On Monday, writing for The New York Times, Nebraskan author and journalist Ted Genoways outlined how former President Donald Trump helped to kill Nebraska's moderate-conservative brand of politics and replace it with full MAGA cultism.
One of the most obvious ways this can be seen now, wrote Genoways, is Trump's support of the gubernatorial campaign of Charles Herbster, a far-right businessman accused of sexual assault by eight women including a Republican state senator. Many Republicans in the state tried to push him out over the allegations — but thanks to Trump's continued support, he is still in.
"Mr. Herbster sees conspiracies everywhere — conspiracies to destroy him, conspiracies to undermine Mr. Trump, conspiracies to unravel the very fabric of the nation," wrote Genoways. "'This country is in a war within the borders of the country,' he told the crowd at the Starlite Event Center in Wahoo on Thursday, a few days before Tuesday’s primary election. Over more than an hour, Mr. Herbster, dressed in his trademark cowboy hat and vest, unspooled a complex and meandering tale of the threat to America, interspersed with labyrinthine personal yarns and long diatribes about taxes."
All of this stands in stark contrast to how Nebraska used to elect members of both parties to the Senate and governorships, and those candidates tended to be relative centrists, he argued — exemplified by Chuck Hagel, who served two terms as a Republican senator and then as former President Barack Obama's Secretary of Defense.
Trump is not the only factor pulling Nebraska hard right, noted Genoways — part of the issue is that Democrats "muddled" their messaging by allying with hard-right factions to support their causes, like trying to block the construction of an environmentally hazardous poultry plant by teaming up with a group fearmongering that it would bring in Black immigrants to work.
"Without a Democratic counterbalance, Republican primaries now determine most state races in Nebraska, so candidates are pulled further and further to the right in order to appease and appeal to an increasingly radical and angry base."