Last week's "invitation only" gathering organized by seven local Republican state legislators was a bizarre and embarrassing attempt at exclusion and avoidance of reality. It was also a microcosm of what is probably a growing divide in the GOP on all levels, from local to national. The seven local Pubs--Senators Haverly, Solano and Partridge and Representatives Johnson, McPherson, Tieszen and Conzet--took it on themselves to hold a public gathering that was limited to 107 invitees, of whom 40 showed up, meant to "hear nonpartisan ideas from local leaders about community and economic development." In a show of secrecy that would evoke admiring nods from autocratic societies everywhere, organizers wouldn't make the invitation list public, apparently taking it on themselves to covertly pick and choose who among their constituents in this area are capable of delivering nonpartisan ideas about public affairs.
I get that the elected officials who staged this exercise in exclusion are (like me, on many an occasion) fed up with legislative time and resources devoted to controversial social issues. Transgender bathroom use and gun rights were singled out in the RCJ article about the meeting, but I have no doubt that other issues, like reproductive and religious rights, were probably considered off limits by organizer Johnson, who told the Journal that "we didn't want those controversial social issues to override the economic and community development issues that we wanted to talk about at this event."
Well, doggone those "controversial social issues" anyway. Imagine the temerity of voters and taxpayers who think they should have a place at the table of an invitation-only gathering of elected officials and their hand-picked constituents. Just who do those social issue-oriented citizens think they are? Sarcasm aside, much as I empathize with the organizers of this event, their planning and execution of it are for the birds. I suppose that this is what you can expect from a party that has split. Like Republicans everywhere, the local GOP seems to be struggling with a collective identity crisis focused on its commitment to conservative values. The pragmatists like Johnson and his cohorts just can not insulate themselves against party ideologues (of whom Reps Lynn DiSanto and Taffy Howard were mentioned in the RCJ piece) who are identified with the "social issues" that this meeting sought to avoid.
This is a rupture that Republicans have to contend with now that a sizable wing of the party claims its conservative values entitle the government to meddle in the private affairs of Americans, denying rights on the basis of personal behavior. I don't much care for that segment of the GOP myself, considering that public policy matters of some immense importance need all the time and attention that our elected officials can give to them. Many of these so-called "social issues" are a distraction, an annoyance and a pain for some of us, but the true believers who support them have their rights. Specifically excluding them or any voters from a public gathering of elected officials is about as un-American as anything I can think of. As to limiting invitees to a secret list of supportive voters? How elitist can these Republicans get? Democracy makes a lot of noise. Putting your hands over your ears is no way to make it go away.