Dear Senators Sasse and Fischer:
I am writing both of you as a proud son of Nebraska. Although I currently live in New Jersey, it was Nebraska where I was born, raised, and educated. Here in the Northeast I often expound on Nebraska’s natural beauty, the friendliness of its inhabitants, and how Lincoln and Omaha are two of the nation’s most livable cities. While I am not your direct constituent, most of my family still lives in Nebraska, and it is my spiritual home.
I am writing because I am disturbed by your recent votes supporting the nominations of Betsy DeVos and Jeff Sessions. Although both of you claim to represent “Nebraska values,” I see little of those values in Sessions or DeVos.
I grew up in Hastings, and benefitted from an excellent public school education. Even though it was a politically conservative town, people still generously supported public services, which had a great effect on the community. My family has had a lot to do with that. My mother taught in Nebraska public schools for four decades, a tradition taken on by my younger sister (who has been calling your offices about Betsy Devos in recent weeks.) Nebraska’s public education system has consistently outshone most others in the country, and it has been founded on vigorous support and respect. Betsy DeVos, on the other hand, has contempt for public education. Her actions in Detroit are evidence that her goal is to break the public education system for reasons of ideology and profit. Those policies have also proven to be a massive failure. I cannot think of an action more alien to the “Nebraska values” that I was raised with and benefitted from. The type of policies DeVos favors also do not fit with the priorities and realities of the rural school districts where a large number of Nebraskans are educated. By voting for her you have not only gone against the values of Nebraska’s public school system, but also of the interests of the very people you are supposed to represent.
I am also very disappointed in your votes for Jeff Sessions. His record on civil rights was so atrocious that a majority Republican Senate refused to accept his nomination to the federal bench in 1986. Coretta Scott King’s letter to Congress in response to his nomination that year is a document so damning that you and your fellow Republican Senators cowardly silenced Senator Warren’s attempt to read it into the record. You cannot hide from the fact that Sessions is a white nationalist with a history of seeking to limit the ability of black Americans to vote. I now must assume that you hold with his beliefs that voting rights be limited and that America ought to be a fundamentally white nation. During the 1980s your Republican forbears refused to countenance such behavior, now you are openly endorsing it. It is a disgrace that you are willing to support a man whose racism and xenophobia will do so much harm to so many Nebraskans once he is the nation’s leading law enforcer. Of course, I know full well the absolute lack of empathy or concern most people in your party have for people of color. Your vote for Sessions has made that indifference to their rights as boldly manifest as possible.
Perhaps you both are concerned about furthering your political careers, and deep down have reservations about the unhinged tyrant who now resides in the White House. I would hope that you would value the needs and livelihoods of your constituents over political expediency. History will record that you had the chance to stop a disastrous president from putting a white nationalist in charge of enforcing civil rights and an unqualified billionaire who wanted to destroy public education in charge of public schools.
I am honestly not sure how you can sleep at night. Maybe you are true ideological believers. That ideology, however, has nothing to do with “Nebraska values,” and you should be ashamed at having the unmitigated gall to use those words in support of an agenda that will do great harm to Nebraskans. Although I hold out little hope that you would do this, I would beg of you that in this important time that you do not respond to an autocrat like Donald Trump with automatic support. Nebraska, and the country, deserve a lot better than that.
Dr. Jason Tebbe