It’s a new year.

And it looks portentous, as in ominous, threatening, dangerous.

North Korea, Iran, the volatile Middle East, Russia in an expansionary mood.

The United States, more unpredictable, less internationally connected, dependable or engaged.

A president who might be ensnared by the ongoing investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller and the accompanying uncertainty of how a deeply partisan House and Senate might respond.

We probably can all see two fundamental dangers ahead for the president.

An investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election could morph into something entirely different just as the investigation into President Bill Clinton’s role in the Whitewater real estate investment controversy in Arkansas did.

And a president who seems to say whatever comes into his head without regard to accuracy, fact or truth is in real jeopardy the moment he is placed under oath.

So, here we go.

Buckle up.

* * *

The performance of a party-line Congress continues to demonstrate the value and wisdom of Nebraska’s uniquely constructed state legislature, which returns to action in Lincoln this week.

One house; nonpartisan; a comparatively efficient, open and independent branch of government not tied or beholden to party.

It’s not perfect, but it’s a better way to govern.

George Washington warned us of the dangers of allegiance to party in governing and we can see it every single day in the governing city named for him.

Sure, there’s some partisanship inside Nebraska’s legislative chamber; it shows up most undisguised in congressional redistricting decisions and it surfaced as more of a factor during the most recent selection of leadership positions although political philosophy played a dominant role.

And it is present, at least to a degree, in some votes cast to sustain or override gubernatorial vetoes.

But partisanship is not enshrined, enabled, empowered or rewarded through structural organization of this Legislature.

Majority party leaders do not dictate committee assignments or hold the power to control the legislative agenda with an iron fist; they are not empowered to reward or punish senators of their own party for votes cast or partisan expectations unfulfilled.

In Nebraska, state senators value their independence even though some of them do not often (or perhaps ever) stray from party orthodoxy simply because that accurately represents their own beliefs.

Others feel free to travel their own independent road.

Some may fail to always support a governor who has clearly demonstrated that he will recruit and endorse challengers for senators who may be fellow Republicans if they have not been with him on vetoes or other key issues.

Republicans often suggest it is the Democrats in Nebraska’s nonpartisan Legislature who demonstrate the least independence from orthodox party positions.

But some of the more independent Republicans will argue that it is their party, not them, that is changing and that their independent votes often are more reflective of traditional Republican values as well as being an accurate reflection of their own views.

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Those independent-minded senators who are Republicans often hold the power to make a difference on vital issues.

Political partisans may not agree, but people who do not believe that parties should hold governing power — which, of course, is nowhere granted or even recognized by the Founding Fathers — are attracted to this unique state legislature.

This is not the U.S. Senate where no one strayed from the party line in the 51-48 vote to approve the Republican tax bill this year.

Or the U.S. Senate that approved the Affordable Care Act in 2009 on a strict party-line vote.

This is a legislature where senators can be independent.

Less partisan.

And far more free.

* * *

Finishing up:

* The separate departures of Mike Riley and Tanner Lee have been civilized, respectful and even uplifting, so different from the abrupt firing of Frank Solich, the unpleasant parting with Bill Callahan and the messy exit of Bo Pelini. In the end, both Riley and Scott Frost get to come home, and Lee gets his NFL opportunity.

* And, speaking of Solich, now the path is clear for him to come to Lincoln, if he will, and be honored at the stadium as a Husker head coach (and former Husker player) whose six-year coaching record here was 58-19. Solich was an assistant coach in 1997 when Scott Frost and the Huskers won the national championship in Tom Osborne’s final year.

* Here’s to 2018: Huskers rebuilding, Yankees rebuilt.


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