BATT: Nebraska voters shouldn’t cozy up to Tea Party

By Mark Batt on April 10th, 2014

The Republican Party and the Tea Party hold different views regarding the future of U.S. conservatism. A distinct way to understand this split is by looking at the leaders of each party. For example, Sen. John McCain has been a notable establishment Republican for years. Contrarily, the Tea Party looks up to people such as Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, and former Alaskan governor and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Palin leads this political movement along with Cruz – who had a hand in shutting down the government last fall.

There are two very different styles of leadership from Sens. McCain and Cruz, and Nebraska is beginning to lean toward the Cruz-like candidates.

Nebraska has become the frontline for the battle between the GOP and the Tea Party. For example, last year the Tea Party supported Sen. Deb Fischer, and she was subsequently elected to the U.S. Senate in 2012. She was also endorsed by Palin, who helped make robo-calls on her behalf. Moreover, many of the candidates for Nebraska’s senate and gubernatorial race have campaigned on ideals similar to that of the Tea Party. For example, Palin recently endorsed businessman Pete Ricketts for governor. Ben Sasse, U.S. Senate candidate and president of Midlands University, recently gained endorsement from the Freedom Works PAC – a Tea Party affiliate. According to Freedom Works, the PAC moved itssupport to Sasse from another candidate, Shane Osborn, because he has “allied himself with the GOP establishment.”

Why vote moderate instead of voting for extremism? Because the Tea Party doesn’t bring compromise to Nebraska nor Washington, and it’s unable to speak for the state as a whole. The Tea Party and its candidates don’t campaign on cooperation and doing the best for the American public. They advocate for cutting taxes and repealing the Affordable Care Act. Their message is simple in this fashion, but chances are, if someone says “I’m going to fix Washington with this simple plan” they probably don’t know what they’re doing.

Washington is a partisan city – it wasn’t set up to be an easy place in which to work. Simply reducing the amount of government isn’t the antidote for our country’s problems, however. We won’t magically see the approval rating of the federal government jump to 100 percent and naturally reduce property and income taxes for every person in the U.S. just by repealing the ACA. This is a small fix for a long-term problem. Repealing the bill and returning to the old system of health insurance will lead to more people not being able to obtain or keep health insurance and a steady increase in costs and services.

Washington and the governor’s mansion are two complex places, both of which require moderate thinkers: competent people who can understand all points of view and make educated decisions about policies that affect the 1.8 million people in Nebraska. If we elect Tea Partiers, we can forget about cooperation and moderation.

We used to have moderate leaders. Former Sens. and Govs. Bob Kerrey and Ben Nelson were both Democrats and moderates. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry also recently discussed the ACA. He feels we should work with the bill rather than repeal it – a very moderate statement. Additionally, he opposed shutting down the federal government over the ACA, which many of his GOP colleagues supported. With acts like this from Fortenberry, we can understand the value of cooperation. The ACA was passed and approved by Congress, President Obama and the Supreme Court. It’s not a perfect piece of legislation, but it has positive side effects we can’t ignore.

Nebraska is known for moderation, level-headedness and cooperation – not for being obstinate. Extremist ideologies don’t work well with other members of Congress and the state Legislature; it will only lead to a lack of progression. Almost a dozen candidates for Nebraska’s open senate seat in addition to the governor’s mansion, and the majority of them have campaigned on Tea Party ideals from tax cuts to repealing the ACA. There’s no positive message, no sign of change and no insistence to do the best for Nebraska voters. Successful politicians need long-term goals, and I have yet to see that in the GOP candidates.

Mark Batt is a junior political science major. Reach him at opinion@dailynebraskan.com.

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