Local Far Right on Display

The names on this poster are a who’s who of far right in the Inland Northwest. When I was young my mother often warned me, “You will be judged by the company you keep.” I’m not sure that is entirely just, but I think it behooves voters to be aware of the company that candidates and office-holders keep. 

Soon-to-be former WA State Representative Matt Shea (LD4, Spokane Valley and points north and east) is near top billing, as is ID State Representative Heather Scott (LD1A, Canadian border to south of Sandpoint). Once a person has attained a government position, it offers the person an aura of legitimacy. (We see this in another Shea acolyte, Jason Kinley, a naturopathic physician recently appointed to the Spokane Regional Health District’s Board of Health, who spouted fringe medical ideas at the May 1 Shea-promoted stay-home protest.) 

Take note of the name Rob Chase, former Treasurer of Spokane County and recently declared candidate in the shuffle for one the LD4 Representative seats in Washington State. What is he doing speaking at a “Liberate America” gathering in North Idaho? Chase is also on record as “seeing nothing wrong” with Shea’s “Biblical Basis for War” document. Chase is a frequent attendee at Greenbluff’s Northwest Grassroots gatherings, infamous for hosting James Allsup. Allsup is the young eastern Washingtonian white supremacist whose contorted face appeared among the marchers at Charlottesville. Among “birds of a feather” Chase’s plumage is clear.

The updated “Guest Speaker” listing above (found on Redoubt News), rightly gives Ammon Bundy, son of Cliven Bundy of Bundyville, Nevada, top billing. Ammon, with his father, was pivotal in the armed standoff at the Bundy Ranch in Nevada in 2014. Ammon gained further notoriety leading the deadly occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon in 2016. LeVoy Finicum achieved what these people characterize as martyrdom in that incident (Finicum was shot dead after pulling a gun on state troopers). Both Matt Shea and Heather Scott traveled to the Malheur occupation in solidarity, perhaps in the hope the occupation might be the right spark to touch off the national conflict they stoke. Ammon Bundy apparently recognized friends and fertile ground for his ideas. He now resides in Emmet, Idaho, from which he peddles his ideas in the Inland Northwest.

Joey Gibson is founder of “Patriot Prayer,” a small group notable for violent clashes in demonstrations in Portland OR. Patriot Prayer attracts white supremacists and the alt-right, including the “Proud Boys.” The “Proud Boys” recently made local news for vandalizing a memorial display for Covid-19 victims at Spokane City Hall. Joey Gibson demonstrated his lack of broad-based electoral appeal in WA State in 2018 by running against WA State’s U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell. He garnered 2.3% of the vote. Even so, he carries on as a political agitator, as this “Liberate America” billing shows.

John Jacob Schmidt (the alias of Jack Robertson) spreads the word by hosting a weekly podcast on Radio Free Redoubt. 

Rene Holladay, aka “Lady Liberty” of the theocratic Liberty State movement (and former Shea aide), is also the author of a book, “The Perils of Sustainable Development.” 

Tom Deweese, new to me with this poster, is a national figure, founder of the right wing 501(c)(4), the American Policy Center, and prominent promoter of conspiracy theories around Agenda 21.  Agenda 21 is a non-binding UN resolution around sustainability alleged to be “the linchpin in a plot to subjugate humanity under an eco-totalitarian regime.”

Pastor Afshin Yaghtin leads the small fundamentalist and activist New Covenant Baptist Church at 5109 N Adams St in Spokane. He is a close ally of Pastor Ken Peters of the Covenant Church at 3506 W Princeton Ave, Spokane, where Matt Shea sometimes preaches and holds forth as a supposed persecuted patriot. Both pastors and Matt Shea have been involved in “The Church at Planned Parenthood,” yet another idealogical means of rallying political support.

Ingri Cassel and Jaclyn Gallion are active local leaders in the anti-vaccination movement. 

Pay attention. These people are not benign, to which Matt Shea is testament. They aim to be elected or appointed to public office and thus gain influence and a whiff of legitimacy. Knowing their backgrounds and associations is key to knowing where they would like to take us–and I, for one, don’t want to go there. 

