Outsiders are often dumbfounded when they hear about things Nebraska Sen. Ernie Chambers says in the Nebraska Legislature.
He has compared American cops to Islamic terrorists, said he’d shoot a cop if he had a gun, castigated Christians (particularly Catholics), called his colleagues racist and stupid, called Nebraska backward and hateful and mocked the Bible.
Last year Chambers said all white people are racist and polluted his blood. He said the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence were about white people declaring they could do anything they wanted with black girls and women.
Amazingly, other lawmakers rarely say a word in response. Why? The state’s longest serving lawmaker, Chambers has been playing the legislative game for four decades. He knows the rules inside and out and uses them to bully others. He’s a master parliamentarian who can grind the body to a halt – debating every motion and filibustering — primarily by eviscerating anyone who challenges him.
Even more shocking, the Nebraska media rarely reports on his ragers. Why? Because Chambers is a liberal icon, and many reporters either fear or admire him. He has long fought against the death penalty and for abortion rights and increased spending on social programs.
When he compared cops to ISIS earlier this year, reporters in the committee room didn’t lift a pen, and not a single lawmaker protested. Nebraska Watchdog reported what he said, and the story made national headlines, leading to a showdown on the floor where lawmakers – awakened from their slumber — called on him to apologize or resign. True to form, he refused.
“I have not taken it back, I have not apologized for it. I will not take it back, I will not apologize for it,” he said in March.
Ironically, all the national outrage over Chambers’ comments prompted more capital security – in other words, more cops to protect him.
And what has he gotten for all this bombast? Often, honored. He’s routinely the subject of glowing media features and this year he was named one of Politico’s top 50 “thinkers, doers and visionaries transforming American politics.”
After a rash of high-profile deaths of black people at the hands of police officers, Chambers — who claims to be the most hated man in Nebraska — felt exonerated. “All of a sudden with the number of police killings, I’m getting a different response to my words,” he said.
And so it goes. He is brilliant, but has accomplished little to help his poverty-stricken, crime-ridden district in north Omaha. Rarely does he introduce legislation; most of his talent is spent blocking bills. If he instead put his considerable skills to use helping his constituents, he might be worthy of Politico’s honor. Until then, we have another title for him: Scary.