Politics

The Idaho Republican Party is merging with domestic terrorist groups, and it’s not going to end well

It was an act of pre-planned sedition, and the continued inability or unwillingness of the Department of Justice to bring the hammer down on those who attempted to overthrow democracy itself may yet be the thing that kills that democracy. Those who organized the “march” had planned it specifically to interfere with the ability of Congress to function. The evidence clearly shows that the organizers and allies used the resulting violence as part of a larger plan in which Trump would then issue a declaration restoring “order” by seizing faux emergency powers. The organizers included Republican lawmakers inside the Capitol, Trump administration officials, Trump himself, Republican strategists, Republican lawyers, and violent militia groups acting in a coordinated fashion with the others.

Everyone who so much as crossed a single toe into the Capitol building itself should be rotting in federal prison for at least the next several years, but only a handful are charged with the sedition that each one of them so clearly intended. Most have been given probation or other light sentences, then left to return to their guns, their fellow extremists, and innumerable Republican campaign trails.

To get a feel for what is most likely to happen next, two stories from the rapidly failing state of Idaho give an unpleasantly detailed look at just how vigorous the American fascist movement has become. The New York Times focuses on the entirely deserved travails of the Idaho Republican Party, which has embraced fascist extremism wholeheartedly only to find that their less extremist officials have little hope of holding out against the venomous terrorist-adjacent batshit extremist white nationalist pro-fascist scum that the party embraced in their long-term efforts to demonize anyone in the state not willing to do the most extremist thing at any given moment.

The party is now a den of militia-premised violent extremism. it has been taken over by white nationalists who identify not just with the state’s growing fascist militia groups but with the tattered remnants of the John Birch Society—a segregationist, misogynistic conspiracy group that was once akin to the current “QAnon” movement, but one that flourished back in the times when unhinged conspiracy rants had to be mailed out from one person to the next behind actual postage stamps. The poster child for this new pro-fascism Republicanism is the state’s own Lt. Governor Janice McGeachin, now infamous for staging her own petty coups every time the state’s hard-right sitting governor so much as goes out for a cup of coffee.

The story of the Idaho Republican Party is quite simple. The party continues to embrace the state’s most dangerous proto-terrorist networks, white supremacist cults that have moved to the state and set up shop there with the specific intent of toppling the American government and founding a white nationalist ethnostate premised on shooting anyone who objects. The party endorses radicals who promote violent solutions. It is unashamed about putting the endorsers of terrorist rhetoric on school boards or in other local positions because backing anti-American militia crackpots is considered the lesser of two evils when considered against the purely imaginary dangers of supposed “critical race theory” being taught in the public schools—schools that much of the movement believes shouldn’t exist at all.

So you’ve got Republican candidates for office showing up at events in which other speakers are leading prayers asking for God’s support for their attempts to secede from America to form their own nationalist murderstate, and anyone left in Republican circles who thinks that might be grotesque behavior now labels themselves a “traditional” Republican and struggles to explain to voters that despite their own party’s willing embrace of this batshit nuttery, embracing terrorism-premised ethnostate rebellions is Bad, actually, and what the hell are the rest of you people even thinking.

The second look into Idaho’s collapse into what seems likely to become a failed state is a much longer and more comprehensive writeup from Huffpost’s Christopher Mathias, one that examines what the guts of Idaho’s rapidly surging extremism actually looks like on the ground.

The most important takeaway is that the extremists make no effort to hide their eagerness to embrace terrorism—not just to achieve their desired white nationalist utopia, but against any public official, private citizen, or stray school-aged children who offer up objections. Far-right activists brag not just about their intentions of wiping America out and replacing it with a fascist state, but about their access to doting Republican leaders who continue to back them no matter how radical the movement becomes.

So, as one example, a racial justice protest by a group of local high schoolers suddenly finds themselves opposed by “40 men in camo gear carrying AR-15s” telling them they “deserved to be raped” for staging their rally. The militia stains were backed by a Republican county commissioner, who had requested a public counter to the high schoolers, and if you are beginning to believe that there’s no evident means of de-radicalizing Idaho’s violent underbelly aside from sending in armed federal officials in to clean house the hard way, you’re not likely to be alone.

This is what the new anti-democratic, pro-fascist, pro-violence bent of Republicanism looks like. It is not a question of avoiding violence; the people with pictures of guns on their hats and clothing are intent on using violence, real or threatened, against anyone who might oppose them. To be a non-radical government official in Idaho means facing violent threats over anything from textbooks to mask guidance to vaccines to local ordinances—threats which will be either ignored or endorsed by Republican candidates looking to consolidate power.

Both of these Idaho reports focus, perhaps as necessity, on individual officials who are either promoting the radicalization or attempting to oppose it. Much of the radicalization can be traced to profoundly mean two-bit local Republican powerbrokers like Brent Regan, a valuable ally to anti-semites, white supremacists, and assorted other terrorism-adjacent extremists. Less examined is the plain truth that none of these white nationalist thugs and other human poisons would be getting anywhere if a very broad chunk of the state’s Republican voters didn’t back those things. They do. McGeachin hangs out with the would-be architects of a terrorism-premised white nationalist state and pays no price because the Republican church-goers of her state want someone at least as extremist is she is to be in a top government position.

