THE BLOG

Ben Nelson 101: Do We Gotta? Sigh ... Yeah, We Gotta

Time to whisk you away to a really special place.

I live in "the Heartland." The word itself is a rouse, a nice-sounding title the people here have given themselves to separate God-fearing states such as Nebraska, Iowa and Kansas from the Marxist sinners in Chicago and Minneapolis who frequently try to pass themselves off as "the Midwest."

According to our tourist agencies, it's the birthplace of populism, a place where corn and wheat flow like beautiful oceans, cows walk up to eat out of your hand and neighbors help neighbors find the right solutions for a better tomorrow.

Partly true. Nebraska, my home, is a very pretty place, even if you've only seen it from the air. I made up the part about the cows, which are much too indifferent to eat out of hands. And the part about the neighbors, well, neighbors might actually help neighbors around here - that is, if they weren't being tricked by the Nebraska GOP into an endless debate about whether Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) is too much of a raving communist lunatic to be in the Senate.

Nelson is, incidentally, the most conservative Democrat in said Senate. He has voted with the Republicans on an array of social issues (winning him last Thursday's endorsement from the National Rifle Association to go along with nods from Nebraska Right to Life, the Nebraska Independent Business Association and other groups who generally burn Democrats at the stake), and frequently talks about how he won't support "amnesty" for illegal immigrants.

In other news, he currently polls the support of 41% of Nebraska Republican voters. Not conservative enough, you say?

Enter Ameritrade executive Pete Ricketts. Ever since he announced his candidacy, Ricketts has been having unprotected sex with the concept of fair democracy by pumping unheard-of millions ($7.125 million, to be exact) of his personal fortune into a bid to buy this seat. For those of you whose definition of "heavy political spending" has been distorted by New England, Ricketts' action is roughly the Nebraska equivalent of a New York candidate for Senate hiring the International Space Station and having their name engraved on the moon by cosmonauts.

Meanwhile, Lou Ann Linehan, Chief of Staff for the infamous Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE), has taken an incredibly unethical leave of absence from the Senate to come back to Nebraska and see to the destruction of Nelson.

All because Nelson only votes with the GOP half the time.

Gah! Isn't half the time enough for these people? Not in Nebraska, anyway. The GOP around here might have a fast hold on almost every statewide office, but their "resistance is futile" attitude won't stop them until everyone's drinking the Kool-Aid.

And believe it or not, there's a good side to Nelson. Ag policy, for one important example. There's a new farm bill due over the next Senate term, and I can't express what it means for my state if Republican lapdogs of the Club for Growth are allowed anywhere near that farm bill.

But if farm policy is the academic side of politics, social issues are the after-lunch recess where you get to flirt with pretty girls. Nobody would vote if sex changes, abortions and handguns didn't exist.

And social issues are Nelson's ... unfortunate side. To say the least. So what's a boy to do?

Quick lesson in Nebraska liberalism. We've all got a terrible case of Compromise-itis. We can't have a real progressive, so we just decide which guy is going to vote our way more often. Every left-of-center voter statewide asks this question every election, inevitably choosing the flaky sort-of-Democrat in order to try and salvage what we can of our Congressional delegation.

Now, for a fun activity, try to guess how we feel about all of this. Your choices are:
a. Languishing
b. Atrocious
c. Defective
d. You don't know. And you had no idea Joe Lieberman wasn't the Senate's most conservative Democrat.

The answer, of course, is D. You don't know. You don't know how it feels to do this over and over, year after year. We're all going to vote for Nelson, right down to the last NGO-donatin', coffee house-goin' one of us, if only because Pete Ricketts represents nothing but the darkest of dark sides.

Does this whole mess make us right, or should we be strung up to the rafters under a mandate by the court of progressive opinion?