political capital holding the line; not allowing the far right to steamroll over the social gains we've all made thus far. As for me, I want to be able to tell the next generation that I was on the right side of history. Just like in 1862, it was Lincoln, a Republican who was on the right side of history. As I said, it's not about the party. It's about the policies.

At the beginning of Obama's term, the Republicans in Congress said they would make it their top priority to insure Obama only served one term. Look, I "get" that that's what opposing parties are supposed to do, especially around election time. But these guys spent four years not contributing to governing, but rather to just blocking the President. On multiple occasions they turned against their own proposals and ideas just because Obama came around to their point of view. They didn't want him to get credit for the policies and that become more important to the Republican Party than getting things done. I think we send our representatives to Washington to govern and to reach agreement on issues when agreement can be reached. But these right wing reactionaries spent four years playing politics and then blamed the President for dividing the country. Certainly, we're not that gullible. We can see through that. In fact, we should be offended they're trying to make us believe otherwise. That's just not sincere.

Lastly, I want to make the point that despite what you hear, this election is not about the size of government. Historically, no Republican administration has ever shrunk the government. This is about resource allocation. Will the Pentagon get billions they aren't asking for or will social programs, infrastructure investment, and sound energy policies that desperately need funding get the resources? Keep in mind; we already spend more money on defense than the next five countries (including China and Russia) combined! And, the nature of our wars has changed. It's about surgical striking ability, cyber security, and intelligence gathering much more than it used to be. All this talk about controlling the size of government is a red herring. Don't fall for it. You and I may be for smaller government but that's not really one of our options in this election. No matter who is elected, our government isn't likely to shrink over the next four years. And if it does, it will be due to common sense policy-makers like Bob Kerrey, a man so intellectually honest he was asked to sit on the 9-11 Commission to investigate what really happened that day.

Bob Kerrey is an experienced, honorable man who does what's right. Say what you want about him being away for a while and only coming back recently when his state needs him. That's actually the point. Being Nebraskan isn't always about where you live. It's about who you are, what you're made of, how you were raised, and a sense of responsibility to your neighbors. We should encourage our children to go out in the world and develop our talents, skills, and represent our state positively. And we should all answer the call when our state needs us.

I'm glad Bob came back. It says something about his character. His state and country need him. And you know that he's even-minded. He's got a level head. He's got no qualms about doing the right thing even when it's unpopular. He came back to pitch in. He came back to help, to tell it like it is, to persuade us with reason and common sense, and to bring sanity and bi-artisanship back to Washington.

We Nebraskans are not extreme. Honestly, fairness, decency, a strong work ethic, a belief in man's better nature... these are the values I associate with my home state. We need to elect political representatives who are not extreme and who represent who we are. Let's do that for ourselves and for our country. That's something we will never regret.