For all the talk about fascist outsiders traipsing into Idaho to transform it into White Nationalist Disneyland, you don’t hear many accounts of them facing widespread public opposition from the good Christian salt-of-the-earth locals who don’t want white nationalist terrorism, just the white nationalism part. Those are the people who may or may not have power to stop domestic terrorism cells from flourishing in their own towns, but they absolutely have the power to prevent such cells from gaining Republican Party-backed representation in their local and state governments.

And yet:

The state of Idaho provides us with what may be a very accurate picture of what the rest of Republicanism will soon look like, as the party refuses to back down from its own attempted coup, as it continues to work feverishly to sabotage investigations into the violence it caused, as it brazenly passes law after law putting new asterisks on presumed civil rights, and smugly brags as a judiciary stacked with movement ideologues nods and claims none of those things are rights to begin with. There’s no effort inside Fox News to stop hosts from broadcasting false claims used to justify new terrorist movements. The Republican officials who have encouraged militia thugs to turn out to oppose protesting schoolchildren have not been wringing their hands at how far downhill things have gone since then.

Most to the point, however, both the nation’s media and the nation’s government has signaled that violent insurrection is not, in fact, so antithetical to our nation’s democracy that it cannot be tolerated. It is being tolerated. It is being pressed for, still, and none of the people doing the pressing are paying any significant price. The architects walk free—and, through lawyers, simply ignore congressional and law enforcement demands to tell what they know.

That lack of urgency, treating a party-backed descent into fascism as a status quo issue in which congressional panels shuffle along in relative obscurity and individual saboteurs rallying to thwart the transfer of presidential powers get hurried through our courts while largely dodging the question of how it was that each of them got there, is almost certainly working to boost Idaho’s own seditionist fervor. If you can intentionally storm the Capitol and successfully, for a time, thwart the outcome of a democratic election, and even that is met with no great resistance from the government you were trying to topple, then as an extremist it would seem quite reasonable to treat the episode as little more than a practice run. The militia groups threatening schoolchildren in Idaho will hardly be quaking in terror if a few of their members are slapped with middling sentences for doing what their entire militias are premised on doing.

And the Republican Party officials who continue to back the notion of erasing elections when the votes coming in from non-Republican American cities go to candidates who are not their own have no reason whatsoever to balk now. There is no national shunning. Chuck Todd and Meet the Press will banter with the advocates for sedition on what new tax policies might look like. Local far-right gadflies who have screamed for scrubbing out votes are elected to new positions; those unwilling to back such crimes continue to be tossed out.

The press has acted with cowardice from beginning to end, treating democracy and overthrow as competing theories of government that must each be balanced against the other.

The Republican Party has acted as fervent backer of fascist insurrection, and continues to, and pays no price.

The Democratic Party pretends at normalcy even after coup, still waiting for “decent” Republicans to find their soul rather than acknowledging that anti-election extremism coupled with faux-populist hoax is the soul of Republicanism as currently practiced.

We are told that the Department of Justice, the independent portion of government tasked with responding to criminal acts by American citizens against each other, is on the case. And the clock ticks on toward a November election that may render their careful deliberations moot as pro-insurrection candidates vow to immunize the top criminals from whatever charges prosecutors might yet announce.

There is literally no reason for the Idaho Republican Party to disengage from the state’s pro-sedition, pro-terrorism wing—at least until acts of terrorism start popping up in the state with enough regularity or impact to cause the federal government to step in and erase whichever militias crossed those lines. Republican lawmakers will continue to carry guns to protect themselves from their own far-right. School board members will continue to face personal threats of violence after Republican-backed smear campaigns, and local officials will continue to face Republican-backed opponents who appear at white nationalist conventions and bow their heads with everyone else as the crowd prays for the violent erasure of all those who oppose them, or might oppose them, or who they simply do not like.

The real question is not how this ends, because it will absolutely end with violence. The Republican Party in Idaho is absolutely assuring that. The only question is how the violence will unfold, how many victims there will be, how many of the victims will be Republicans that the party pretends to give a damn about versus other Idaho residents that they don’t, and which of the names currently appearing in these two news stories will end up dead at the end of it, elevated to martyr status by Tucker Carlson and/or whatever collection of dimwitted fascists remain.

This will end with the feds having to take action, because the Idaho Republican Party is rapidly becoming a front for the state’s far-right militia groups and the whole premise of those militia groups is to push against the boundaries of what’s considered terrorism and what’s not until there’s no choice left but to get into a shooting war. Even the state’s Republicans can see things bending that way, but so long as it provides a momentary election advantage, they’re still content to ride that extremist wave.




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