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Issue #55: North Idaho, Militias, and the "American Redoubt"
An attack on a PRIDE event was foiled
A few weeks ago, Idaho held its primaries for state and federal offices. I already had an interest in the Idaho races due to the crazy story of Governor Brad Little being challenge by his own Lt Governor. Little. a moderate Republican (by Idaho standards, still conservative) faced a challenge from Lt Gov Janice McGeachin, a far-right politician. McGeachin has ties to the growing far-right and militia presence in the region; especially in North Idaho. This race led me down a rabbit hole of examining politics in the area.
North Idaho and eastern Washington has been home to extremists for decades, most famous for the Aryan Nations. However, that only begins to tell the story. Recent years have seen a growing militia and far-right presence, with a political arm that is stronger than ever before. The situation drew widespread news over the weekend when police in Coeur d'Alene, a North Idaho town, arrested several members of the Patriot Front, a white nationalist group that aimed to cause a riot at the scheduled Pride parade. Police found out their plans ahead of time, and stopped them before they could hurt anyone.
This incident happened as I continued my research into politics in North Idaho. I want to share what I’ve been working on.
The American Redoubt
As stated, this region of the United States has long had a reputation for extremism. The Aryan Nations were set up in North Idaho, until a lawsuit from a violent assault bankrupted the organization. Meanwhile, across the border in Eastern Washington, religious extremists and white nationalists set up shop in the rural counties. These isolated pockets are perfect for these groups to grow. Eastern Washington is home to Matt Shea, a far-far-far right former state house member who openly talks about creating a Christian theocracy, and using violence to get it. He is a disgrace to the Christian faith and also a terrifying man. He was recently detained in Poland when he was found trying to adopt orphans from Ukraine. Considering this man has talked about a “Christian army” - this is concerning! Don’t worry, the kids were removed from his custody. My only regret is we let him back in here.
In recent years, this entire region has become known as the American Redoubt - a term coined by survivalist James Wesley Rawles. The American Redoubt is loosely meant to be a region of the country that far-right individuals can migrate to and be free of federal government overreach. Its a popular concept with many groups and people. The Redoubt is broadly viewed as this region of the nation.
You can watch more about the movement here.
North Idaho is considered the prime move-in destination. As a result, population figures in the Idaho panhandle have exploded. The broad brush for those who are making the move are deeply conservative individuals. Some of these are religious conservatives, others are libertarians. Many, if not most, share a survivalist mentality, believing the Government will eventually turn tyrannical or the economic system will collapse. Many new homes are built with shelters. The gun culture here is huge. As a result of this brew of conservative ideologies, militias have a fertile home here.
These militias are not uniform, and have their own agendas. A prominent militia in the area is the Idaho Three Percenters. Every militia has its own goals. The Three Percenters largely claim to be a libertarian-style group aimed to protect against federal overreach. Groups like the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, or Patriot Front, are white nationalists; and have varying ties in the region. Notably, many of the Patriot Front members arrested last weekend were not locals. Some individuals will be members with multiple groups, and the ties between groups is varied.
The militia movement in the region is a complex web, something I’ve only began to really scratch the surface on. Many of these people have ties to the infamous Bundy Ranch standoff from 2014, or the 2016 Oregon Wildlife Refuge standoff. Several members of these militias were at the Capital Insurrection on January 6th. Different militias differ on tactics, with some taking a more aggressive stance. Others aim for a more defensive stance; only acting when directly confronted (as they expect the Federal Government to do “any day now”). What they all share is a deep paranoia about government overreach.
In recent years, these militias and Redoubters (and to be clear not every conservative migrant joins a militia) have gotten much more involved in Idaho politics. They have pushed very conservative legislation; but been stonewalled by establishment conservatives. This set the course for the the primaries of 2022.
I am continuing to dig into the militia movements of the redoubt. Books ordered, podcasts listened too, countless articles read. I am working on a detailed look at Redoubt politics. When I say detailed, I mean probably 7,000-8,000 words. So stay tuned for that.
The Idaho Primaries
This research rabbit hole started with the Idaho primaries. So lets look at those really quick. Note also, the Patriot Front raid took place in Kootenai County, which is third from the top, and a major hotbed of far-right politics. That said, many local officials were very upset by the Patriot Front presence (who are still farrrrrrr to the right of even North Idaho).
In the Gubernatorial race, Governor Little earned a solid 20% win. McGeachin was a terrible candidate and floundered more than others in her far-right movement. She only won in North Idaho.
The Lt Governor primary was a closer affair. Former House Speaker Scott Bedke defeated lawmaker Priscilla Giddings, who has militia ties and drew bad headlines when she doxxed a woman who had accused a fellow far-right lawmakers of rape. The accusation was true and Giddings would be eventually censured for her actions. She lost the Lt Gov race, but still did very well in the Idaho panhandle.
The Secretary of State race was the closest, which saw Phil McGrane, the only candidate to not claim Biden stole the election, win. He narrowly outpaced militia-backed Dorothy Moon. Mary Souza took a bit from both candidates.
One of the reasons for the geographic divide in Idaho is religion. The eastern counties of Idaho have large Mormon populations. Mormon voters, by and large, do not adhere to the far-right ideology. There are prominent Mormon militia people, like the Bundy family. However, the Bundy actions have been disavowed by the church. In general, Idaho Mormon voters tend to favor establishment conservatives.
The establishment largely held off the militia-backed candidates. Far-right politicians did flip several State Senate seats, however. Many establishment incumbents lost their primaries.
The shift in the Senate is huge. Before this election, the house was already more right-wing, while the Senate was the stop-gap for extreme bills. While the far-right made huge gains, there is still a good chance Democrats and establishment Republicans will form a majority. On top of that, Little’s veto pen (and he vetoed several bills even this year) is a factor.
Patriot Front Attack
We are still learning more from the failed attack in Coeur d'Alene. It appears many, if not most, members of the group traveled to the city for the failed riot. The response in far-right circles is one of two things.
Lie and claim its “the FEDS” - a false flag effort
Anger at law enforcement, which has now expanded into doxing and threatening police officers
The Patriot Front is very much a Proud Boys style organization. The relationship between law enforcement and different militias can vary from region and group. However, relations between the law and groups like Patriot Front are extremely hostile. The Patriot Front are too extreme for North Idaho, and that is saying something.
I am going to continue researching the Redoubt and its militias. One race I will actually be watching is the 6/14 Nevada primaries. The race I am watching closest? Treasurer. In that primary, Las Vegas Councilwoman, and former lawmakers, Michele Fiore, is running. She has long held militia ties. She has also worked with Matt Shea. I will be watching how she does out in the rural counties. I expect huge margins.
A final note, and this is a bit of fun. I find myself asking, why does a group of people who are clearly paranoid about disaster move to the region of the country known for its massive super-volcano.
Just a thought.