I have to wonder what goes on in the mind of a young man that proclaims, from one side of his mouth, to support democratic ideals, and from the other says all he can to quash them.
I am a delegate to the Nebraska State Central Committee and a county chair. Since I became active in the party I gradually became aware of several things that were being done that were in direct violation of our party's Constitution and Bylaws. I joined with a few others whose goal was to reform the party and insist that it abide by the rules our supreme governing body, the State Convention, had laid out for us.
I will admit that my diplomatic skills rival those of U.N. Ambassador, John Bolton, I am an old curmudgeon by nature, but I believe my goals are loftier.
Evidently my arrows have begun to hit a bit too close to the root of the NDP's problems, as this morning I found that the President of the Nebraska Young Democrats has basically called for my head. I believe he is merely serving as a mouthpiece for the NDP State Chair, Steve Achelpohl . . . but that's just an assumption based on an abundance of coincidence.
I happen to believe that the NDP should follow the guidelines set forth in its own documents, its Constitution and Bylaws and its Platform. I also believe that democracy is best practiced in the light of day and not behind closed doors with everything being held Top Secret, even from those who have the fiduciary duty of oversight. The NDP seems to have become a mirror of George W. Bush's administration than one controlled by the people.
Now Mr. Michaelis, the NYD President, would have my head served up on a silver platter because I refuse to continue the status quo that has rendered the NDP so impotent that the only candidate they can dig up to run for the Senate seat that Sen. Chuck Hagel is leaving is a man that until this month was a Republican, one once appointed by George W. Bush to be his "manufacturing czar," Tony Raimondo. We are within a year of the '08 elections and we haven't a single candidate for any of the three Congressional Districts in this state.
I would guess my sin is that of not remaining silent and accepting that Nebraska must remain a red state.
Here is the letter President Michaelis sent to the NDP State Central Committee this morning. Since I am the target of President Michaelis' missive, I believe it my right to reproduce it here.
Fellow members of the State Central Committee-
I hope the following message will not be held against Nebraska Young Democrats. Although I am writing in the interests of Young Democrats and the future of our party, I write only on my own behalf in condemning Brian Osborn as an insult to the office he holds and an embarrassment to the Nebraska Democratic Party.
For the last year, Brian Osborn has ranted incessantly about holding the leadership of the Nebraska Democratic Party accountable. As a County Chair, a delegate to the State Central Committee, and a recent candidate for Second Associate Chair, Osborn is supposed to be a leader himself, and it is long overdue that we hold him accountable to the same standard.
Now, I understand and respect that Democrats are going to have a wide range of responses to Tony Raimondo's changing his party affiliation and likely pursuing the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate. Generally, I would not be troubled by Osborn sharing his concerns about Raimondo because it is antithetical to what makes us Democrats that we should be expected to give up our freedoms of thought and speech to serve our party.
What disturbs me, though, is the way Osborn has flaunted and ABUSED the titles he holds to attack and undermine a potential Democratic candidate. Osborn's letter to the editor earlier this month was featured as the first letter by both the Omaha World-Herald and the Lincoln Journal-Star precisely because he lead with his credentials as a Democratic leader then played the part of demagogue by accusing anyone who would support Raimondo of "abandoning the principles that the NDP stands for."[i] The World-Herald went on to feature Osborn in a major news story, relying on the titles he holds within our party as he denounced Raimondo as "opportunistic" AFTER his party switch.[ii] As a Democrat and as an American, Osborn is entitled to his opinions, but he crossed the line by publicly insulting a new Democrat - not to mention a probable Democratic candidate - as a member of our State Central Committee. In my opinion, he also did a great disservice to the Democrats he represents in Phelps County although it's not our place to hold Osborn accountable in that capacity. I only wish Osborn's list of misdeeds ended there, but he has instead spiraled farther and farther out of control over the last several weeks. What is said on this list-serv is said in a secure and private environment between Democratic leaders, so I can make some excuses for tolerating Osborn's more outlandish tirades and accusations in the interests of free speech and self-reflection. Recently, however, Osborn has taken up spreading his diseased and destructive view of the Nebraska Democratic Party in any forum unfortunate enough to provide him a platform. This has extended online to the two most prominent websites in the state for political discussion - the New Nebraska Network and its right-wing counterpart, Leavenworth Street.
It is one thing to suggest on this list-serv that the NDP's Bylaws might speak against Raimondo's receiving the Democratic nomination. It is quite another to do as Osborn has, threatening lawsuits to keep Raimondo off the ballot and possibly disenfranchising the Democratic voters of Nebraska if they were to support Raimondo in the May primary.[iii] Osborn has also publicly suggested impeachment for any NDP leader who would encourage Raimondo to run.[iv] I don't know that I have ever heard anything so ludicrous and ANTI-DEMOCRATIC.
