So when State Sen. Steve Lathrop voted against that prohibition, the Nebraska Republican Party called him on it. They sent out flyers and made phone calls to his constituents pointing out that Lathrop’s vote was directly contrary to the advertising he sent out during his election campaign — which he won by a handful of votes. (See Lathrop’s flyer, to the right).
Not long after the Omaha World Herald wrote a scathing editorial against the NE GOP for this. They yelped about politics — politics!– entering that bastion of no-party-ness, the Unicameral. The OWH said:
The political parties should take heed: Demagoguing the immigration issue for political gain not only dumbs down the policy debate. It also leaves candidates vulnerable if they are elected and need to make responsible choices rather than politically expedient ones.
There’s simply no other way to read it.
So in the vein of fairness, since many of you can’t read the OWH’s op-eds as they’re not online, here is the Nebraska Republican Party’s Chairman, Mark Quandahl, with his response in yesterday’s paper (sent to us by the party):
BY MARK QUANDAHL
The writer, of Omaha, is chairman of the Nebraska Republican Party. He was a state senator from 1999 to 2005.
Even though Nebraskans hold the storied “nonpartisan” aspect of our state Legislature in great esteem, the political parties in Nebraska still have responsible roles to play in our state’s governance. Political parties help elect public officials and, where we think appropriate, educate voters on those officials’ records. It is truly troubling that some apparently now think that “nonpartisan” means nonaccountable” for their words, actions and votes.
It is grossly unfair to decry the Nebraska Republican Party’s recent distribution of a flier and phone calls over immigration related legislation as an attack, as an April 4 editorial did. It was an educational effort to inform the voters of a legislator’s actions that would seem to run contrary to his campaign promises.
It should be noted that nothing in the flier distributed to the legislative district or the phone calls was disrespectful, untrue or incorrect. On the contrary, not one person can point to anything in the materials that was false. Then why the outcry? Could it be that our politicians in the Legislature took umbrage at someone who would dare hold one of their own accountable for statements made on the campaign trail? Does the fact that the “someone” was a political party and the politician was in our
nonpartisan, unicameral Legislature have any relevance?
Does membership in the Legislature suddenly exempt one from accountability to the voters of Nebraska and release an elected official from the solemn promises made while running for office and that voters relied on when they cast their votes? One of the great aspects of the First Amendment is that it does not make the traditional press the sole means of informing and educating the citizens. As a matter of fact, when the press fails to report how individual senators voted on legislation or compare our elected officials’ actions with their campaign claims, another level of accountability is lost.
We are often told that in Nebraska, because of our “unique” one-house, nonpartisan Legislature, “the people are the second house.” How can our people, the voters of Nebraska, effectively act as a backstop or a second house if they are not adequately informed as to the votes and actions of our state senators?
If, as The World-Herald editorial would suggest, political parties should be discouraged from commenting on a legislator’s actions (or lack thereof), if educating constituents of a broken campaign promise is automatically derided as “partisan poison” without regard to the truth of the matter asserted, the ability of the people to act as the second house is nothing more than a quaint phrase utterly devoid of impact.
If anything, the lawmakers’ recent “defense” of their nonpartisan culture proves that the “practical and noble” ideal of the second house is impotent. If our political system has devolved to the point where knowledgeable citizens cannot distinguish between factual representations of issues and what could be termed as real “negative campaigning,” then our republic may well be at greater risk than we think. If exposing the truth about how our elected officials actually represent us once we send them to Washington, Lincoln or even the county seat or City Hall is somehow dirty or wrong, what kind of “1984” Orwellian society have we become?
Both political parties, as well as every independent interest group and citizen, have a responsibility to keep elected officials honest. Trust and civility are two-way streets. We should expect — and demand — that our elected representatives in the Legislature would respect the voters of the State of Nebraska enough to be truthful and honest in their campaigns and conduct in public office. To expect anything less is to admit that our elected officials have no duty or responsibility in that regard.