Remember Celebrating Conservatism? That good old Johnny Reb revivalist show that camped at our publicly-funded fairground for a couple years after the 2008 elections? You must remember them, especially if you want to understand how this county got itself into this current pickle we are all paying dearly for.
A reminder then. Celebrating Conservatism was the outfit that marched a hit parade of extreme-right rock stars through our county to “educate” us about various conspiracy theories that, according to them, warranted advocating for civil war or at least for threats of violence against those they disagreed with:
• Red Beckman, the Montana Freeman associate who threatened to shoot federal employees and who taught us that the Holocaust was God’s punishment on the Jews for killing Jesus.
• Richard Mack, the Sovereign-Citizen darling who taught us that the county sheriff was the supreme law of the land and has the right to conscript you, the citizen, at will to construct fortifications around Hamilton against the time coming when black helicopters land here with Belgian troops to enforce Agenda 21.
• Shaffer Cox, who was arrested immediately after being a featured speaker at Celebrating Conservatism’s “Liberty Convention” for plotting to kill Alaska state troopers and a judge and who is now serving decades of hard time for it (talk about not doing a background check!).
• Gary Marbut of Montana Shooting Sports Association, who shared the stage with Shaeffer Cox in Hamilton on at least one occasion.
• And many more.
Remember the secessionist manifestos Celebrating Conservatism circulated and that hundreds of Ravalli County citizens – including several who now sit on our governing boards – signed?
• The “Ravalli County Questionnaire”, the cut-and-paste, common-scheme paper terrorism threat to county employees that they would be tried by a “citizen grand jury” if they didn’t buckle to the signers’ paranoid demands?
• The “Second Amendment Declaration”, which threatened civil war if one more law they didn’t approve of was passed?
All three commissioners – Foss, Stoltz and Kanenwisher – as well as County Attorney, Bill Fulbright, who won their seats in the 2010 election, were either directly tied to Celebrating Conservatism, signed their secessionist threats or pandered to the groundswell of paranoia this group represented for their votes and support. Also directly tied or associated with this extremist group are:
• Terry Nelson, chair of the Ravalli County Republican Central Committee, who was appointed by ALL FIVE Republican commissioners to fill a well-paid government position (with health care benefits!) he was not qualified for.
• Jeff Burrows, who was appointed by ALL the remaining Republican commissioners after Kanenwisher pulled a Palin and split the country.
• Valerie Stamey.
• Her husband, Rick Stamey, who now sits on our Planning Board.
• Almost every other surviving member of the Planning Board.
• Members of every other county board that has had vacancies filled since the 2010 extremist coup.
• The “Ravalli County Tea Party Patriots”.
How did we allow ourselves to get into this mess? It didn’t happen overnight, and it isn’t the fault of one single treasurer or three single commissioners. They, as well as the local Republican hierarchy in general – Chilcott, Iman, Hawk, Thomas, etc. – are doing exactly what they told you, the voter, they intended to do. They are remaking our governing bodies into their own developer-beholden images.
Stamey, Foss, Ballance, Boulanger and, now, Theresa Manzella, are really only the point people for this reactionary movement that has been going on within the developer circles of the local and state Republican Party since the militia flare-up here in the Bitterroot in the mid-90s. Remember that one? When Bitterroot Rep. Matt Brainard introduced a “state militia” bill in the legislature days before Oklahoma City was bombed? When the Ravalli County Courthouse received a bomb threat on THE SAME DAY as Oklahoma City? When Conrad Burns brought Militia of Montana founder John Trochmann to a congressional hearing immediately after the Oklahoma bombing to “school” senators on county supremacy and state’s rights? Twenty years later, Trochmann’s Sanders County protégé, Jennifer Fielder, is the vice-president of the Montana Republican Party. The proof’s in the pudding. So-called “moderates” within the state and local Republican Party organizations have not only never distanced themselves or their party from those who suffer from the extremist paranoid views of Celebrating Conservatism and Militia of Montana, they have PANDERED to them for their votes so they can continue the percolation of wealth and limited resources to their developer-benefactors.
It is critical that enough Ravalli County voters, whatever their party affiliation or non-affiliation is, understand the Montana Republican Party’s history over the last two decades and the dire consequences – now playing out at your local county administration buildings – of the unlearned lesson of allowing one’s bigotry to get the best of one’s common sense. Ravalli County voters: pay heed to what these people who seem so laughable to you now expound upon in public before you cast your votes again in any election of any significance, because these point people not only mean what they say, they have the developer-bucks and the “moderate” Republicans to back them up.
A note to doubters: all of the above is fact-checkable for the very simple reason that neither you nor I could possibly make it up.