How Democratic Operations Have Changed Elections - and GOP Plans to Catch Up
In the summer of 2011, Jon Bruning, an up-and-coming Nebraska politician with all-American good looks, was on his way to becoming the state’s next U.S. senator. Sure, the election was more than a year away, but pundits agreed the Republican was the heavy favorite to oust the vulnerable incumbent, Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson.
But, in August, Bruning’s luck began to change. Nebraska’s attorney general since 2003 found himself on a growing list of politicians who have said something offensive and had the misfortune to have it caught on camera. In Bruning’s case, he compared welfare recipients to raccoons.
Bruning’s campaign speech at the Heartland Liberty Fest in Papillion, Neb., began with a boilerplate conservative attack on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s environmental regulations. A local construction project had been put on hold so as not to harm an endangered beetle species. Bruning described a laborious process wherein biologists placed rat carcasses in the bottoms of buckets to entice the beetles in, then dumped the beetles a few miles down the road so they would survive the construction. But the plan ran into a problem.
“The raccoons figure out the beetles are in the bucket, and it’s like grapes in a jar,” Bruning said in a memorable moment captured in a video now on YouTube, moving his hand as if he were scooping handfuls of grapes or beetles into his mouth. That’s when his comments took an unexpected turn. “The raccoons, they’re not stupid, they’re going to do the easy way if we make it easy for them — just like welfare recipients all across America. If we don’t send them to work, they’re going to take the easy route.”