GOP Convention 2010–Nebraska

I had the pleasure recently of attending the Nebraska 2010 GOP State Convention.

This was a fantastic experience. While the nearest airport was in Omaha, the convention itself was about an hour away in Fremont.

Fremont has been in the news lately for passing a tough illegal immigration law. They seem undaunted by political correctness, which made the city the ideal location for a group of real conservatives.

For those who want to be incredibly confused, stay at a hotel a mile from the Omaha airport. The town is Carter Lake, Iowa, and Iowans and Nebraskans make it clear they are very different. The rivalry is a friendly one, but a rivalry nonetheless. I asked the hotel people in Iowa where Nebraska was, and they told me to look across the street. From that vantage point, the states looked quite similar.

The convention was held at Midland Lutheran College. This reminds me of a joke that people in Nebraska who I told it too found funny. I stole it from a comedian from 10-20 years ago.

“My family is from a weird sect of Christianity. We’re Lutheran…We worship Lex Luther. Superman is the anti-Christ.”

Anyway, the Christians I met in Nebraska were as normal and friendly as can be. They were awesome.

Before the convention, I made my way to the Omaha Jewish Community Center. I can say with zero hesitation that this was the most impressive JCC I had ever seen. The place was as big as the Taj Mahal. Omaha only has 6000 Jews, but their exhibit on the history of the Jews of Nebraska and Western Iowa was as fascinating as it was culturally enriching for me. They were preparing for the Maccabi Olympic Games. They were not sure how 6000 people could host 1500 visitors, but I suspected they would pull it off just fine. I look forward to making many Jewish Nebraska friends over the years to come.

As for the convention, while it was only one (very lengthy) day itself, the pre and post convention political events were fantastic.

The evening before the convention featured plenty of socializing. The evening started at J’s Steakhouse. Folks, it is one thing to eat a steak. It is another to eat Midwestern beef in the heart of where it originates.

The crowd had a great time, and then migrated to a hotel where the Nebraska Young Republicans were having an ice cream social. I spoke to the group at that function, and they were very friendly. Matt Pinkerton heads the Nebraska YRs, and they are a solid and passionate group. Also in attendance were of course some of the ladies from the Nebraska Federation of Republican Women. Like their counterparts in other states, they were smart, fun, and passionate about their politics.

The day of the convention brought a bunch of great speakers. Taylor Gage is younger than me, but he managed to keep everything flowing smoothly with a combination of skill and adrenaline. Nebraska is lucky to have him.

For those who did not know, Nebraska, like the other 49 states, has two senators. One is a Democrat, and he gets all the attention. Yet Republican Senator Mike Johanns is well liked and well regarded.

While I confess to being fairly in tune with politics, I had no idea who he was. He is one of those calm, thoughtful, quiet guys, that just puts his head down and does his job without fanfare. Several people at the convention told me that this was just Nebraska culture. They took great pride in being workhorses, not showhorses.

I did speak with Senator Johanns for a couple of minutes, and he is as pleasant and thoughtful as described. When I tell some politicians I do not live in their state, they try to walk away quickly. After all, I am not a voter. They are busy. Yet he was very nice, and treated me with the same dignity and respect he would have given to any Nebraskan. I promised him that I would do my part to help fire his colleague from California.

The keynote speaker at the convention was Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown.

Some people only speak to the VIPs who pony up tons of money. Senator Brown came into the lunchroom and stayed for over an hour posing for pictures and speaking with delegates. He was even very dignified when confronted with one of the tinfoil hat people who wants to abolish the Fed and make a certain Texas libertarian Looney Toon king for life. I do not have the patience of Senator Brown, which is why I am not a politician.

Senator Brown stopped by my booth, and it was nice to meet with him. I will not say what he said, but what I said to him is something I deeply believe.

“Senator, if you need to move leftward on some issues, do it. Just get reelected. Massachusetts is not Idaho. I am letting my friends know that when you frustrate us on occasion, it gives you the freedom to stand with us when we really need you most. You will always get hassled by the left, you don’t need it from both sides. Be with us when you can. Just get reelected.”

I hope other people give him positive reinforcement and stop complaining that he is not 100% conservative down the line. He is not a RINO. He is a moderate Republican, and that is far better than a liberal Democrat. Given how well received he was at the convention, I suspect that the Republicans of Nebraska have a healthy dose of intelligent pragmatism to go with their overall conservative ideology.

The Nebraska Republicans had the conservative ideology, but they were not ideologues. They were normal reasonable people, and beyond friendly.

I made friends I will be glad to know for a long time, from the Grothusens in Dodge (for those who make jokes about getting out of Dodge, everything I saw in Nebraska was gorgeous) to First District Chairman O’Dell. Nebraska is luck to have such solid people at the helm.

This convention did not have vitriol or venom. There was concern for America, but not rage. The people simply want a better world for their children, and are capable of expressing this in a peaceful but serious manner. The rest of the country could learn a ton from the Nebraskans I met.

After the convention was a post convention hoe down at Kracl Farms.

For those wondering about the difference between a hoe down, a jamboree, and a jubilee, I was given a basic explanation. Jamborees (and jubilees I believe) involve many different instruments. A hoe down usually is less elaborate in terms of musical instruments. There was a great country rock band, so it was a hoe down.

