Omaha World-Herald. Oct. 8, 2021.

Editorial: The election lie is not a game, it’s a danger; our real leaders must squelch it

Elected officials lead us simply because of their positions — we have chosen them to do so. They lead by policy-making, they lead with the tone they set and the issues they choose to pursue.

This editorial is a plea for these leaders of both parties to come together and tell the American public clearly and unequivocally that our electoral system is sound. To do anything less abets false conspiracy theories and dangerously ignores a real growth of fringes unwilling to accept vote outcomes and increasingly willing to resort to violence in an effort to get their way.

No responsible, clear-thinking political leader should need more evidence than the video footage and subsequent findings about the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol to fully accept the dangers. And yet many Republicans ignore, minimize or reframe an assault that included violent attacks on law officers and threats to constitutional officers and process.

Their winks at the widely discredited conspiracy theory that the presidential election was stolen by massive, multistate fraud and their failure to firmly and forcefully tell the whole truth allow suspicion in the public to simmer and grow.

They appear to believe the mob they continue to incite can be controlled. We have ample evidence that it cannot.

The influence of this fetid lie is evident. This week, 1.2% of state legislators nationwide — 92 of the 7,383 — including Nebraska Sen. Rob Clements of Elmwood, signed onto a call for a 50-state Arizona-style audit of 2020 election results. Those who believe the fraud myth will latch onto these ill-informed and irresponsible leaders’ call as evidence when it really is just proof of the power of a big lie oft repeated.

It is important to say here, as we have for more than a year, that voter fraud is exceedingly rare. A Bloomberg Government canvass of all 50 states found 200 voter fraud cases nationwide since the November 2018 elections “during a timeframe when hundreds of millions of people participated in thousands of elections around the country.”

Those calling for extragovernmental audits thumb their noses at extensive systems already in place to conduct recounts in tight elections, to canvass and certify totals and the role of prosecutors, from the county to federal level to prosecute fraud.

Despite repeated studies with similar findings, Republicans across the country are moving to change voting laws to address a nearly nonexistent problem, citing suspicion among voters as why it’s needed — when, once again, that suspicion is really is just evidence of the power of a big lie oft repeated. This only fuels our division.

A poll by the respected University of Virginia Center for Politics found that 41% of Biden voters and 52% of Trump voters agree at least somewhat with the proposition of dividing America — “I would favor (red or blue) states seceding from the union to their own separate country.”

This is absurd and serious at the same time.

Where would we draw the border? Not everyone in a red state is a conservative Republican; not everyone in our cities is a liberal Democrat. America’s economic engine is in its cities — the 17% of the nation’s counties that voted for Biden account for 70% of the U.S. GDP.

This is the rotten fruit of our current politics. Our elected leaders are responsible for where we are and where we go from here.

The Virginia poll found substantial areas of agreement — improving infrastructure, raising taxes on the wealthy, rural broadband and more — if we can just move beyond cynical exploitation of conspiracy theories and start trying to address our real problems.

What we ask is a return to normal politics. Posturing and rhetoric to gain an electoral or policy edge is part of life in our democratic republic. We can and should expect tough partisan fights over redistricting, immigration and spending issues. But holding onto, repeating and abetting a lie about the security of our elections is a danger to our country.

Our leaders must lead. Condemn the BS unequivocally. This would be an excellent role for Congress’ Problem Solvers Caucus, of which Nebraska’s Don Bacon is a proud member.

We as individuals also have a responsibility. We must contemplate who we are. The Virginia poll found that three-quarters of both parties see their opposites as “a clear and present danger to the American way of life.” Do we really hate our neighbors who don’t see things the way we do?

You know that if you saw your neighbor fall, you would go help. We are humans, we are Americans. We can get through this.

———

Lincoln Journal Star. Oct. 10, 2021.

Editorial: Nebraska needs an independent redistricting body

In the end, Nebraska’s redistricting method largely worked in 2021, with compromise maps making few people, if any, giddy, while most accepted the outcome as tolerable.

But the special session we just witnessed – which Speaker Mike Hilgers threatened to end without a solution after partisan squabbling nearly derailed the entire process – demonstrated why Nebraska needs to take the drawing of maps out of the hands of elected officials dependent on the outcome.

The Nebraska Legislature has proved in recent years that it has no interest in reforming a system that helps determine who stays in office, so the people – Nebraska’s second house – must craft a petition that will end this partisan gamesmanship in the officially nonpartisan Legislature.

