An an Old Diner, a New Generation of Omaha Liberals

The Diner.  BRAD DAVIS/The Ballot Box

The Diner. BRAD DAVIS/The Ballot Box

OMAHA, 11:48 p.m. CST — Old, blue-collar Omaha — the town of storied stockyards, meatpacking plants and railroad workers — gave way a long time ago to buttoned-up insurance types and call-center workers.

As the city closed in on the end of the 20th century, it racked up an increasingly conservative voting record.

Now, a group of young people at a local diner said a new generation of voters might change that.

“It’s a different wave of liberals,” said Ben  Amdor, a 19-year-old Omahan who identified his occupation as “miscreant.”

Politics is on the menu -- literally -- at this downtown Omaha diner.  BRAD DAVIS/The Ballot Box

Politics is on the table -- literally -- at this downtown Omaha diner. BRAD DAVIS/The Ballot Box

Ben Amdor, M.J. Rasmussen and Isaac Reilly say they all plan to vote for Obama.  BRAD DAVIS/The Ballot Box

Ben Amdor, M.J. Rasmussen and Isaac Reilly say they all plan to vote for Obama. BRAD DAVIS/The Ballot Box

“I don’t think it’s a revival,” Amdor said.  Instead, he said it’s a natural progression of younger people getting interested in politics.  And those younger people — at least the ones he talks to in the urban core of Omaha — seem to be favoring Barack Obama.

This is the first election in which Amdor is old enough to vote.  Even though he said his family had been involved in old-style “Omaha machine” politics — Omaha’s version of a Tammany Hall — Amdor said he had become disillusioned with politics as a whole.  He thinks both candidates are in the back pocket of the moneyed classes, but said Obama is the “lesser of two evils.

He especially doesn’t like the idea of Obama sending more troops into Afghanistan.

The Diner in downtown Omaha.  BRAD DAVIS/The Ballot Box

The Diner in downtown Omaha. BRAD DAVIS/The Ballot Box

M.J. Rasmussen, 19, has lived in Omaha for about a year.  She moved from Lincoln, Neb., a city of about 250,000 people about 50 minutes from Omaha, where she said she talked to many more young people who   planned to vote for John McCain.

“It’s really 50-50 there,” Rasumssen said, referring to Lincoln.

The latest Rasumussen (no relation to M.J.) poll shows Lincoln’s vote — as part of the Nebraska 1st Congressional District — tipping in favor of McCain by about 7 percentage points.

Omaha’s vote, as part of Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District, is also trending toward McCain, though

And somtimes sushi, but apparently not today.  BRAD DAVIS/The Ballot Box

And somtimes sushi, but apparently not today. BRAD DAVIS/The Ballot Box

polls in the last month have been very close, near to the margin of error.

Rasumussen said she supported Obama.

Isaac Reilly, a 19-year-old who recently moved to Chicago, but was visiting Omaha, where he is still registered to vote, said he also would vote for Obama.

Though he agrees most young Omahans — at least in his circle of friends — plan to vote for Obama, he said Omaha was much more conservative than his new home in Chicago.

“The only time I’ve seen a McCain bumper sticker is when my girlfriend’s family came up from Omaha,” Reilly said.

Ben Amdor, M.J. Rasmussen and Isaac Reilly say they're part of a new wave of 'liberal' Omahans.  BRAD DAVIS/The Ballot Box

Ben Amdor, M.J. Rasmussen and Isaac Reilly say they're part of a 'new wave' of Omaha liberals. BRAD DAVIS/The Ballot Box

— BY BRAD DAVIS

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