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The winning team.

The Nebraska GOP Is Its Own Worst Enemy

The recent Nebraska GOP dominance of the political scene in our state has made them cocky and over confident. (It has also led to runaway property tax increases that are crushing our farmers.) That sense of hubris recently backfired badly for the Nebraska GOP in two important instances.

In April, the Nebraska GOP attacked Creighton University when it invited former Senator Bob Kerrey to deliver its commencement address. Bob Kerrey was an outstanding choice in light of his distinguished career as a war hero, businessman, governor and U.S. senator. Kerrey had a lot of life lessons to impart to Creighton’s new graduates.

The Nebraska GOP objected to Kerrey delivering the address due to his support for women’s health care rights and choices. The spokesman for the Nebraska GOP made the laughable claim that the GOP is “pro-life.” This flies in the face of their repeated attempts to take away insurance from over 20 million people and their support for the Iraq war during the Bush Administration. The GOP would like you to forget this and counts on amnesia. The GOP never talks about Trump Care and the Iraq war anymore.

In any event, Senator Kerrey took the high road and declined Creighton’s invitation saying he didn’t want to be a distraction. UNL political science professor John Hibbing contended that this created a “scary precedent” and stated that “the logical extension of this is that anytime one of the major political parties doesn’t like one of the votes that was cast by a potential speaker, then they can veto that speaker.” Already, students at Taylor University have signed a petition demanding that Vice President Mike Pence’s invitation to be that school’s commencement speaker should be withdrawn.

This highly partisan attack on Creighton and Bob Kerrey backfired on the Nebraska GOP when Creighton invited Creighton alum and basketball star Kyle Korver to address the students at the commencement ceremonies. Korver is well known to basketball fans but he recently gained national prominence when he wrote a compelling essay on white privilege and racism.

Korver’s conscience was pricked when two of his African-American teammates were victims of racism. One player was the victim of police brutality and another teammate was subjected to racist heckling by a fan.

After reflecting on these events, Korver wrote — in part — the following: “I’m trying to ask myself what I should actually do.

How can I — as a white man, part of this systemic problem — become part of the solution when it comes to racism in my workplace? In my community? In this country?

These are the questions that I’ve been asking myself lately…

I believe that what’s happening to people of color in this country — right now, in 2019 — is wrong.

The fact that black Americans are more than five times as likely to be incarcerated as white Americans is wrong. The fact that black Americans are more than twice as likely to live in poverty as white Americans is wrong. The fact that black unemployment rates nationally are double that of overall unemployment rates is wrong. The fact that black imprisonment rates for drug charges are almost six times higher nationally than white imprisonment rates for drug charges is wrong. The fact that black Americans own approximately one-tenth of the wealth that white Americans own is wrong.

The fact that inequality is built so deeply into so many of our most trusted institutions is wrong.

And I believe it’s the responsibility of anyone on the privileged end of those inequalities to help make things right.”

Kyle Korver was an inspired choice because he can appeal to young people as well as deliver a powerful and relevant message. I can tell you from personal experience as a Creighton graduate from the class of 1982 that most of those students are most likely from privileged backgrounds. Korver’s message — combined with their Jesuit education — will inspire those young people to do some good once they go out into the world.

The other misfire from the Nebraska GOP was the term limits petition they managed to get passed in Lincoln in November 2018 which prevented Mayor Chris Beutler from running for a fourth term. When this initiative was placed on the ballot, many Democrats made the assumption that the GOP had a good candidate waiting in the wings to run for mayor in 2019. Many speculated that some moderate GOP business owner with the ability to self finance a campaign would emerge.

Instead, the only candidate the GOP could put up was soon to be former City Council Member Cyndi Lamm. The GOP candidate was deeply flawed from the beginning because she was simply too extreme for Lincoln. She had a long history as an extreme anti-LGBT activist who associated with radical hate groups. Even though Lamm walked back some of her extreme rhetoric, she never changed her views.

As it turned out, Lamm was routed by Leirion Gaylor Baird on May 7. Moreover, Tammy Ward, Jane Raybould and James Michael Bowers all won City Council seats by comfortable margins. Megan Stock nearly pulled off an upset over a well funded GOP opponent in a heavily red district. As State Senator Adam Morfeld tweeted: “ An openly gay man just replaced an openly anti-LGBT city councilor and created a pro LGBT super majority on the council. A big day — equality and love wins.”

In these two instances, the Nebraska GOP won a “Pyrrhic victory” — which is a victory that inflicts such a heavy price on the victor that it is equivalent to a defeat. (King Pyrrhus of Epirus was a Greek king who invaded the Roman Republic in 280–279 BC. Pyrrhus won all of the battles but his army suffered such heavy casualties that he had no choice but to retreat back to Greece.) In these two cases, the Nebraska Republican party won the battle but lost the war.

Creighton University got a great speaker in Kyle Korver and Leirion Gaylor Baird most likely will be mayor of Lincoln for the next twelve years. The Nebraska GOP should be careful what they wish for.

I want to take this opportunity to thank all of our candidates and volunteers in the recent Lincoln municipal elections. Every one of our candidates worked hard and ran great campaigns. In addition, our volunteers left everything out on the field for our candidates. Hard work wins. Let’s enjoy this victory for now but get ready to get back to work for the 2020 cycle. No victory over the radical right is ever final in nature. Let’s take our country back in 2020!

I’m a trial lawyer, a Democratic activist and a sports fan.

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