As last month proved, when politics enter the equation, you have travesties like some that Nebraska will have to deal with for the next decade.

A more densely populated area of central Nebraska gave up a seat to a rural area, one that’s hemorrhaged population, to end a standoff. Meanwhile, Lincoln’s growth didn’t result in a new seat; rather, the city was carved up and given to rural Republicans to appease a renegade group of rural senators who believed their constituencies are more important than others.

The 1.6 seats expected to be added to urban areas based on population growth was instead rounded down to one, instead of up, in defiance of mathematical rules. And while arguments between Republicans and Democrats flared, the 22% of Nebraska voters who belong to no party were ignored.

All this in the name of power and politics. Which is precisely why voters must use their power to remove the politics from the equation.

As we’ve argued before, the dream scenario would be to follow Iowa’s apolitical redistricting system, which is the envy of the nation. Boundaries are drawn outside its Legislature by a nonpartisan state agency, without access to voter data or elected officials’ incumbency, to be approved on a simple up-or-down vote by lawmakers.

Even if a redistricting body didn’t go that far and followed the lead of, say, Colorado’s new commission, it would represent marked improvements over the status quo.

Gov. Pete Ricketts cited constitutional concerns in vetoing a 2016 compromise that created an independent commission. However, requiring the Legislature and governor to sign off on any maps before enactment would still satisfy the state constitution’s mandate that “The Legislature … shall divide the state into legislative districts.”

And Nebraskans have seen how the Legislature handled that duty this time around, with attempts to surgically slice Omaha street by street over two congressional districts, remove the growing district in Seward and York counties that produces moderate Republicans and treat certain rural populations as sacrosanct at the expense of those who live in the most populous areas.

Like the current redistricting setup, an independent commission certainly wouldn’t leave everyone happy. But it could at least leave the partisanship at the door, which would be a refreshing change of pace.

———

Kearney Hub. Oct. 8, 2021.

Editorial: Ag needs president’s assist to grow trade

Often, we residents of rural America feel ignored and underappreciated by national politicians, but that’s their fault. They forget that “flyover country” represent real wealth to our nation. In a letter this week, Nebraska Farm Bureau President Mark McHargue reminded President Joe Biden of that fact. McHargue wrote: “Every dollar in agricultural exports generates $1.28 in economic activities, such as transportation, financing, warehousing and production.”

Farmers and ranchers produce real wealth for this nation. The best way to multiply that wealth is to capitalize on the strengths of U.S. agriculture and aggressively participate in global trade.

Former President Donald Trump didn’t seem to understand that vital fact. He withdrew the United States from global trade pacts, severing our ag producers from lucrative opportunities and eroding trust in the U.S. as a reliable supplier.

Our current president, Joe Biden, used this Trump failing in his campaign for the White House; however, Biden is repeating Trump’s mistake by not answering his own call for aggressive action on trade.

McHargue’s letter communicated farm country’s concerns about the administration’s apparent lack of action: “In the five months that have passed since writing the letter to U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, and the eight months you’ve been in office, we have seen very little accomplished in the area of trade and trade policy. This lack of progress is unacceptable and undermines your pledge to ‘restore U.S. global leadership.’”

The trade issue is of extreme importance here in farm country, especially as we harvest our crops of corn and soybeans and hope that prices we’re paid for those crops contribute to a healthy bottom line. Likewise, cattle, swine and other livestock we produce had better fetch fair prices, or the consequences will be felt everywhere. Main street businesses, our schools, churches and hospitals all rely on a healthy rural economy, and that begins with a healthy farm economy.

Farmers and ranchers know that if they fail to receive fair prices it bodes poorly for the months ahead. Rather than supporting the rural economy, farmers and ranchers tighten their purse strings and wait for better days. Biden needs to understand that developing global trade hedges risks. Developing global trade relations for decades has been the goal for crop and livestock producers. Through the years they’ve reminded presidents and ag secretaries that rural Americans require support from the White House to establish new trade agreements and open new markets. If the U.S. is slow to act or ignores these opportunities, competing nations are happy to exploit the void.

As McHargue states, trade accounts for 30% of Nebraska’s total agricultural receipts. USDA statistics tell us that Nebraska exported agricultural commodities are worth $6.3 billion. That’s new wealth for rural America and it’s new wealth for our nation. It shouldn’t be squandered because of inaction.

END

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.