Beyond all the rhetoric, platforms, door-knockers, non-stop TV ads and mailers, the cold, hard fact is elections are decided by voter turnout and the “middle.” That’s especially true here in Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District (CD-2), comprised of Douglas County and the western two-thirds of Sarpy County.

CD-2 had the 2nd closest Congressional race in the country in 2016. Less than 2% of the vote, approximately 2,300 voters, would have swung it the other way. That’s how things roll here. But that 2 percent is less than half of one percent of adults eligible to vote.

Consider this:

• In the last presidential election, 2016, approximately 15.5 percent of eligible adults weren’t even registered to vote. Over 40 percent of the eligible adults in Douglas and Sarpy counties did NOT vote, based on U.S. Census and county election commissioner data.

• That was up from the previous presidential election, 2012, when over 37 percent of eligible adults didn’t vote.

• In the 2014 mid-term election, the closest comparison to this year’s election, almost 64 percent of eligible adults didn’t vote. That means if 36 percent shows up to vote on Nov. 6, only 19 percent of eligible adult could decide our political leadership.

We are not unique. This story plays out across the country, which is where the “middle” comes in.

The “middle” is the independents and “leans” either way, non-party activists, neither hardcore viewers of MSNBC nor Fox News. Most people, attentions splintered across devices and channels, concerns relentlessly focused on living their lives. It’s not necessarily cultural backgrounds, ethnicity or class, though those things and more have a big impact on political affiliations. Progressive and conservative, diverse but separate, CD-2 is a body politic with an electoral vote that could go either way. In 2008 it was the blue dot. In 2012 and 2016, we were part of the red sea.

Hopefully, the middle is still about listening to one another and learning to share and debate our ideas to find a better way. That’s Omaha. We say it’s the Nebraska way. Unfortunately, we have had one-party rule for too long.

Most would say, and the data shows, that our system is unfair and tilted, even if it’s the one of the best in the world. A lot of benefits are rightfully earned, but in the grand scheme of things, the rich are getting a whole heck of a lot richer, the poor stay poor and the middle still struggles. That’s not fair.

If you think we can do better, and you should, then please vote to elect Kara Eastman to Congress, Jane Raybould for Senator and Bob Krist and Lynne Walz for Governor and Lieutenant Governor, respectively. Not only does it bring balance to our two-party system, but all four candidates are brave enough and qualified enough to make positive change and to create a fairer system that benefits those who need it. All of them will have to work across the aisle, not only in state government, but also in our federal delegation.

Don Bacon, Deb Fischer Pete Ricketts and Mike Foley aren’t bad people, but their political party has shifted so far that it’s leaving far too many behind, creating a governance that is not balanced. We live in the freest, most prosperous, highest opportunity country in the world – with Omaha being one of its top 100 communities no less. Why are we leaving so many behind, especially compared to our peers in other industrialized countries?

Why are voices of consideration like U.S. Senator Ben Sasse and the late statesman and U.S. Senator John McCain so ostracized? Congressman Don Bacon deserves a lot of credit for going anywhere, answering any question, any time, and running a constituent-focused office. But for a general who built his career in a military tradition that upholds our highest values, why not show CD-2 some more Nebraskan independence while in Washington? As a member of the Congressional Climate Caucus, why equivocate on man’s contribution to global warming, as if the cause changes the fact we’re dumping a huge problem on future generations of an entire planet, even if thousands of fading jobs not in our state are doomed?

Is it to pander to a small percentage that ALWAYS shows up to vote, from as low as 19% (based on the last midterm election) to as high as 31% (last presidential election) of eligible adults in our community? While votes do determine elections, we need honest leadership, one that’s willing to buck a rabid base and act in a more bipartisan fashion.

Why The Year of the Women

Eastman has proven to be that kind of leader. She worked with our Republican Congressman and Union Pacific, one of our largest corporations, to finally fund and manage a clean-up effort for the largest residential Superfund site in the country, one that had plagued generations, especially those on the east side of Omaha. That was a large and very complex effort for Omaha Healthy Kids Alliance, one that has substantially addressed elevated lead blood levels in children.

Raybould has helped lead a family business grocery business, Super Saver and Russ’s Markets, that has served the basic necessities of generations and is one of the very first employee-owned businesses in Nebraska.

Krist is a retired Air Force veteran who flew more than 100 combat sorties and was appointed by a Republican governor to a northwest Omaha district, where he won reelection twice. He left the Republican party because of Governor Rickett’s strong-arm tactics and uncompromising positions, inviting former educator and state senator Walz to join him.

All of them have taken a stand against the corrupt influence of money in politics, refusing corporate PAC money. While new quarterly fundraising figures will be reported after this goes to press, Eastman has raised nearly 4 times the amount of money from small individual contributions (under $200), $289,032 compared to Bacon’s $76,567, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.  

If you take out the money Bacon has raised from PACs, $848,678, and other sources of funds not from individual contributions, they are nearly neck-and-neck in overall fundraising. Bacon’s large individual contributions exceed Eastman’s by over 45 percent. This doesn’t include the $1 million coming from outside groups committed to Bacon, almost entirely Rep. Paul Ryan’s PAC and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which Eastman hasn’t matched.

Stand up to the bad influence of money in politics and make some history by electing the first woman to represent CD-2. Use your vote to support the ticket with women at the top.

To say it’s an interesting time in politics would be an understatement. While not the tumult of the Civil Rights fight or Vietnam, not even close to the violence of the Civil War and the fight to end slavery, this country drastically changed direction after this recent presidential election.

Changing directions isn’t necessarily bad, but drastic during a time of steady prosperity and peace, without character or goodwill, only leads to more division. Cries for unity are disingenuous when they don’t meet in the middle. There’s a lot to be said for populism, but the constant barrage of lies, insults and scandal should be a clear sign to any true patriot that the messenger is too deeply flawed to ultimately deliver.

While both political parties have their own entrenched interests and entitled structures, it’s currently a false equivalence. When almost an entire political party turns on standards they used to hold as gospel, ones we could respect as Nebraskans, then as conservative Republican sage George Will put it, “to vote against [Republican] cowering congressional caucuses is to affirm the nation’s honor while quarantining [the President].”

This is only The Reader’s 4th endorsement, but we strongly encourage you to vote a straight Democratic ticket. It’s Omaha’s unique contribution to Nebraska politics. It will force the Republicans to get a backbone for decency and keep their word on things like fiscal responsibility, global leadership and due process.

And if you truly believe we’re in a dangerous time, then please consider what you can do to get out the vote and have honest, level conversations with your neighbors, especially the middle.

The arc of justice and opportunity is bending, ever so slowly, but only if we show up to vote and collaborate will we move forward.

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