Since President Biden has taken office, the Republicans have doubled down on cultural issues and so-called “cancel culture.” In reality, the GOP doesn’t have much of a choice since President Biden has a 60% approval rating and the American Rescue plan is supported by 70% of the voters.
The focus on “cancel culture” is being driven by the right wing media. The D.C. Republicans are prioritizing performing on Fox News over actual legislating. That’s what happens when a political party is run by right wing entertainers.
What the GOP doesn’t like to mention is that it’s had a cancel culture of its own for many years. The Nebraska GOP’s cancel culture is especially toxic. Let’s take a little trip down memory lane and discuss things that are seldom mentioned. It is our duty as Democratic activists to refresh poor memories since GOP propaganda relies heavily upon voter amnesia.
Very few people remember that there was a cult of personality regarding George W. Bush during most of his presidency. After the terrorist attacks on 9/11, his ardent supporters saw him as the only person standing between America and another terrorist attack. These right wingers regarded anybody who criticized his national security policies as undermining the war effort and providing aide and comfort to the terrorists.
During the Bush Administration, then Senator Chuck Hagel was very critical of Bush’s handling of the Iraq War. In 2005 Hagel said: “The course of events in Iraq has laid bare the failure to prepare for, plan for, and understand the broad consequences and implications of the decision to overthrow Saddam Hussein and occupy Iraq. Where is the accountability?” Despite his reservations about the Iraq War, Hagel voted to authorize Bush to take the country to war in 2002 and voted with the 43rd president 95% of the time.
The Nebraska GOP harshly criticized Hagel’s “heresy” over Bush and the Iraq War and canceled him. Ultimately, Hagel realized he had no chance to win the GOP Senate nomination in 2008 and elected not to run for re-election. He was replaced by loyal Bush supporter Mike Johanns in the U.S. Senate.
The Nebraska GOP’s cancel culture never went away and has become worse. In April 2019, 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 the GOP’s repeated attempts to take away insurance from over 20 million people and their support for Trump’s catastrophic handling of the pandemic.
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.”
This attempt to cancel 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 and gained national prominence when he wrote a compelling essay on white privilege and racism.
A few months later, the Nebraska GOP tried to cancel State Senator John McCollister after he posted a series of tweets that accused the GOP of “enabling white supremacy.” After the massacres in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, in August 2019, McCollister posted: “The Republican Party is enabling white supremacy in our country. As a lifelong Republican, it pains me to say this, but it’s the truth. We have a Republican president who continually stokes racist fears in his base. He calls certain countries “sh*tholes,’ tells women of color to ‘go back’ to where they came from and lies more than he tells the truth. When the history books are written, I refuse to be someone who said nothing.”
The executive director of the Nebraska GOP blasted McCollister and issued a press release that said the following: “I am happy to send a change of voter registration form along to his office so he can make the switch officially and start, for once, telling the truth to voters in his district.” This represents a trend that has been present in the GOP since the 1990s. As recently as the Reagan presidency, there was a prominent moderate and progressive wing in the GOP. It is now largely extinct.
Currently, the Nebraska GOP is trying to cancel Senator Ben Sasse over his criticisms of Trump for attempting to steal the 2020 election. In a Facebook post on December 30, 2020, Sasse blasted Trump’s challenge to Biden’s big win in the electoral college and termed it a “dangerous ploy.” Sasse followed up that criticism last month when he contended that: “Politics isn’t about the weird worship of one dude.” This criticism of the disgraced, former one term president was followed up by Sasse’s vote to impeach Trump on February 13, 2021.
The Nebraska GOP has responded with fury to Sasse’s criticism of their hero. The Nebraska Republican Party Central Committee passed a resolution on February 28 that expressed disapproval of Sasse’s vote of guilty in the second impeachment trial. Nebraska’s junior senator greeted this rebuke with contempt: : “I haven’t spent any time to talk anybody out of it….You want to go to some hotel, strip mall conference room and scream about a politician who tried to tell you: ‘I would oppose somebody in my own party who violated their oath?’” he observed. “That’s not healthy.”
It wasn’t only the state Republican Party that voted to cancel Sasse. Local GOP parties in Lincoln, Sarpy, Cherry, Scottsbluff, Keith and Hitchcock Counties voted to censure Sasse and even call for his resignation. All of this in spite of the fact that Sasse loyally voted for the Trump agenda. Nebraska’s junior senator voted for the failed 2017 tax cuts, banking deregulation, right wing judges and the ludicrous wall with Mexico.
The reality is that the Nebraska Republican Party is purging heretics. In contrast, the Nebraska Democratic Party is accepting converts. We are a welcoming party with a big tent. Welcome. We would love for you to join us. Together, we can accomplish great things.