By Bill LaCroix, Victor
At the time of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 there were a little over 800 anti-government “patriot/ militia” groups in the U.S., who defined themselves as armed enemies of either the federal or state governments, its officeholders, its employees, or all three. This represented a huge spike in both organized and dispersed anti-government bigotry from the early 90s, and it took many forms both as group actions and as individual actions in many locations, including in Oklahoma City. Here in Montana, we had conspiracy-based Freeman/Posse Comitatus-style frenzies in the Bitterroot, Jordan, the Flathead and elsewhere. Virtually all of our Montana iterations of this style of virulent right-wing populism represented dangerous situations for real citizens and their families brought on by warped versions of “patriotism” backed up with threats of armed violence or actual applications of it. Hamilton’s county courthouse, for, instance, received a bomb threat the day the Murrah Federal building in Oklahoma City was bombed.
Today, there are over 1200 conspiracy-based, anti-government “patriot/militia” groups, including several outspoken and identifiable ones right here in the Bitterroot. So it’s no laughing matter when our local right-wing populists show the skirts of their true intentions, which has been the case for quite a while but is particularly the case in the instance of the seven far-right extremists who filed for Democratic precinct chair positions under an obscure and recently-changed Montana statute (MCA 13-38-201) that seems to encourage such behavior.
Let’s be plain: the intent of these extremists is obviously to disrupt, through undemocratic and dishonest means, the current system we rely on for smooth and fair elections. The arrogant presumption of these seven conspiracy aficionados to “represent” a precinct of people who identify as belonging to the Democratic Party is definitive proof that they are not interested in democracy, and never have been. Rather, they feel free to state openly that they want to completely disenfranchise anyone who in their conspiracy-laced worldview are a subclass of “we the people” and who should therefore have no voice in their own destiny whatsoever. Consider the ongoing Family Planning debacle for reference as to how these folks feel about you and yours.
As a further example, let’s look closer at where one of these local “populists” who would wear the Democratic mantle has been coming from since at least his “Celebrating Conservatism” days. In a recent letter to the editor, current planning board chair Jan Wisniewski complained that he knew what it was like “to be on the outside looking in at an institution that only wished to silence my concerns.” He’s trotted this man-bites-dog apologia out for us before, most notably on two occasions when he maliciously stalked people. On the first, in July of 2010, he wasn’t invited to a Bitterrooters For Planning meeting (surprise!) and on his perceived strength that since he was a volunteer member of the county planning board, after all, his feelings should get hurt. And they were, and he therefore decided there was a conspiracy afoot. And indeed there was, because when BFP moved its meeting to protect its right of privacy he stalked its members by car to the new location and then engineered not-cleverly-disguised threats in the direction of the owner of the house. In another instance which occurred in October of 2010, he stalked a female county commissioner to her driveway and then out of town in another attempt to assert his warped perception of “citizens’ prerogative” as volunteer member of the county planning board. The sheriff’s already-diluted staff had to deal with this one.
Back to Mr. Wisniewski’s most-recent letter-to-the-editor, in which he informed us mere citizens that Madison Co. Commissioner Dan Happel would be leading a discussion – on our county’s dime – on the Far-Far Right’s favorite conspiracy fantasy: Agenda 21. Mr. Happel, a proponent of the same county-supremacy scheme our commissioners are enamored with and which they insist on euphemizing as “coordination,” recently delivered a not-so-veiled threat to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks board members over wolf policy, apparently in cahoots with at least one of our own commissioners.
In an additional insult to our intelligence and sense of fairness, Wisniewski has filed as a Democrat to run in HD 87. Maybe he thinks we’re as challenged as he seems to be with democratic principles, and at some level maybe we can laugh at this latest stunt. But again, it’s no laughing matter when local right-wing populists show the skirts of their true intentions. Wisniewski’s just one of the seven pranksters, but this is also just one more example of what is coming out of the Republican Party itself. Look at our unqualified commissioners. Look at our unqualified county attorney. Look at our unqualified planning office manager, who demonstrably obtained his plum government job (with health benefits!) not on the strength of his qualifications as a “planner” but rather on the strength of his being the anti-government-baiting head of the Ravalli County Republican Central Committee. Look at the mess this county’s in and the superfluous waste of our tax dollars and government energy on conspiracy snake pits like Agenda 21 and “coordination” (no offense against snakes). Look at the commissioners’ agenda sometime. This far-right nonsense is taking up more than half of their time in office, and the wreckage and lawsuits caving down on the county’s head because of their dismissive attitudes and resultant behavior is sadly predictable.
The Ravalli County Republican Central Committee owes this community a deep and sincere apology for what it has allowed to be perpetrated in its name these last few years, and in particular for this latest cynical prank coming from their own. If we don’t get that level of apology from that organization, then we know where they stand, or rather trample, on our very own cherished, personal rights that they mouth in lockstep so obediently about “protecting.”
Hopefully, this latest jack-boot stunt of theirs will hit us where it hurts enough that we’ll finally pay attention. We have not been paying enough up til now. This is truly a ridiculous waste of taxpayer time, money and energy that has been allowed to continue, by us, for way too long. Have we had enough yet?