According to a report from the New York Times, the already highly conservative Idaho Republican Party is attempting to stave off an insurgency of militia members, John Birch Society members and other far-right extremists who are trying to grab the reins of power in the sparsely populated state.
As the Times' Mike Baker documents, aspiring candidates recently showed up to make their pitch at a John Birch sponsored candidates' forum in north Idaho, where some attendees applauded when an aspiring lawmaker proposed “machine guns for everyone" and another advocated taking over federally-owned lands.
According to Baker, the battle between extremist Lt. Gov Janice McGeachin (R) and current Gov. Brad Little, who has pushed to slash taxes and ban abortions, is an example of how far the Idaho GOP could be headed.
"The bitter intraparty contest between Ms. McGeachin and Mr. Little, set to be settled in the state’s primary election on Tuesday, reflects the intensifying split that is pitting Idaho’s conventional pro-gun, anti-abortion, tax-cut conservatives against a growing group of far-right radicals who are agitating to seize control of what is already one of the most conservative corners of the Republican Party in the country," Baker wrote, adding that Idaho has, for years become a hub of anti-government sentiments and now there is a move to take over the GOP apparatus and move the state even farther into extremism.
"Over the years, the Idaho panhandle has been home to white supremacist groups and people ready to take up arms against the U.S. government. Such groups and their allies have been particularly wary of the changing nature of Idaho’s cities, including the legions of other newcomers responding to a booming job market in Boise," the report states. "In Idaho, where Mr. Trump won 64 percent of the vote in 2020, carrying 41 of the state’s 44 counties, many longtime Republicans fear the party’s name, identity and deep conservative values are being commandeered by the state’s fringe elements."
In an interview, former lieutenant governor Jack Riggs issued a warning to his fellow Republicans stating, "If traditional Republican principles in Idaho want to survive, then the traditional Republicans are going to have to work harder.”
The Times report adds, "Mr. Riggs said the local party has been increasingly taken over by zealots motivated by a desire to limit the influence of government, sometimes at the expense of the traditional Republican goals of promoting business and growth. Many of the new activists, he said, express a willingness to fight the U.S. government, with arms if necessary."
Of note, Baker wrote is the resurgence of the Birchers in the state.
"One of the growing powers in the region is the John Birch Society, which dominated the far right in the 1960s and 1970s by opposing the civil rights movement and equal rights for women while embracing conspiratorial notions about communist infiltration of the federal government," he explained. "The group was purged from the conservative movement decades ago but has found a renewed foothold in places like the Idaho panhandle."
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