On June 9, the Ravalli County Commission wasted half an hour of taxpayers’ time and money giving a regrettably inadequate presentation on “coordination,” their far-right scheme to use truncated, Civil War-era interpretations of the Constitution to nullify federal laws and actions they don’t like. They have already contracted with the Texas-based industry front group American Stewards of Liberty for $150 an hour to aid them in their effort to advance this failed cause of the Confederacy by cherry-picking the word “coordination” out of mountains of federal regulations and claiming that this word means exactly what ASL, the Old South, and our commissioners say it means.
In Commissioner Kanenwisher’s own words at the June 9 meeting: “So what does ‘coordinate’ mean? Well, that’s what lawyers are for. And they decided that coordination means exactly what coordination means. In other words, ‘coordinate’ is a different form of the word ‘subordinate.’ So those two things mean different things.”
Translation: Our commissioners have now committed our county to pay ASL to fight the federal government with old school, militia-style county supremacy tenets. For context, remember this is the same commission that spent $200 for an “unfringed” flag because the old “fringed” one was deemed treasonous to their conspiracy-dependent supporters.
So how did the last three years of far-right, militia-style extremism in the Bitterroot pan out for us? Remember Celebrating Conservatism and the militia-masterminds our then-candidate, now-elected commissioners, invited into our community to school us on how to run their version of government? Here’s a partial rundown:
American Stewards of Liberty lawyer Fred Kelly Grant, who equates the American Revolution with the “rebellion” the South lost in the Civil War, and who wonders aloud whether we should not have another “rebellion” or “revolution.”
Flathead Liberty Bell’s Shaeffer Cox, who’s currently locked up in Fairbanks, Alaska, awaiting trial on state and federal charges of conspiring to murder judges and state troopers, and whose video, “The Solution,” admonishes viewers to “kill for liberty” and is required viewing for prospective Liberty Bell members.
Flathead Liberty Bell and Celebrating Conservatism, which circulated and published identical “2nd Amendment Declarations” last year, suggesting signers might decide to overthrow the government if they felt like it. Commissioner Suzy Foss signed this petition.
Montana’s Constitution Party, whose founder and former chair Michael Heit was involved with current militia fugitive David Burgert in a militia murder scheme in the Flathead dubbed Project 7. Most recently Heit was caught lying about his status as a Vietnam War veteran in order to obtain benefits.
Constitution Party presidential candidate and current Kalispell resident Chuck Baldwin, whose philosophy is encapsulated in his statement: “The South was right in the War between the States.”
Jury Nullification advocate Red Beckman, who declared that Jews deserved the Holocaust because they killed Jesus.
Remember, all three new commissioners as well as our new county attorney consorted with, curried favor with, and spring-boarded to power from those bizarre organizations and characters and have, to date, never disassociated themselves from them.
So what does this all mean for our fragile democratic processes we depend on to stay involved in local decision-making? Again, from Kanenwisher’s “coordination” presentation: “The primary and most effective conversations these federal agencies can have with the general public is through their local government. That’s the democratic process…Are you saying there’s not public comment in that? Well yeah, that’s what I’m saying.”
Translation: The new commissioners need to cut the public out in order to advance their extremist agenda. They want to replace years of public involvement in planning efforts with a shadow-government model, an ad hoc committee that they intend to stack with those of like mind. More simply put, they will give the power back to “We The People” by cutting us out. They will advance democracy by eliminating it. They will give us the vote by taking it away. We, of course, will like it because they—including a county treasurer who also couldn’t do her job—were elected.
The so-called Tea Party movement that lent the militia movements new steam after the election of our first non-white president is demonstrably riddled with extremists. Burgert, Cox, and Beckman are just some of them.
We demand that our commissioners and county attorney, as well as the new planning office manager, either publicly and irrevocably disassociate themselves with these far-right characters, supporters, and groups or spit out what they really intend, instead of wasting our time and money on any more disingenuous “presentations.”
Coordinator, Bitterroot Human Rights Alliance