Wednesday, July 5, 2017

A Political Weather Report From Nebraska

I am back in my hometown and enjoying some time with my family. I've also been gauging the political winds, curious about the reactions in this state to the president they gave 60% of their votes to. (In my home county, Adams, that number was 68%.) This is, of course, an unscientific study.

What I've found so far is a very quiet and subdued political mood. This is quite different from the hothouse atmosphere I experienced during the Obama years. Now it is to be expected that when the government is dominated by Republicans that conservatives will be satisfied with the state of things. However, I have really been struck by the lack of discussion of the president and his doings. It reminds me of the later Shrub years, when so many wanted to pretend that they were never associated with him.

I have also found it interesting to see subtle signs of critique of the president. Both my hometown paper and the Omaha World-Herald have run political cartoons critical of Trump. In the latter case, the cartoon was by an artist is usually quite conservative in the vein of The Onion's parody of political cartoonists. Also interesting is that both cartoons criticize Trump not for his failures or policies but for his lack of decorum.  Here's the one from the World-Herald for July 4th:

Trump is being unfavorably compared to Jefferson, portrayed as a kind of Dennis the Menace child next to the dignified Founder. (Of course, never mind his owning of human beings and second family mothered by one of his slaves.) While this might seem like a mild critique, it's much more pointed than what I am used to seeing from this artist in depicting a Republican president.

When it comes down to it, the people around here who voted for him were okay with his racism and misogyny, or at least willing to excuse it. In many cases, these things were prime motivators. However, his rudeness and vulgarity have worn thin with a people who are typically polite and value humility. (This is why I expected low turnout in Nebraska in the election, but the anti-Clinton animus and the genuine embrace of Trump's ideas overrode those considerations in November.) For many of these voters an undignified president is a bigger scandal than a bigoted one.

As far as I can tell, there does not seem to be much of a popular groundswell of support for the Republican health care plan, either. My hometown paper had a piece on the opinion page today basically arguing that animus against Obama was clouding the judgement of conservative politicians when it came to Obamacare.

I'd like to think that this dislike of Trump and apathy for the Republican agenda could be translated into electoral victories for Democrats, but I doubt it. Nebraska feels increasingly like a one party state. The locals may not like the way things are now, but outside of parts of Lincoln and Omaha, they'd rather cut off their left arms than vote for a Democrat. In the third district, where my hometown is located, the Democrats did not even run a candidate in the last election. The current representative, Adrian Smith, is a devotee of the Club For Growth, whose version of unshackled capitalism actually isn't all that popular around here. I wish someone would run against him and let the public know that. Then again, that candidate would probably still get clobbered.

The situation in Nebraska is repeated around the country. Party identity is now wrapped up into other identities, and thus voting for the other party is a kind of self-betrayal. I hate to say it, but I doubt that this phenomenon will be getting any weaker.

1 comment:

Terry said...

I fear you're right. Life as an Omaha liberal is not much fun these days. I've got all my reps on speed dial. I keep calling and signing petitions and writing emails merely to maintain a presence. I'm very very disappointed in Nebraskans, but I am not at all surprised. This is after all the state where, out in the western half, I participated in a public workshop (as a state employee) and had one huge rancher let me know that the last feds who ventured out here, revenooers during Prohibition, stayed. Underneath some stock tanks. The first part of the assertion is patently false, there are NRCS, USFWS, and state ag and wildlife offices all over the place out there. The second part? Who knows. That wasn't really the point, was it. It was an attempt at intimidation.