Letter to the Editor

Independence important to 3rd District

Friday, November 17, 2006

Special to the Gazette


I am continually amazed how misunderstood the area and residents of the 3rd District are by the rest of the state, and major media outlets within the state, and the third district.

Newspapers in both the primary and general elections, backed candidates whom were defeated, partially, in my opinion, because the endorsements of the papers showed a basic lack of knowledge of the district or the people who reside here.

I would even go so far as to say the endorsements hurt the candidates rather than help them. Having lived in the 3rd District of Nebraska my entire life, which is quickly closing in on 50 years, I tend to get irate at all of the misconceptions regarding life in the 3rd District.

 The latest example of this lack of understanding or respect was the reaction to the November election of Mr. Adrian Smith to Congress. The media and much of the eastern population, and urban population within the district, labeled their fellow rural and western residents as idiots or worse, for not electing democratic candidate Scott Kleeb to Congress, believing the voters of the district only voted the party line without considering the issues.

 I, myself, having been a Republican candidate in the May primary, realize this couldn't be farther from the truth. While I will admit the general population seemed quite apathetic, I met many involved, informed and articulate voters on the campaign trail.

I believe most of the media types assigned to the campaign used stereotypical and simplistic, condescending theories to explain their viewpoint, instead of actually taking the time to acclimate themselves to the district and views held within the district.

Mr. Scott Kleeb, and his camp, showed an amazing lack of understanding in regard to the 3rd District and its voters, especially the rural 3rd District and voters.

To many in the district, this obvious lack of understanding, exposed the boast that Mr. Kleeb was a native Nebraskan.

And for all the hoopla surrounding Mr. Kleeb, historically he did not do nearly as well as previous democratic candidates have done in the district when competing for an open seat.

I had the opportunity to meet and discuss issues with both Mr. Kleeb and Mr. Smith. While I will even admit to casting my vote for Mr. Kleeb in the election, I was not taken aback by, or even in disagreement with the outcome of this election.

Some observations about the district. Unlike most of the rest of the nation, the majority of the residents who live in the district are not here because of money. The "way of life" is much more important to the people of the district than even income.

If this was not the case, the district would lose population even faster than it already does. Money is not the reason to live in the 3rd District.

 Most of the agricultural people in the district are here to get away from the government and governmental programs, not to get the government more involved in their daily lives.

People don't want government programs, even if it sometimes means help. What people want in the district, and have to some degree in the district, is independence. Freedom from government intervention in their lives.

This, in my opinion, is especially true in the northern and western parts of the district. Farming and ranching as big business, with participation in the government programs generates lots of revenue for the state and the district, but the number of people in favor of corporate agriculture and government programs is in the minority.

The number of producers directly benefitting from these programs is much smaller than most media types would realize. Just ask John Hanson, another republican candidate in the May primary, who was probably hands-down the best candidate in the election.

 While the business of the district is agriculture, the business or basis of agriculture isn't business or revenue, it is family and community. People in the district realize, or believe the government and its programs do not encourage, but instead threaten family and community. The same way these programs threaten the independence, so highly valued by the residents of the district.

 Contrary to media belief, many agricultural residents of the district do not see "Club for Growth" as an enemy of agriculture, but instead view it as an enemy of governmental intervention and interference. Mr. Smith was not viewed as an enemy of agriculture, but a defender of independence.

 Mr. Kleeb talked, not of less government, or more government, but of better government.

When the state government is closing down local schools, and the federal government is intervening on a daily basis, (with new rules, or powers regarding terrorism and new programs such as local in 48 etc. ...) this talk is not going to play well in a district fighting for its independence.

 These were just a few of the many reasons I believe a Republican was chosen to represent the 3rd District in Washington. But I know the reasons our representative was elected do not include ignorance, or the backwardness of the people within the district. Far from it.

Long live the people of the third district and their freedom to think for themselves.


P.S. after May, I changed parties and now am a proud Democrat.

-- Polk is a journalist and columnist living in Kearney.

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