I think this video speaks for itself: Nebraska is such a nice, homey state that, on your birthday, the Governor and the lovely First Lady sing happy birthday to you.
In fact, Nebraska has a unicameral, nonpartisan State Legislature and tolerant political culture. You’ll notice, in the video, that the Republican Governor, Dave Heineman, is singing arm and arm with Democratic political strategist Matt Stoller. This was before the Nebraska-Texas game on Saturday; spirits were high.
We began our gameday at the Governor’s tailgate. Also at the tailgate, adorned in lovely Texas orange, was Texas fan and FCC Commissioner (also former NTIA head) Meredith Attwell Baker, along with her husband Jamie Baker. She was with the Johanns family, meaning Senator Mike Johanns (also former Secretary of Agriculture) and his wife Stephanie, a telecommunications expert who has worked for Alltel and Verizon. I hope Commissioner Baker enjoyed her time here–especially since Texas won handily.
I attended with a few Nebraska law students active in the American Constitution Society (David Solheim and Aaron John) and a math/econ undergrad with the noble dream of attending Michigan for grad school (Adam Azzam). In such a small state, all the students seemed already to know everyone at the tailgate. In fact, last month, I threw a party, and art exhibit, at my home for a law student organization, and the mayor of Lincoln attended with his wife. So did his chief of staff, the former mayor of Omaha with (his wife) the Democratic Lt. Governor candidate, the head of Nebraska ACLU, the heads of Nebraska Appleseed, Nebraska Common Cause, and others. Lincoln is like a mini-DC, being the state capital, as well as a college town.
But posting this video after the Nebraska-Texas football game also gives me a chance to answer a question that people ask me almost weekly: “What are you doing in Nebraska?!”
Washingtonians ask me. Silicon Valley folks ask me. Even Nebraskans ask me, when they hear I spent years in big cities like Chicago, Washington, DC, Boston, and (right after college) a year in Paris.
I usually answer by saying: “I am in Nebraska because of a kickass program in space & telecom law that I help lead.” Plus, the law students are wonderful, inspiring, and all that. (Well, most of them. Mine at least.)
And then I clarify: in Nebraska, it’s not like I live in an actual corn field, sleeping on cornhusks and awaking to ride my tractor to the nearest one-room school house to teach technology and First Amendment law to roughnecks whose wives churn butter. Nebraska is similar to any other state–most of the population is in one or two cities and the rest of the state is rural. That’s true of Michigan, where I’m from. (Detroit could compare with Omaha, Ann Arbor with Lincoln. Though, of course, Ann Arbor is in a league of its own.) Even New York is a mainly rural state with one big city. And I live in Lincoln, an hour from Omaha. That’s not much different from living in Ann Arbor–or living in any other midwestern college town, from Iowa City to Madison to Lawrence.
So, Lincoln Nebraska: a nice college town and state capital any day of the year. A great place to spend a birthday.