Opinion: What the Truman Banquet really represents

The Bonneville County Republicans’ Lincoln Day Gala was this past Saturday in Idaho Falls, hosted at Melaleuca headquarters. Unfortunately, the event did not embody the spirit of its original namesake, Abraham Lincoln. Instead of embracing the ideals that used to characterize the Republican Party in the 1800s, it instead focused on the values that the current GOP seems most interested in — hate and exclusiveness.

The Bonneville County GOP pulled out all the stops to make this year’s event the new standard for a “grifters banquet.” Previous years’ keynote speakers like Candace Owens and Dinesh D’Souza were minor leaguers to the heavy hitters they brought in this year. The Bonneville County GOP worked hard to host their guests free by encouraging local business owners to sponsor. However, the organizers were almost paying for citizens to attend by Thursday of last week. At the very least, the whole thing was an egregious example of blowing money during inflation while ushering in poor community examples for people to look up to.

Let’s take a look at some of the “examples” the Bonneville GOP would have us emulate. David Pettinger was in Idaho Falls at the Celt. David has been arrested multiple times for non-peaceful protests against public officials and their families. James Lindsay is known as a conspiracy theorist and par for the course at the GOP event. Kyle Rittenhouse came in with a crash as he does to most communities, and the Bonneville GOP took a step further.

Residents and citizens who value civility and democracy can expect a more substantial alignment of ethics and character from Truman Banquet guests in mid-May. The Truman Banquet will host trusted elected officials looking to hear from citizens about their needs — and be held accountable for their roles. Attendees should expect speakers to focus on positive change versus the fascism and hate on display last week. Keynote David Adler is a stark contrast, contributing to our local community and renowned for scholarship and civility.

Our local banquets are not just fundraisers. There should be honor and respect when asking residents to come together. Attempting to associate last week’s efforts with the spirit of Lincoln is shameful. The heart of Lincoln should be about standing up for everyone, perseverance and working to bring people together through a time of great conflict and opposing opinions. Instead, the heart of last week’s event was bringing in extremists willing to enact physical violence on those who disagree.

Our community deserves good examples and a fiduciary responsibility that money and effort will bring positive and plentiful changes for families. Staying true to the leadership of Truman’s administration, next month’s banquet will bring more awareness to true issues like our crumbling schools, affordable health care, viable tax relief and making homes more affordable. The organizers of the Truman Banquet will bring in leaders that can offer advice, are known for stewardship and are ready to set a good example of community engagement.

Dan Barker is a leadership management consultant and the vice chair for the Bonneville County Democratic Central Committee.