What does it mean when every one of the folks listed as a Guest Speaker for “Liberate America” is part of a known subculture laced with 1) white supremacy, 2) armed intimidation and rebellion, 3) the theocratic Liberty State, 4) the anti-vaccination movement, or 5) weird conspiracy theories around non-binding United Nations resolutions, Covid-19, and sustainable development?  

Follow the links to familiarize yourself with these people. You will be rewarded by recognizing their associations each time you see their names in print. It’s a useful exercise. 

Keep to the high ground,

P.S. The Economist (rated “least biased” by mediabiasfactcheck.com) on May 17th published an article that puts some of what the Kootenai Fairgrounds’ “Liberate America” likely represents into a national perspective:  “America’s far right is energised by covid-19 lockdowns” It is an interesting read–and there is no paywall for this article. The Inland Northwest has long been a center for some of these movements.

Covid and the Culture Factor

Thanks to the work of epidemiologists the world over we know how not to spread this virus, or, better said, those who are paying attention know how not to spread this virus. This is a virus spread primarily by respiratory means, mostly respiration in relatively closed spaces. All the studied case clusters here and abroad have two ingredients: an enclosed space, a bus, a room, a restaurant, AND the addition of one individual who does not know (yet, at least) that they are infected and shedding virus with every breath, shout, song, cough, or sneeze. In those cases the spread is, well, viral, and each newly infected individual goes out and potentially spreads the disease in wavelets. 

Six foot social distancing is only a useful for being easy to remember. There is no magical barrier at the six foot limit, especially indoors. I highly recommend the following two articles (the first of which I highlighted last week) to inform your understanding of what we know of the transmission of this disease:

From a Dr. Erin Bromage, professor of biology at UMass: https://www.erinbromage.com/post/the-risks-know-them-avoid-them?fbclid=IwAR0pFNF7i8Rf_LVRLSZhyFNfDe8KvjbO8zdhMxhq9mogDuHlyCzYiYFQeZo

Here’s Dr. Bromage in a 7 minute video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uqqPY8N2d-8

From Dr. Atul Gawande, renowned physician and communicator, based in the hospital system in which I trained: https://www.newyorker.com/science/medical-dispatch/amid-the-coronavirus-crisis-a-regimen-for-reentry

For my part, sadly, it is going to be a long time before I am comfortable sitting in an indoor restaurant or, even more sadly, attending any sort of energetic dance venue (indoor or out), or exercising with others in a gym, or traveling in a commercial airplane. Masks in those situations would help but they’re problematic, either practically (eating) or aesthetically (dancing). Obviously, all this gets more risky next fall when we try to come back indoors. 

The culture factor is paramount. Our abysmal, science-and-reality-denying national leadership, with its encouragement of protests against Democratic governors in swing states, is making mask-wearing yet another badge of partisan division, when that leadership should be touting mask-wearing as a patriotic duty, a public health courtesy, and a nod to the reality that we’re all in this together. National guidance is blocked (from the CDC) or misused for partisan advantage. That leadership failure is already killing us on a per capita basis [the bold is mine]:

Australia, China, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, and Taiwan, among others, all have kept deaths below 10 per million population, compared with 271 per million in the United States.

The contrast of the culture fostered by the man in the White House compared that of more successful countries is pointedly detailed in this three and a half minute video [worth your time to watch and share]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VYQvWuiXC8c

Instead of uniting us against the risks, uniting us in our universal desire to get back to some semblance of normal life with honest, scientifically based guidance and preparation we find ourselves in a culture with people who flaunt their “liberty” to put us all at risk. 

Ironically, as long as enough of us are careful enough, the odds of an asymptomatic virus-spreader appearing at and infecting a church full of people in, say, Stevens County, will be small, and the attendees will increasingly be convinced of the rectitude of their resistance to any call for unity. It is a  paradox that will only resolve as travel restrictions ease and people become more lax. The culture that flaunts bare faces and heedless attendance at large indoor social gatherings will eventually spread the virus. The only question is when. If it is going to happen we can hope it does so before the late fall.

Keep to the high ground,

Candidate Gamesmanship, WA State

Last Friday afternoon, May 15 at 4PM, online “candidate filing” closed at the Spokane County Elections Office. Within the following hour a link appeared, Spokane County Candidates Who Have Filed, revealing the names of those eastern Washington candidates running on Spokane County election ballots in the Primary on August 4. There were several surprises, the most startling of which occurred in Washington State Legislative District 4, the area east of the City of Spokane to the Idaho border and north to Mt. Spokane. (See map.)

