Turmoil in Nebraska Republican Party is self-inflicted

August 30, 2022 3:00 am

New Nebraska Republican Party Chairman Eric Underwood speaks to delegates at the state GOP convention in Kearney, Neb., on July 9, 2022. (Courtesy of the Nebraska Republican Party)

There is a great amount of turmoil in the Nebraska Republican Party these days, and it’s entirely self-inflicted.

As a longtime participant in Republican politics in this state and as a current member of the Nebraska GOP state central committee, which governs the party between its biennial conventions, I am disgusted and somewhat horrified by what is happening to my party.

The group that overthrew party leadership last month doesn’t appear interested in electing Republicans. Instead, they are imposing purity tests and expelling members, candidates and elected officials for the “crime” of thinking differently than they do. They are pushing things to the extreme. Even what it means to be a Republican has changed. It doesn’t matter anymore how conservative you are — the only thing that matters is if you agree with former President Donald Trump on the 2020 election. Nothing else matters.

What I saw on Aug. 20th at the state party meeting was a display of incompetence and lack of political awareness. The body nearly passed resolutions calling on the Legislature to criminalize all abortions, with no exceptions, and an Orwellian redefinition of “non-Republican” to mean any Republican who doesn’t agree with them one hundred percent. If that measure passes in any form, the Nebraska GOP would be codifying the exact thing that many complained previous chairman Dan Welch and Gov. Pete Ricketts did in previous elections.

All of this is without mentioning electing as national committeewoman a person who attended the January 6th rally and who has, at the very least, flirted with supporting one or two independent candidates for governor in this fall’s election, contrary to current Nebraska Republican Party policy and the extreme policies they seek to implement.

At the August 20th state party meeting, I was struck by the tone of so many other members. They have been misled and stirred into a frenzy, leading them to feel as if they’re the real Republicans, while believing that anyone who did not agree with every measure was afraid of “We the People.” It was the manifestation of the us-against-them mentality that will eventually consume them all and force out those who dare to disagree.

Then there is the tweet from August 19th. There is no excuse for tweeting out a graphic sexual illustration. Yet, Chairman Eric Underwood and his supporters are making excuses online and in radio interviews.

Removing the communications director and a half-hearted apology isn’t enough. The post was online for nearly ten hours and remained online for five hours after Eric Underwood made a statement to the media that “The tweet showcases the hard facts,” only to change to saying the post wasn’t authorized.

With Eric Underwood at the helm, the Nebraska GOP is a worthless entity. Our nominees need support, yes, but I cannot trust Eric Underwood. He is just as responsible, and it is obvious that he is nowhere near ready to lead the state party. Being chairman is not something you can learn on the job, particularly with forced leadership changes four months before a general election. He should have come into this position prepared, or not at all. It is clear that Eric Underwood and his supporters forced these changes based on a lust for power, rather than a goal to elect Republicans.

I support my party’s nominees, but I cannot support the leadership of Eric Underwood or any party official who continues to support or prop up his regime. He will be the ruin of the party; not just in November, but potentially for years to come.

This is why I call on Nebraska GOP Chairman Eric Underwood to resign.

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Chris Chappelear
Chris Chappelear

Chris Chappelear is the former chairman of the Nebraska Federation of Young Republicans and is the president of Long Pine Creek, LLC. He lives with his daughter in Omaha.