Rather than working FOR a Democratic candidate in whom he could believe, Osborn would tie up resources and steal our attention, making an enemy of one who would be our ally. How does that serve the people of Nebraska or our mission to build a party in which we can all be proud???? Even worse is the IGNORANCE and RECKLESSNESS with which Osborn has written about the Nebraska Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee.[v] In a public forum, Osborn referred to the NDLCC as "a semi-private slush fund," revealing its purpose and attacking the process by which it was established without any concern whatsoever for the liabilities that creates for the Democratic State Senators who have committed themselves to BUILDING THIS PARTY and STRENGTHENING OUR POSITION in the Unicameral.
While complaining about the supposed secrecy surrounding the NDLCC, Osborn revealed precisely why he can't be trusted with any further details - freely divulging our plans and our expenditures where any Republican operative and the Nebraska media CAN AND WILL see them. Considering the dangers to our senators and to our candidates from being perceived as too partisan, Osborn has hurt our cause, owing an apology to every Democrat who serves in the Legislature and those who will hopefully still have the courage to run in 2008. When it gets right down to it, as we have all seen over the course of the last year, Brian Osborn has positioned himself as a roadblock to progress and, in fact, PRIDES HIMSELF on attacking fellow Democrats under a deceitful and self-indulgent banner of false accountability.
Need further proof? Yesterday, in a public forum, Osborn claimed that the money we received from the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee in 2006 was "LAUNDERED through the NDP for the express purpose of reelecting Ben Nelson."[vi] Of course, Osborn has already publicly accused our state chair and our state treasurer of all sorts of financial wrong-doing, but here he's actually alleging that a crime has been committed. This is LIBEL, playing directly into Republicans' hands while shaking the confidence of Nebraska Democrats and making us look like fools before Democratic leaders nationwide.
How much longer are we going to tolerate such buffoonery? Honestly, when does it end? It's gone on throughout 2007 and now shows every sign of getting even worse as we head into the 2008 election. It's gotten to the point that I can't in good conscience recommend that other Young Democrats even get involved on the State Central Committee because it is being held hostage by a tiny minority who persist in old grudges, fighting year-old battles and squabbling over money we don't have rather than looking to the future.
This has to stop. Our party has many problems and has a long ways to go on the path to political relevancy, that we might again challenge the Republican status quo that has seized control of our state. I don't seek to make Brian Osborn a scapegoat for our problems or for our lack of progress, but his continued actions are most definitely a problem that we must address. The Democratic Party has always been home to a few loose cannons, but we can not tolerate those cannons being targeted at our own party, intent on destroying the last remnants of our meager foothold in Nebraska politics.
Osborn has no respect for this party. He is so out-of-control and lost to his imagined crusade against inner party corruption that no one is safe. For most of 2007, he confined his attacks to our state chair, our Executive Committee, and Ben Nelson, our Democratic U.S. Senator. Now, in a public forum, he's attacked the entire SCC as "a flock of sheep" who do nothing but "rubber stamp" the Executive Committee and who are a bunch of head-nodding "fools".[vii] The only thing I can say in Osborn's favor is that he still has not sunk quite so low as his mentor, Tom Dorsch - a cancer on this party who thinks it funny to joke that our State Chair should commit suicide.[viii] We are lucky to be rid of Dorsch from a position of leadership in our party, and it is long past time that we rid ourselves of those who have adopted his same strategy of advancing their agenda by sowing deceit and working to destroy fellow Democrats.
This September, Osborn wanted to censor our State Chair. I say censoring Osborn would be too kind a response after the absolutely inexcusable behavior recorded above. Of course, I prefer to avoid wasting any more of this Committee's time with these silly and distracting back-and-forth battles, but this insanity has to end. 2008 IS AN ELECTION YEAR. Our time is too precious and our purpose too important to be hijacked as it has for most of the last year.
Last week, Maribeth Milner shared what I took to be a heartfelt concern that "NDP leadership is a top - down, autocratic structure." I couldn't disagree more, as the problems I see are far more indicative of disarray and a lack of leadership rather than its being too authoritative.
These are very big differences in how we perceive the current state of the Nebraska Democratic Party, but I trust that they can be reconciled as we move forward in 2008. The same can not be said with Brian Osborn, though - not so long as he persists in this insane scorched earth approach to remaking the Nebraska Democratic Party to his own personal liking.
We are better than this. If this party is to have any hope for its future, it is time to make a choice. There's no denying we have some long-standing failures in terms of oversight and accountability. But, corrections and reforms must be targeted at the future. The 2006 election can not be refought. It's REVENGE that is best served cold, and it's a poor substitute for true accountability. The game of got'cha that has been Osborn's obsession is not moving our party forward and certainly isn't making future successes possible.
I wish I had any faith whatsoever that Osborn had the capacity to change. His record speaks to the contrary. If 2008 is a year for making choices, let us begin by holding Mr. Osborn accountable for abusing his own office and so eagerly bringing the Nebraska Democratic Party into disrepute.
Respectfully submitted, without pleasure or malice, Kyle Michaelis President Nebraska Young Democrats firstname.lastname@example.org
Brian T. Osborn
Chair - Phelps County Democrats
SCC delegate - LD38