LD4’s incumbent state legislators are Mike Padden (State Senator), Bob McCaslin (State Rep, Position 2, also known as “McCaslin Junior” to distinguish him from his late father, also an LD4 Rep [see P.S. below]), and the infamous Matt Shea (State Rep, Position 1 [as Senior Representative from the district]).

In a move that surprised many, Matt Shea did not file for election to a 7th term. He had been defiant in the face of growing and nationally circulating evidence of his ties to white supremacy, advocacy for a theocratic “Liberty State,” his and his followers’ preparations for a “Biblical War,” his preaching and association with the Covenant Church and the Marble Community Fellowship, and his involvement with Ammon Bundy and the Malheur Wildlife Refuge standoff. Lately he has been featured leading protest marches in Spokane with assault-weapons-armed folk shoulder-to-shoulder, without face masks, protesting the Covid-19 rules. Shea made news recently when the State presented him with a bill for $4700 for cleanup of the steps at the capitol in Olympia after he and shofar-blowing protesters poured olive oil there. They were performing an “invocation,” summoning their deity to purify the State House in the wake of a peaceful demonstration by the Seattle-based Satanic Temple of Washington.

Instead of filing for LD4, Shea signed up for an unopposed position as the Republican Precinct Officer for PCT 4438 in the southeast corner of the City of Spokane Valley (See map). He is not going to disappear from the scene. Matt Shea will be around giving fiery sermons, leading armed protestors, and plotting his military theocracy. What happens to the money in his campaign kitty bears watching. 

BUT, Shea won’t be in the WA State legislature (as a legislator), at least not for the next two years…

However, Shea’s acolyte and supporter, McCaslin Junior, did file for re-election, but here’s where the gamesmanship appeared: McCaslin Junior waited until 3:47:00PM on Friday to file and then filed not for the Representative position he had held, Position 2, but for Position 1, the seat Shea had occupied.

Political games: Incumbent WA State representatives, if they strategically wait until the last moment, might get to chose their challenger instead of their challenger choosing them. Lori Feagan, a respected Spokane Valley nurse practitioner, filed on Monday, May 11, to run against incumbent Matt Shea and Shea’s declared Republican challenger, Leonard Christian for Position 1. Due to Friday’s political shennanigans, Lori Feagan isn’t running against either Shea or Christian.

Follow the shell game. Ms. Feagan signed up for Position 1 against Shea for on May 11. The same day, Leonard Christian also filed to run against Shea for Position 1. As we come down to the wire at 4PM May 15 there is no sign of Shea at the electronic filing counter. With 13 minutes left, McCaslin Junior cancels his Position 2 filing (the incumbent seat he holds) and files instead for Position 1 against Ms. Feagan. Meanwhile, Leonard Christian swoops in, literally, at the last minute, 3:59:00PM on May 15th, to jump away from opposing McCaslin in Position 1, to opposing Lance Gurel, an accountant who recently ran for City of Spokane Valley City Council, for Position 2. Meanwhile, Rob Chase (right wing Republican, frequent flyer at Northwest Grassroots, and former Spokane County Treasurer), without any announcement of which I was aware, also throws his hat in the ring for Position 2 with 16 minutes, 42 seconds to spare. (I extracted this drama from the County website data you can see here.)

Is your head spinning yet? No wonder a lot of people who get elected have degrees in political science or cozy up to a Party apparatus. 

Final line-up for the LD4 Representatives in the August Primary (omitting candidates with no campaign funds and no name recognition):

Position 1:
Lori Feagan (D)  
McCaslin Junior (R)
and 2 others with little name recognition and no funding reported to the PDC:
Mike Conrad (R)
Dave Whitehead (R)

Position 2:
Lance Gurel (D)
Leonard Christian (R)
Rob Chase (R)
and 2 others with little name recognition and no funding reported to the PDC:
Will DeWitt (Prefers D)
Nathan R Sybrandy (R)

A couple of fine points: If only two file for a position they don’t appear on the Primary ballot. Instead, they advance to the General Election in November automatically. In LD3, for instance, everyone (two candidates for each position) gets a pass to the November General Election. In Washington State elections claiming a preference for one party or another does not require that party to vet or endorse or even recognize the candidate declaring the preference. “Prefers” means only what it says.

