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, NotionsCapital.com)

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!

Wasting Your Vote

Apparently, I was supposed to vote today.  The City of Lincoln held a primary election.

Frankly, I had no idea that my primary democratic responsibility was being called into action today.  I don’t read the local paper very often, and when the wife and I watch TV at night, she’ll always pick a Law & Order rerun over the 10 o’clock news*.

*My wife finds many of the news stories (murders, violent crimes, etc) depressing, so I can appreciate that you might think choosing Law & Order or Law & Order: SVU local news is curious – given the amount on violence on many of those shows.  Yet, I think that on some level she prefers L & O because we always know that in the end, Detectives Benson & Stabler (or District Attorney Jack McCoy) will always get the bad guy.

Anyway, I’m not going to lose any sleep about sitting this election out.

Why?  Because it was a complete and utter waste of time and resources.

Had I bothered to vote, I could have voted in the following city races:

  • Lincoln Airport Authority.  Nicholas J. Cusick ran unopposed.
  • Lincoln School Board.  I don’t live in one of the four districts where the seat was up for election, so I wouldn’t have been able to vote.  Regardless, all four candidates ran unopposed.
  • Lincoln City Council.  There are three at-large seats up for election.  In this primary, voters picked up to three from the seven initial candidates, with the top six advancing to the general election on May 7.

That’s it.


Three races, a total of nine candidates, and only one went home a loser*.

I’m not sure if the candidates cared about this election.

*My sincere condolences to Norman L. Dority, whose 4% of the City Council vote wasn’t nearly enough to extend his campaign.  If it helps, your vote total would have won three of the four school board races. 

What a waste.  The Lincoln Journal-Star estimated this election will cost around $135,000.  I haven’t seen any voter turnout numbers yet, but the election commissioner was expecting around 20,000 citizens to vote.  Judging by the airport authority vote, at least 15,742 people bothered to show up.

I’d love to know who the people are that intentionally showed up for this vote.  I can understand the candidates, as well as their family and friends.  I can understand the folks who work at the polling places taking 45 seconds to vote.  I suspect a number of retired people with nothing better to do might feel obligated to vote (especially in some of the retirement communities that doubled as polling places).  But other than that, why bother?  Other than crushing poor Norm’s dreams of civic duty, not a damn thing was decided today.  We get to do it all over again in four weeks.

Lincoln needs to move away from holding city elections on odd-numbered years, and pair up all local elections with the state and federal elections in even-numbered years.  Yes that might mean some years there is a ballot full of candidates, which could mean some voters aren’t properly educated on their City Council candidates.  But the trade-off is a much better voter turnout when there is an election, and a general public that is not apathetic about a fundamental freedom that millions of people have died for.

Give me something to vote for and I’ll be there to vote (and I’ll take my young daughter with me so she learns the importance of voting).  But I’m not going to waste my time to rubber stamp a bunch of people running unopposed.

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