The Idaho GOP’s tent is getting much smaller

I’ve been to a handful of Idaho GOP conventions and winter meetings over the past decade or so. This year’s convention was different. Most delegates were angry about Democrats “crossing over” to vote in Idaho’s Republican primary elections. For some Republicans, it’s not just about keeping Democrats out, the goal is to essentially purify the Party to include only a certain kind of Republican. In recent years, attempts to institute purity tests at the state party level have largely failed – until now.

Delegates in pockets of our state, particularly the counties of Bonneville, Kootenai, Bonner, Boundary, Benewah, and the smaller counties south of Idaho County, have achieved solidarity in attempts to bring a certain flavor of Republicanism to prominence: conservatism. While the word “conservative” does not mean the same thing to everyone, to this group, it means more than limited government and fiscal responsibility. To this group, being “conservative” requires preserving morality, which is largely why conservative ideals are infused with religious connotation.

The problem is that not everyone has the same definition of morality, nor do they hold the same religious beliefs. In recent years, Republicans have welcomed varying beliefs and have had a fairly big “tent,” welcoming some nuance and healthy debate. However, these days, it seems that anyone who does not adhere strictly to the “conservative” view is dubbed a “leftist,” or some other similar title, intended to offend and exclude. This shift was on full display this year, as two delegates spoke in favor of exceptions to abortion when the life of the mother is threatened, such as an ectopic pregnancy. The proposed amendment to support such an exception was rejected by a large majority of delegates.

Author C.S. Lewis once wrote, “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth.”

The Idaho GOP’s tent is getting much smaller. If nuance and robust debate continue to be shut out, it is destined to become nothing but an echo chamber – and its impact is more likely to make a Hell of earth.

Let me be clear – I do not encourage people from another party to cross over with the intent to influence Republican politics. But there is no more important time for Republicans to consider the significant value of welcoming nuance and the respectful exchange of ideas. There are many flavors of Republicanism, and we should err on the side of inclusion.

Elections have consequences. To any Republican who feels the outcome of this year’s convention does not represent you: I encourage you to become more involved with your county central committee.

Holly Cook

About Holly Cook

Holly Cook has been a communications professional for over 15 years. She is the President of Cook Communications and Public Relations in Boise.

Read more stories by Holly Cook »

Republish this article on your website