For me the gamesmanship on display last Friday in LD4 was an eye-opener. One wonders if all that shifting was coordinated or gamed purely by the individuals. 

One final note: LD4 became even more interesting when, at 3:55:27PM on Friday, John Roskelley threw his hat in the ring to oppose Mike Padden for LD4 State Senator. There is also a “Prefers Independent” candidate, Ann Marie Danimus, so this race will be on the Primary ballot. John Roskelley is a former Spokane County Commissioner, a man of integrity with name recognition as a world class mountaineer. His candidacy in LD4 should make things interesting.

Keep to the high ground,

P.S. Never forget that Bob McCaslin, Sr. said, “I wish to state that under no circumstances would I support Matthew Shea for any public office.”  in 2011 before he died. In contrast, Bob McCaslin, Jr., (McCaslin Junior) the current LD4 Rep, is an acolyte of Shea’s, while he continues to ride on his father’s name.

Covid-19 Re-opening Reality

Wear a Mask? Don’t Wear a mask? Is six feet perfect protection? What are my risks? What’s the science to base all this on? We learn best from stories, and this “shoe-leather” epidemiology is a series of well researched, memorable stories of observed events to read, remember, internalize, and use as a guide.

A contra dance friend posted the link on Facebook with these words:

No flashy pictures, nothing humorous, no teasing headlines, just a tremendous amount of fact biased, good scientific information about the virus, its spread, hot spots and the hazard of indoor environments outside of your sequestered household. Written by  a Comparative Immunologist and Professor of Biology (specializing in Immunology) at [UMass] Dartmouth [MA].” 

The following is hands down the best summary article I’ve seen on how Covid-19 spreads, the best guide to what to avoid and what may be less important. Here’s the title:

The Risks – Know Them – Avoid Them

Here’s the link: https://www.erinbromage.com/post/the-risks-know-them-avoid-them?fbclid=IwAR0pFNF7i8Rf_LVRLSZhyFNfDe8KvjbO8zdhMxhq9mogDuHlyCzYiYFQeZo

Key concepts:

This virus (like the flu) is (mostly) a respiratory pathogen.

Transmission depends on proximity, length of exposure, ventilation, and the activity one is engaged in. The article offers memorable and specific examples.

Be wary of lengthy exposure to others in indoor environments. The worst spreading events happen from people who don’t yet know they’re infected. You’d best assume that anyone with whom you spend time could be spreading virus and not know it.

Keep to the high ground,

P.S. Remember back in February and March when our federal government was telling us to socially distance, wash our hands, and compulsively clean surfaces? That wasn’t bad advice, but it came with the puzzling reassurance that you did not need to rush out and buy a mask. That seemed peculiar to me at the time. Why? SARS and MERS, both coronavirus-caused diseases, are respiratory pathogens. Influenza is a respiratory pathogen. In all those countries in east Asia everyone was wearing a mask already, as were travelers from east Asia. Why was our government so smugly suggesting masks weren’t necessary? Hmmm. The Trump administration, having downplayed the threat and ignored offers of domestic N-95 mask production (in their confidence that the “free market” is always the answer) was caught unprepared for the demand for masks from healthcare workers. We, the citizens, were told mask weren’t necessary to avoid a shortage, even though the risk was pretty clear even then. In other words, our own bumbling federal leadership lied to us.

Cowles and Candidates

This Friday, May 15 at 4PM is the deadline for candidate filing with Spokane County Elections. There likely won’t be much news. One could have foreseen most state and county candidates by visiting the WA Public Disclosure Commission website (pdc.wa.gov). Potential candidates are required to file with the PDC soon after they start raising campaign funds.   

