A Call for Accountability in the Nebraska Senate Race

In the summer of 2010 as a lowly intern on Capitol Hill, I became painfully aware that our government was in some state of shambles. As interns, we were encouraged to attend assemblies where congressmen and women had agreed to speak to the hundreds of interns who flock to our nation’s capitol every year to see first-hand the people who govern the greatest country on earth.

There I would sit, among kids my age from all over the country, eagerly listening to Senator so and so from state so and so. Through the 10 or so elected officials I went to hear speak, I don’t think I ever heard a straight forward answer to even one of our questions.

We, the future citizens and leaders of America, wanted to know so much, all of us enthusiastically waving our hands into the air to ask our most intelligently phrased questions. The intern who was chosen would jump up and with much politeness and gusto recite his or her question to the great official, trembling.

Ninety percent of the time, by the end of the answer, the other interns were left wondering what the kid had asked in the first place because the response was so vague and winding that the true answer had been gagged, bound, and hidden somewhere within the well-oiled phrasing and political garble that we have learned to associate with a politician’s speech.

I believe that negative campaigning ... is something we should strive to wipe from the culture of American campaign strategies.
Whitney Jenkins
I finally understood where politicians get their reputations as smooth talkers, beat-it-around the bush characters who never truly want you to understand their agendas. I came home to Nebraska frustrated and disillusioned by what I had seen on Capitol Hill, but also with a new fresh perspective and a more critical eye for surface level speeches.

Because of what I learned, I find it imperative to highlight Ben Sasse’s contradictory message he has thus far given to the people of Nebraska. I am not interested in negative campaigning against Sasse. I believe that negative campaigning, whether in written or ad form, is something we should strive to wipe from the culture of American campaign strategies.

I do believe that Nebraskans have the right to a clear and un-muddled perspective of the candidate who they want to represent Nebraska. While I believe that Ben Sasse is a highly intelligent and successful individual, I do not believe he is being straightforward with Nebraskans.

My goal in this blog is to simply highlight some of the word choice and direct quotes from Sasse’s website and campaign video. All of them are sourced so that you can follow up yourself and then you decide.

This is not about voting for Jenkins, Domina, Watson, or Sasse; this is about holding your candidates accountable on how and why they say what they say. For once, let’s look at some straight forward answers. This is the first question in a series of questions that I will pose over the next couple of blog posts.

Question #1: Sasse claims that he will “fix the establishment,” but I wonder how he will be able to do that with his extreme right-wing platform if partisanship is at the very root of the problem in our current Congress.

Most Nebraskans are aware that our political system has become highly dysfunctional. According to a poll from MSR Group, a marketing research company, 81 percent of Nebraska Republicans and 68 percent of Nebraska Democrats disapprove of the U.S. Senate. Politicians have become quickly sensitized to the fact that a majority of voters are tired of the gridlock caused by hyper-conservative or hyper-liberal stances in Congress.

As a result, candidates like Ben Sasse aim to spin their campaign in a more nonpartisan light. Ben Sasse states in the first sentence on his website that he “is a fifth-generation Nebraskan who fixes broken institutions.” He also goes on to claim in his campaign video, “The Outsider: Leaving the Influence Peddlers Behind”:

“They’re all wrong. Both parties. Last time Republicans were in charge, we spent through the roof, then President Obama came in and blew the doors off.”

If Sasse believes that both parties are equally at fault, then why has he decided to run on a highly conservative, highly partisan platform? If you go to his issues page on his website, every single issue from immigration to healthcare to the debt aligns seamlessly with not only a clear cut party-affiliated stance, but one of extreme right-wing conservatism as well.

I do not see a glimpse of bridge-building or an iota of attempting to “fix the broken system” by working together between both parties. All I see is an unchangeable and unbreakable continuation of highly partisan politics that has left our current Congress stagnant.

Now, if you are a voter who says, “Yep. That’s exactly what we need to do, stick to our guns and ram through our unyielding, non-negotiable legislation,” then Sasse is your candidate, and so is Domina for that matter if you are on the other side.

I invite Mr. Sasse to be straight forward with Nebraskans and fly his partisan flag high if that’s what he truly stands for. Do not state that you are “against the establishment” if you have every intention of keeping that establishment rigidly in place.

As he states quite clearly in his campaign video (sited above), “We need to show Americans we’re the party of conservative solutions. That’s the only way we win.”

Win? Lose? Unfortunately this has become the terminology and mindset of partisan candidates today. Instead of seeking power and “a win,” why not focus on working together to move our country forward?

If it were up to Mr. Sasse we would “force Nebraska’s conservative values, decency, and common sense into that building.” (The Outsider: Leaving the Influence Peddlers Behind)

As much as I love Nebraska, our values, our decency, and our common sense, I also believe that America was built on the foundation that people wouldn’t be able to FORCE anyone to do anything, that this is a country built on freedom and liberty — two words that are antonyms to “FORCE,” which Sasse recommends we apply directly within Congress if he is elected.

According to “The Outsider: Leaving the Influence Peddlers Behind,” Sasse and I agree that “this election must be about saving our country from the establishment” and “disrupting the current system.” Where we don’t agree is on which candidate has the best resume and the most honest approach to doing that job.

Sasse ends his campaign video by saying modestly, “If you think an establishment insider is going to fix that place, then I’m not your guy.”

Out of the four senatorial candidates, who is the “establishment insider” if not Sasse? With big outside money support and endorsements from well-known tea-partyers like Sarah Palin and Taylor Budowich, executive director of the Tea Party Express, the nation’s largest tea party political action committee, Sasse is definitely your guy.

Editor’s note: This post originally published on the blog, Jenkins’ Girl, on Thursday, September 11, 2014, and has been edited for publication on IVN.

Photo Source: AP