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Nebraska Is Different in Some Very Good Ways

Froma Harrop on

There's only one Nebraska. Reminders of its uniqueness appeared in the obituaries of Charlie Munger, who for decades served as the vice chairman at Berkshire Hathaway.

The international press has long been fascinated by this $780 billion holding company that was made in Omaha and stayed in Omaha. Its founder, Warren Buffett, and Munger grew up there and are considered two of the most successful investors ever.

Omaha is hardly the cow town portrayed in the stereotypes, but it still is physically and culturally time zones away from the financial capitals on the coasts. Buffett and Munger built a financial powerhouse while shunning the self-promoting, wealth-flaunting, obscenity-spouting ways adopted by hotshots elsewhere.

Munger promoted the old virtues of self-discipline and commonsense and didn't regard morality as a weakness in business. But he was also a man of unconventional thinking and high-level wit. "Capitalism without failure is like religion without hell," Munger famously said. Also, "Better to buy a good business at a fair price than a fair business at a good price."

His quips could go homespun: "Invest in a business any fool can run, because someday a fool will."

The obituaries for Munger dwell on his contentment at playing second fiddle to Buffett -- aka The Sage of Omaha -- even though he was considered the savvier investor. As Buffett himself said, "Charlie does the talking. I just move my lips." Yet, the idea of Munger managing a palace coup against his partner was unimaginable.

 

Buffett is a moderate Democrat. Munger was a moderate Republican. While Munger agreed with some of Donald Trump's policies, he said he'd never vote for him.

"Biden is a typical Democratic politician," he told The Wall Street Journal. "I'm used to that type of defect."

Trump has made headway smashing social norms in Nebraska as he has elsewhere. But he faces some headwinds in a state that has traditionally put up resistance to the political extremes.

Nebraska's politics tend toward purple. Nebraska and Maine are the only states that split their electoral votes in presidential races according to how the vote goes. Thus, while the rest of the Nebraska usually votes for the Republican presidential candidates, the largely Democratic district encompassing Omaha was able to send its electoral votes to Barack Obama and then Joe Biden in 2020.

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