The Spokesman weighed in recently on the topic of candidates. Most of my readers understand that the Editorial Board of the Spokesman Review now consists of one writer, Stacey Cowles, the publisher. That makes the publication of the following Editorial last Sunday, May 10, the more remarkable. I challenge my readers to find the misstatement contained in this originally published version copied and pasted below. Mr. Cowles’ title point in his article is no doubt true–and most of my readers likely share Mr. Cowles’ antipathy for Matt Shea (R, LD4, Spokane Valley north to Mt. Spokane)

Editorial: Don’t let incumbents run without challenge

Candidate filing week for this year’s local and state elections is here. So far it looks like too many incumbents will get a free pass to re-election. At least disgraced Rep. Matt Shea isn’t one of them.

Democracy works best if people step up and challenge the status quo. During a campaign, candidates vigorously debate issues, policies and priorities. Then, on Election Day, voters choose between competing visions. At least, they do if there’s a choice.

Sure, running as a challenger is hard. Incumbents typically enjoy greater name recognition and can run on their experience. They have more money, and districts often have a partisan lean. This election will be especially tough. Door-to-door canvassing, rallies and house parties are on hold for social distancing.

Yet, sometimes the person who thinks “I can do better” wins. It all starts with putting one’s name on the ballot this week.

File to run against so-far unopposed Spokane County Commission incumbents Josh Kerns and Mary Kuney. Challenge Republican Sen. Mike Padden, Democratic Rep. Timm Ormsby or anyone else with no general election opponent, let alone a primary one.

We’re not saying throw all the bums out. Kerns, Kuney, Padden, Ormsby and every other incumbent can make a good case for remaining in office for another term. But they should have to make that case to the voters, and they won’t if no one runs against them.

Candidates have until Friday to file with the county.

Rep. Matt Shea
Three challengers are running against our region’s most embarrassing and now least-effective lawmaker: Republican and former Rep. Leonard Christian will oppose Matt Shea in the Republican Primary, The winner would face Democrat Lori Feagan in November–though she, too, shouldn’t get a free pass in that party primary–and independent Ann Marie Danimus.

Shea lost his ability to represent the 4th District last year when Republicans threw him out of their House caucus and removed him from all committee assignments. He occupies a chair in Olympia and nothing more. He cannot advocate for his constituents’ needs because no one will listen to him. Leaders across the political spectrum have called for his resignation.

The GOP had good reason to disavow Shea. When he wasn’t deploying intimidation tactics and proposing violence against his political opponents, he was busy advocating secession, holy war and armed conflict against the federal government. An independent report documented it all and branded him a domestic terrorist.

Shea denies it all, of course. “They hate me, like they hate President Trump,” he wrote in a recent letter to supporters. “It is political assassination, plain and simple … followed by a label lynching.”

That someone who associates with white supremacists has the audacity to liken his deserved travails to the racist horrors of lynching disqualifies him from not just election but also civil company. In recent weeks, Shea has protested COVID-19 policies. There are plenty of legitimate questions to ask about how Gov. Jay Inslee has managed the crisis, but Shea doesn’t question, he spins shadowy plots against Washingtonians’ liberty.

Residents of Eastern Washington prize their independence. Pioneers came here to live free. That never meant living alone, though. In the public square, we exercise our inalienable rights, but we also share responsibility for each other. Living close together requires rules so that one person’s pursuit of happiness doesn’t impinge on another’s. Speed limits, zoning, growth management and social distancing are all part of that compact. They are solutions that keep a level playing field so everyone enjoys a physically safer, cost-effective environment. Closing businesses temporarily isn’t a nefarious plot; it’s a measure of respect for those who are vulnerable and for their families.

People who have lived here for decades will remember weeks spent wearing masks outdoors after Mount St. Helens erupted. This time it’s months and time indoors, too. That’s not invalidation of liberty. It’s preservation of lives and society.

The 4th District leans conservative. Voters can elect a conservative who can accomplish something in the Capitol. Or they can go another direction if they choose. They’re fortunate to have a choice.

Washington State has had a “top two” primary since March of 2008, after six years of initiatives and court decisions finally put to rest by a ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court. I have some sympathy for Mr. Cowles’ confusion. Each state setting its own voting rules (a role assigned by the U.S. Constitution) makes keeping track of those rules the province of seasoned party operatives scrapping for advantage in varied and arcane systems, a contest in which Republicans have recently had the upper hand. (See P.P.S below)

That Mr. Cowles, a man of considerable political involvement, is confused over such an important point as the mechanism of the Washington State Primary, that should give us pause. What chance does the average citizen have of keeping it all straight?

