If you are not familiar with the 14 Characteristics of Fascism, I’m going to need you to stop right here and read them first. Ok, got that? Don’t worry, we’re going to look at a few of them a little more closely because the NEGOP has a deep fascism problem that everyone, including the Nebraska Democratic Party, is content to turn a blind eye to. We here at Seeing Red have had enough of letting this fascism run rampant while punishing ordinary citizens for standing up to it.
From a disdain for human rights to an obsession with crime and punishment and an interest in suppressing votes, the NEGOP, largely in control of Nebraska from Governor Ricketts to a majority in the Unicameral, and all of our federal representation, exhibits all 14 of these characteristics. Today, we’re going to start with numbers 8, 11, and lucky 13.
#8 – Religion and Government are Intertwined
Fascist leaders tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government’s policies or actions.
The NEGOP, and especially Governor Pete Ricketts, make a habit of weaponizing an authoritarian version of Catholicism. Pete Ricketts constantly trots out his connection to the Right to Life in his continued quest to try to deny women autonomy over their own bodies. He is a shameless backer of the so-called “School Choice” movement which is nothing but a ploy to take money from public schools and give it to private religious schools instead. His father, the virulently racist billionaire who bought Pete both his Governorship and the death penalty, is even building his own gold-plated Silent Retreat for fellow billionaires, white supremacists, and tax dodgers. He’s even asking good Nebraskans to help pay for it by buying his Cloisters bread manufactured and sold by Rotella.
When pressed this summer, Death Eater Peter’s Catholic Church in Omaha refused to excommunicate him after Pope Francis’s declaration that the death penalty is immoral in all circumstances. The state continues to resist making public aspects of the execution of Carey Dean Moore in August.
#11 – Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts
Fascist leaders tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored, arrested, or have their programs cut. Free expression in the arts is openly attacked, and governments often refuse to fund the arts.
The NEGOP’s war on the University of Nebraska in general and on particular professors and graduate students at the flagship campus specifically has been very well documented here. But to review, these include Congressman Jeff Fartenberry’s Chief of Staff calling Professor Ari Kohen to threaten him over a Facebook ‘like’; the dismissal of graduate student Courtney Lawton for giving local white nationalists the finger; and the constant harassment by Senators Erdman, Halloran, and Groene of several professors and UNL. Recently, Senator Erdman even turned on Libertarian professor Gerard Harbison, who is now suing him for the false statements made on his blog. Although Hal Daub lost re-election, he continues to be invited on the NEGOP-allied media to opine about University policy as though he is still in a decision-making position. Recently, Daub appeared on Coby Mach’s talk radio circle jerk, claiming that the next President of the University system should be someone who has experience standing up to liberal voices.
#13 Rampant Cronyism and Corruption
Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.
I don’t even know where to start here, the Nebraska GOP is such a tangled web of cronyism and inbred fuckery that my basement now looks like the set of a Beautiful Mind.
As you will recall, Pete Ricketts hired an actual Nazi to run his reelection campaign and insisted it was NBD because he barely knew the guy. Well, we all know that’s a lie, so some local watchful citizens took one for the team and gagged through YouTube footage of the Trump rally that took place October 9, 2018 in Council Bluffs. Lo and behold, what did they see, but Bennett Bressman, Ricketts’s Nazi Field Director, yukking it up with none other than Senators Steve Erdman and Steve Halloran. But it doesn’t end there! Breesman is sitting right next to former governor Kay Orr’s grandson, John Robert Gage. Senators Erdman and Halloran, or “The Steves”, if you’ll recall, are two of the Senators who are harassing UNL employees, one of them (Erdman) to the point of being sued for his harassment.
Before being outed by Nebraska Antifa, Bennett Bressman also worked for Pete Ricketts’s anti-marijuana PAC, Smart Approaches to Marijuana, which is headed by former Senator John Kuehn, who is engaged to Pete Ricketts’s former re-election campaign manager, Jessica Flanagain. Jessica Flanagain is now Senior Vice President of Axiom Strategies. In 2009, Ricketts was fined for failing to file state financial reports on time for a political committee he formed whose primary expense was paying Axiom Strategies for a voter survey ahead of the 2006 campaign for U.S. Senate, a race Ricketts lost to then-Sen. Ben Nelson.
Also connected to Ricketts’s Nazi is Julie Slama, who Ricketts just appointed to serve on the Legislature. She was Ricketts’s press secretary for the same re-election campaign for which Bressman was Field Director. She of course said she didn’t really know the guy and also she totally hates Nazis, guys, so, again, NBD that Pete Ricketts hired a Nazi who worked closely with just about everyone in Ricketts’s inner circle. Nothing to see here, folks.
Still with us? Good because there’s more cronyism ahead
Now let’s get back to former Governor Kay Orr’s family:
Kay Orr’s daughter Suzanne Gage is Attorney General Doug Peterson’s Communication Director, but before that she was the legislative liaison for Americans United for Life, an extreme anti-choice group.
Taylor Gage, Suzanne Gage’s son and Kay Orr’s grandson, is Governor Pete Ricketts’s Communication Director. In 2017 the Nebraska public employees union director called for Pete Ricketts to fire Taylor over a tweet he made making light of the 2017 Tecumseh prison riot in which two inmates were murdered. (He still, of course, has his job.)
Alex Gage (brother to Taylor and John Robert) worked for Senator Steve Halloran as his Administrative Aid until December 2018.
In addition to the web of family ties in NEGOP, they seem to find all sorts of ways to funnel money to their lawyer cronies. We noticed that the lawyer who recently served several Seeing Red writers with an Open Records Request defended none other than Unicameral Speaker Scheer when he magically transformed from a school board member to private citizen during a prayer at a graduation ceremony in Norfolk.
If this is all confusing, that is kind of the point. This is a party that controls almost all government in the state and has incredible wealth at its disposal. They have a lot of people to pick from. (And to be fair, Yale grad Slama is an example of a Nebraska young person who has broken into politics because of talent and hard work.) Yet the sheer quantity of this person’s kid getting this or that appointment, and this shady money going to this or that person’s business or PAC, but none of these people knowing about or owning virulent white supremacy whenever it’s exposed–it indicates a nontransparent network of cronyism and lack of accountability that should alarm all Nebraskans.
How Nebraska Nice Provides Cover
There’s a lot to unpack here. But we’ll start, for now, with one concrete example. When protestors outside Ricketts’s Catholic Church asked that the congregation excommunicate him for the speed in which he raced to defy Pope Francis and engage in state sanctioned murder of Carey Dean Moore, many in the congregation showed support. One even stopped to say he agreed. But when pressed to do anything, he declined. While we cannot know what went on behind closed doors, we can extrapolate that they didn’t want to make a stink. They didn’t want to stand up because it isn’t nice. Throwing someone out of your church just isn’t polite. But had they done it, it would have sent a strong message that things like personally financing the death penalty petition is not acceptable and rushing an execution to show you are strong on crime before an election is unjust.
But wait, there’s more …
Thank you for sticking with this marathon post. Only 11 more characteristics of Fascism in Nebraska to discuss. Be on the lookout for future posts. In the meantime, remember it is up to you to stand up and fight back against fascism.