We Don’t Want the Capitol

Recently, there has been some local and national buzz around the notion of moving the United States Capitol to Nebraska.  It’s pretty easy to see why media members and bloggers would run with this idea – it makes for an attention-grabbing (and click generating) headline.

The story behind it is a political ad by Ben Sasse, a candidate for one of Nebraska’s U.S. Senate seats.  For better or for worse (and probably it’s the latter), Sasse has employed some interesting ads in his senate campaign*.

*Sasse’s latest ad has his two young daughters talking about how much daddy “despises” Obamacare.  I’d like to comment more on that one, but every time I watch it, I get creeped out.  Maybe if Sasse wins today’s primary election I’ll take a second look at it.

Here is the 30 second version of the Capitol ad:

Normally, when I talk about advertising on this site, I go into the nuts and bolts – what works and what doesn’t.  But political advertising is a completely different beast.  The genre is known as much for a lack of creativity (here is Candidate X standing in front of a bunch of flags, or looking like a regular Joe at the corner cafe) as it is for an extreme creative license with factual information (read:  they’re jam-packed with exaggerations, half-truths, and outright lies).

Instead of picking apart the ad, let’s focus on the key message:  America would be better served if the Capitol is in Nebraska.

Certainly, there is something to this.  Nebraskans, by and large, are a roll-up-your-sleeves, git-r-done, kind of people.  Our unique unicameral (one house) state legislature is officially non-partisan, and is generally free of the political gamesmanship that plagues Washington D.C.

Nebraska, Our Nation's Capital

Nebraska, Our Nation’s Capital (Photo credit: Mike Licht,

But with all due respect to Ben Sasse (and his stroke-the-ego-of-the-populace move to imply that Nebraskans are above the political fray), I think I speak for all Nebraskans when I say, we don’t want the Capitol here.

Why not?  Let’s look at some of the reasons:

  • The majority of the nation (I’m looking at you East and West coasts) would have to think of Nebraska as something other than a barren wasteland of flyover country.  You’d come here, realize how nice it is, and screw it up.
  • Being the center of U.S. politics is not a good way to maintain Nebraska as “The Good Life“.
  • Nebraska trails neighboring states in the number of operational wind turbines, so we are ill-equipped to handle the hot air 535 senators and congressmen would generate.
  • The national media has put too much time and effort into cultivating the national stereotype that Nebraska is nothing but farms, cows, and dudes driving tractors.
  • Depending on the month (or the day) it would be too cold or too hot for you here.
  • As the only state with a unicameral legislature, we wouldn’t know what to do with the extra house.  Besides, we’d probably just decorate it with Husker stuff.
  • Have you ever tried to fly into Nebraska?  It’s not exactly easy.  The four gates at Lincoln Municipal Airport (LNK) would be packed with lobbyists and corporate interests.
  • Bringing Congress here would double, if not triple, the number of democrats currently in our very red state.
  • We don’t want the Beltway gridlock.  We’re pretty partial to “rush hour” slowing our commute down to 35 mph, instead of the usual 45 mph.
  • Washington’s sports teams are a collective train wreck – especially the District’s NFL franchise.  Given that Nebraska football is a statewide passion, we cannot jeopardize it being corrupted by D.C. influences.
  • I think the last democratic president to step foot inside Nebraska was JFK.
  • 17% of Representatives and 6% of Senators could not find Nebraska on a map.  (Hint:  we’re above Kansas and below “One of those Dakotas”)
  • We prefer our manure to come from cows, not politicians.

That said, today is the primary election in Nebraska, so get out and vote for your next Senator, next Governor*, and other local races.

*Oh, you think Nebraska’s Democratic candidates for governor and senate have a chance in November?  You’re so cute!

Occupy Lunch

Today, I took advantage of a very warm January day, and ate my lunch outside.  I found a bench in a sunny spot on the Centennial Mall, near where the Occupy Lincoln folks have set up shop.  I was a little outside of their campground, between their tents and the capitol building.

During my lunch, I witnessed an interesting dichotomy:  on my right were three Occupiers.  One had a guitar, one had a congo drum and they were playing music and singing (kind of a bluesy, John Mayer sound).  The third was dancing along with a hula hoop.  They all had a rather stereotypical “hippie” look to them – scraggly hair, tie dye shirts, etc., and the hula hoop girl was barefoot in a sun dress.  They played off and on, usually starting up when a group of suits walked through the mall on their way towards the capitol.

On my left were three city employees from the Parks and Rec department.  They were dressed in working clothes – jeans, boots and long sleeve shirts.  They spent the time meticulously trimming branches from two smallish trees in the middle of the mall.

For most people walking through or driving by, the reaction to the scene would be something along the lines of knocking the Occupiers for being good-for-nothing drains on society who should get a job and become productive members of society like the city employees.  Sure, some may question why it takes three people to trim two trees, but that is beside the point for a lot of people.  Heck, I’d probably think the same thing myself if I was driving by.

But today, I found myself being more appreciative of the Occupiers than the city employees.  Not because I have a kindred connection with the Occupy movement – while I am definitely in the 99%, I still have no idea what Occupy is truly hoping to achieve, nor do I have a clue how a bunch of tents near the Nebraska Capitol is going to accomplish it.

Instead it was the differences in the moment:  the folks working, while appearing good, were actually a big waste of time and resources.  You see, Centennial Mall is going to undergo a long overdue renovation starting on March 1.*

*A date that (not so coincidentally) will also mean the end of the Occupy Lincoln camp on the mall.

I overheard one of the city workers saying that those two trees, being lovingly trimmed like full size bonsai trees, are going to be removed when the renovation work begins (in four weeks).  Awesome.

Meanwhile, the Occupy folks were providing some pleasant music and some much-needed color for those passing by.  As the city workers were packing up, they thanked the Occupy musicians for performing for them.

When I walked back to the office, I made sure to thank them too.  Because they reminded me that sometimes things are always as simple as they seem on the surface, that music is a great tool to bring people together, and diversion from the norm (such as a barefoot young lady spinning a hula hoop around her neck) can have an impact on an otherwise mundane Monday.

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