Next, let us look at the Matt Shea, Leonard Christian, Lori Feagan “top two” primary election contest for the LD4 Representative position Shea now holds and Mr. Cowles showcased. To me, this three-way primary race is an argument for Ranked Choice Voting. For all the reasons Mr. Cowles details, a vote either for Leonard Christian or Lori Feagan may, in part, be cast as a vote of no confidence in Matt Shea. That is, of the usual rather low turnout in a primary election there may well be, say, 60% of voters who will not cast a vote for Mr. Shea under any circumstance, but if Shea garners the other 40% of the primary vote and the other two split their joint 60%, Shea advances to the General anyway. In an RCV election the second preference voting of the 60% might well propel Christian and Feagan to November general election as the most palatable of the candidates for a majority of the electorate. Food for thought.

One other minor note. Mr. Cowles cites Leonard Christian (R) as a “former Rep.” Mr. Christian did serve as the State Representative from LD4–for less than a year. He was appointed by the Spokane County Commissioners in January of 2014 to fill the seat from which Larry Crouse retired. In the following August’s top two primary he was bested by two primary challengers, both Republicans. A decent, establishment Republican, Mr. Christian has never been elected to public office (unless you count an uncontested election as a precinct officer).

To come full circle, Friday is the deadline to sign in as a candidate for this year’s Washington state and county elections. I agree with Mr. Cowles in wishing for more candidates.

Keep to the high ground,

P.S. Here”s the correction note posted below the current, corrected online version of the Editorial after several readers caught the error: An earlier online version of this editorial incorrectly stated that political parties hold primary elections in Washington state. Washington state primary elections are ‘top two,’ in which the top two vote-getters advance to the general election regardless of their political party.

P.P.S. The reason we tend to think of elections as federally controlled probably stems from the U.S. Supreme Court upholding the Voting Rights Act of 1965. That Act reined in abuses in some (mostly southern) state voting regulations that were seen by the Court as contrary to constitutionally granted civil rights.  More recently, in 2013, with a conservative majority, the Supreme Court removed federal oversight of voting laws in nine states, returning greater discretion to those states to discriminatory regulations.

Feel Like a Bystander?

Two years ago at this time many of us were engaged in electoral politics, knocking on doors, encouraging people to vote, advocating for particular candidates in the hope of wresting various legislative bodies from Republican/Libertarian control. In Eastern Washington many of us volunteered enthusiastically for the Lisa Brown campaign. We overcame our dread of door-knocking. We went out and talked to people. Lisa Brown did not win, but we managed to draw Republican money, time, and effort away from other campaigns. Nationally, by dint of a huge volunteer effort, the House of Representatives flipped and the Libertarian federal legislative juggernaut slowed. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA, CD5) was relegated to a back bench in the House. She lost her position as chairperson of the House Republican Conference to Liz Cheney (R-WY).

What to do now? Feeling hopeless and frustrated as you read the news? Feeling like a bystander to history? We’re cooped up by Covid-19. Door-knocking is out of bounds, potentially dangerous, and un-American under current circumstances. We watch, feeling helpless, as Mitch McConnell brings the U.S. Senate back to Washington. D.C., not to consider legislation passed by the House of Representatives, but to force through more right wing Federalist Society endorsed judges for the federal bench. He licks his chops over the prospect that Ruth Bader Ginsburg might not last until January, 2021, having stonewalled the Merrick Garland nomination for months. 

While the Electoral College still allows Republican popular vote minorities to put people like Mr. Trump in the White House, neither Idaho nor Washington is much in play in this November’s presidential election. Unless something completely unforeseen occurs, Washington’s 12 electoral votes will go the Democratic nominee, and Idaho’s 4 electoral votes will go to Trump. Potential voters whose focus is only on the presidential race will see little reason to pay attention and bestir themselves to vote. “Why bother? It’s out of our hands.”