The name of the band was “Them Other Dudes.” They were talented and hilarious. I asked if there name was “Them OTHER Dudes.” They corrected me and stated it was “THEM Other Dudes.” I suspect they change the pronunciation as it suits them. Any guys that can jam out to “Ghostriders in the Sky” are fine by me.

Kracl Farms is a family business, and the Kracls are nice people. They live on a gorgeous farm with rows of corn stalks as high, long, and deep as the eye can see. This where Nebraska Cornhuskers are born. To watch the sunset over the corn fields is breathtaking.

The corn came from the Kracls, but a Nebraska hoe down requires beef. J’s Steakhouse came through again, and I got to meet owner Jay Siers. Apparently there is a guy who is more passionate about football and dead cow than I am. With the exception of the United States Military, few people warm my heart like those that bring steaks and burgers across America to my dinner table.

The mosquitos were no match for the girl spraying bug spray with the passion of a warrior claiming to love the smell of napalm in the morning.

After dinner a spectacular fireworks show with July 4th leftovers lit up the night sky. This was a better show than most Independence Day fireworks.

Jay asked me how I was enjoying my Nebraska redneck experience. I was in paradise. Sitting with my feet up on the jeep with a couple of guys, a drink in one hand, and guys in guitars playing as we all sang, “It ain’t me…it ain’t me…I ain’t no senator’s son.”

Warren Buffett may be the Oracle of Omaha (who does not allow tours of his corporate offices, I found out by phone), but his cooking skills can’t be as good as the people I met.

Late into the night I did take time to check out Downtown Omaha. It was Saturday night, and everything was rocking. One bar played a combination of hiphop and country music as races danced together in peace. Nebraska is not the lily white state it is made out to be. Yet regardless of race Nebraskans are real friendly.

One of the things that was conveyed to me throughout the weekend was that if people on the coasts think that Nebraskans are hicks and hayseeds, the coastal people can stay there. Yet these people also made it clear that visitors should be treated as friends and given the benefit of the doubt. They were sure nice people existed everywhere.

While politics was the purpose of the weekend, the main thing I kept hearing about was the notion of Nebraska values. A handshake means something. Your word is your bond. Do what you said you would do.

This may seem simple, but sometimes people make things more complex than they need to be.

Near the end of the hoe down, I met Dawn Klein. When I told her I was having such a great time in Iowa and Nebraska, she suggested I come back. I promised I would at some point. By the end of our conversation, some point became right around the corner.

On 9/11, she is helping put together the Freedomstock 9/11 Restore America Rally, the conservative alternative to Woodstock.

There will be speakers, and I will be one of them. I normally fly into or out of New York on 9/11, and my plan was to fly from New York to Los Angeles.

Now it seems I will be flying from New York to Omaha, driving to Onawa, Iowa, speaking at Freedomstock, driving back to Omaha, and then flying that night to Los Angeles. 9/11 will have me all across America, and I can’t think of a better place to speak on that day than in the heartland.

Jan Mickelson, a fantastic morning dj in Des Moines, will be speaking there. I will be on his program at some point. I have spoken with him before over the internet, and look forward to finally meeting him.

Most importantly, even if it is only for a few minutes, I look forward to trying to fit either lunch or a snack from J’s Steakhouse.

Oh yeah, hanging on the tractor was fun.

May the great people of Nebraska invite me back repeatedly. I will be honored each time.


5 Responses to “GOP Convention 2010–Nebraska”

  1. “They seem undaunted by political correctness…”

    They seem obblivious to reality – or even human decency. I’d like to seem them just try to stop the Nebraska meat-paskers to suddenly fire all their undocumented workers. Ha! Yeah, right!


  2. tkinsey says:

    Great stuff as always Eric.

  3. Really, though, was there any movement on the convention floor to get the meat packers to hire documented American citizens? If not, may I please say that I think these anti-illegal-immigratioon folks are a bunch of hypocrites?


  4. Eagle 6 says:

    Jersey, I think they are more interested in illegals packing heat than packing meat… Seriously, though, I may be naive, and I may also be opening a huge door, but I didn’t realize there is that much competition for cheap labor in the meat packing business in the Midwest… having said that, I know in Georgia they raided the “chicken coop industry” a couple years ago and basically closed down a couple places…

    I have friends who have no problem going to certain areas and picking up a few day laborers for cheap labor – their justification is that the extra money they are paying in taxes for the illegals is saved by using them for other work… I can see the logic, but it’s just flat wrong. I got quotes from “Martinez Roofing” and “Sanchez Roofing” – the latter was $1500 cheaper, but the former could provide documentation…and I am a firm believer in the “pay to play”…if I am going to talk it, I have to walk it…

  5. Eagle, man, if we keep allowing this flow of cheap, undocumented, alien labor, all the other bad stuff that comes along with that is gonna keep flowing in. All this seemingly arbitrary nonsense from the Right about how “FIRST, we muct secure the border,” is nothing but a front. They don’t care at all about the border or the mass influx of this cheap, undocumented, alien labor. It’s the next best thing to slavery as far as the corporate class are concerned.

    What we must do is simply make it easier for these people to come on in, get working papers, and be here legally.


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