Our Opinion: Invited, but not welcomed, at GOP party

News Tribune editorial

Cole County’s Republican caucus fell somewhere between open house and invitation-only event.

As a result, a number of “guests” felt unwelcome, ignored and disappointed.

Cole County’s episode wasn’t the only muddled caucus in Missouri.

Chaos and confusion reigned at a number of events, resulting in law enforcement being summoned, arrests for trespassing and a premature adjournment.

Missouri in 2000 began using a presidential primary — the political equivalent of an open house — to replace the caucus system, notoriously characterized as “party leaders gathering in smoke-filled rooms to select nominees.”

In 2002, lawmakers moved the primary from the first Tuesday in March to the first Tuesday in February, so Missouri could have more influence on the national parties’ candidates.

This year, however, the February date ran afoul of national rules attempting to limit early primaries.

Lawmakers subsequently failed to reschedule the primary to a later, acceptable date.

To avoid punitive measures in the form of loss of delegates, the state GOP announced the primary results would be non-binding, and March caucuses would be held.

Saturday’s caucus in Cole County invited participation from registered voters willing to declare and document themselves as “good and faithful Republicans.”

A number of participants, however, contend they were treated like unwelcome intruders at a closed, predetermined process missing only the proverbial smoke.

Republican organizers counter the complainants did not familiarize themselves with the caucus process and arrived unprepared.

Although copies of the rules were available, the 30-50 copies were insufficient for the estimated 265 participants.

Saturday’s caucus became another divisive, muddled chapter in Republican efforts to recapture the White House.

Inviting guests, but not making them feel welcome and included, is no way to unify a party already fractured by conflict among candidates and philosophies.

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