What to do? Engage. Elections this year are the most consequential elections of my lifetime. Outcomes of state level elections in many states will determine whether Republican computerized gerrymandering continues or is curtailed. (Redistricting, done by each state, happens next year based on 2020 Census results.) In many states these same elections will determine the fate of Republican efforts to suppress the vote. (Voting in this country is mostly a state issue.) On a federal level, Democrats must take majority control of the U.S. Senate (needing a net gain of four seats). Without a Senate Democratic majority, Mitch McConnell will continue his hyper-partisan reign of obstruction, hamstringing all attempts to pass legislation favored by a majority of American voters (see Control by the Minority). If McConnell remains as leader of a Republican Senate majority he will obstruct Democratic initiatives regardless of who wins the Presidency. That would include obstructing Supreme Court nominations by a Democratic President..

But what can we weak individuals do to avoid these depressing outcomes? Sitting in our homes, getting increasingly angry and talking only to like-minded individuals is not going to cut it. Have you ever watched ants re-build an ant mound? They are persistent and energized–and they are many. So, too, are we. If we sign on and dedicate a half hour a day we can make big things happen. Here are just two of the grassroots efforts either or both of which are worth your time:

1) If more people are motivated and empowered to vote more votes for Democratic candidates will be cast. Republicans know this. Voter suppression is a key Republican tactic. Witness the actions of the Republican majority legislature in Wisconsin last month that forced thousands to risk exposure to Covid-19 in order to vote. (The appointed State Supreme Court Justice they were trying to protect lost anyway, in part on account of efforts I’m about to describe.) In many states Republican have purged voters from the voting rolls using arbitrary cutoffs. The non-partisan Reclaim Our Vote Campaign seeks to alert voters in states like these to the importance of checking their voting status before showing up at the polls. A half hour a day spent hand writing postcards to a select group of voters in selected states has the potential to drive turnout, increase awareness, and change electoral results. I am aware of several groups in the Inland Northwest involved in this effort.
Email contact for a local coordinator in Spokane Valley: petra@bethechange509.com.
Email contact for City of Spokane coordinator: eileenpostcards@gmail.com
I am also aware of a north Idaho contact for this effort. If interested, click “Reply” to this email and I can help connect you.

2) Pick a battleground state and engage from your desk. For example, Mark Kelly is the Democratic candidate running for the U.S. Senate in Arizona against an appointed and vulnerable Republican, Senator McSally (see P.S. below). One key to Mark Kelly’s run is voter turnout in Arizona legislative district 20 (northern part of the Phoenix metropolitan area). Currently LD20 is held by two state representatives and a state senator who are all Republicans. Challenging for one of the AZ State House seats is Judy Schwiebert and for the AZ State Senate seat is Doug Ervin, both very credible, decent candidates with whom I have Zoomed. By supporting their efforts in Arizona we could help tip the majority in the Arizona House and the U.S. Senate at the same time. For starters, click on their names, read about, and “Like” their Facebook pages. There are local Spokane “Sister District” efforts to support these two and local Spokane dedicated volunteers working from home on these elections. 

Something closer to home? There is a strategy to help Steve Bullock, the Democratic governor of the State of Montana in his run to unseat Republican Senator Daines. Email contact for all of #2: petra@bethechange509.com.

When I receive a postcard I pay a lot more attention to it if it is handwritten–and I don’t have any trouble telling which ones are machine printed. There are other non-postcard volunteer efforts also available. 

Get on board. Feel less helpless, less of bystander to history. and

Keep to the high ground,

P.S.  Mark Kelly is an astronaut. He is the husband of Gabby Giffords, who resigned from her U.S. House seat in 2012 after an assassination attempt that resulted in a severe brain injury. Mark Kelly is running against Martha McSally, who was appointed to John McCain’s former Senate seat. McSally tried–and was unsuccessful in a run for the the other of Arizona’s two U.S. Senate seats after Jeff Flake (Trump-critical R) resigned in 2018. (McSally lost 48%-50% to Kyrsten Sinema (D), whose term lasts another four years.) Arizona’s governor appointment of McSally to the John McCain’s old seat almost looks like a consolation prize. McSally would appear to be on thin ice in a state that could also flip its state’s house of representatives.

Protestation or Intimidation?

Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich (R) has been warning us for years about Matt Shea (R, LD4, Spokane Valley north to Mt. Spokane) and the movement Shea leads. Leah Sotille, in her podcast series Bundyville and Bundyville the Remnant, laid out the doctrine and rise of the movement, its outward swagger about 2nd Amendment “rights”, its fundamentalist theology, its warped “Patriotism”, and its ties to white supremacy. Locally, Jay Pounder and Tanner Rowe have exposed documents from the inner workings of Shea’s local organization that detail preparations for an armed takeover. 

So what is brewing among these protesters/terrorists? First, any protester who carries an assault weapon to a protest is engaging in intimidation, not protest. Such intimidation is a political weapon–a threat of violence, the same purpose the Brownshirts served in another era. Matt Shea regularly speaks at rallies of assault-weapons-carrying intimidators at Franklin Park near Northtown in north Spokane. He rouses these military weapons carriers in support of his pet project, the “Liberty State,” and fosters the teaching of military tactics. His incumbent position in Washington State government encourages the tactics of intimidation of his followers, tactics supposedly based in their ideas of the sacredness that weds the 2nd Amendment to far right Christianity and theocratic government.

Intimidation tactics are on display here in Eastern Washington and northern Idaho as 2nd Amendment Fundamentalists gain a foothold in elected offices. We need to pay attention. Recent case in point: Most of my readers are familiar with the Festival at Sandpoint, a gathering that draws big names in music and thousands of audience members to this town of around ten thousand people every August, a gathering that puts millions of dollars into the local economy. The Festival (a private nonprofit) leases Memorial Field from the City of Sandpoint to hold the event. In the age of mass shootings, many performers require gun-free venues in consideration of their own safety.

Ah, but not that easy in Idaho, where the Bonner County Commissioner seats are held by 2nd Amendment Fundamentalists. These folks saw fit to file a suit, Bonner County v. City of Sandpoint, contesting the firearms ban, a suit that will cost local taxpayers of both the City and the County tens of thousands of dollars. (Bonner County is the second northernmost county of Idaho [south of Boundary County]. Sandpoint is the county seat of Bonner County.) The suit turns on a fine point of law, claiming it is unconstitutional for a private entity leasing city land in Idaho to prohibit weapons carriage. 

In a sane country and state that actually respected the rule of law, the suit, even as stupid a waste of time and money as it seems to many of us, would progress through the court system, a verdict would be reached and these two local governmental entities would abide by the ruling. 

But this is a area where Redoubt Radio issues a call to arms and a few hundred people come out in their camo jackets with their assault rifles to parade through town, folks who think it is their “patriotic” duty to appear and brandish their weapons.

So here is the part that’s frightening. Read this quote from the Bonner County Daily Bee from an article that appeared on April 30, entitled “County seeks firearms ban decision”:

“Counsel for Bonner County filed a motion for summary judgment to swiftly end the dispute, which officials contend has the potential to devolve into scenario not unlike the deadly clash at a Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017.

A large, armed protest is being planned if the prohibition against firearms during the Festival is allowed to stand. Hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of Second Amendment advocates are expected to demonstrate if the ban is not lifted, according to county officials.

“This dispute creates a highly explosive and dangerous situation ripe for a public disaster,” Amy Clemmons, the county’s counsel, said in court documents filed on Tuesday.”

How does this quote (and the whole article in the Bee) read as anything but a threat of armed rebellion, a threat made by the very county officials who would call these folks out to protest? “A large armed protest is being planned…perhaps thousands…” Let that sink in. The Commissioners of Bonner County are threatening the City of Sandpoint with a potentially violent gathering–telling the City to give in or face the consequences. This is not subtle.

This is what we get when we fail to pay close attention to whom we elect to local public office. This is how we get a Matt Shea in Eastern Washington or a Dan McDonald (Bonner County Commissioner) or a Sheriff Daryl Wheeler (Bonner County) or a Heather Scott (ID State Rep and compatriot of Washington’s Matt Shea) in northern Idaho. This is getting real. It is time to pay attention.

Keep to the high ground,

P.S. Recently announced: The Festival at Sandpoint 2020 will not be held this year on account of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is postponed to 2021. At least there won’t be a bunch of bearded, camo-covered wannabe Patriarchs parading with assault weapons and intimidating Festival goers–at least not in 2020.

P.P.S. Where were the sensible people of the State of Idaho when Republican legislators passed a state law that “forbids the prohibition of firearms in public places” by local authorities? Now the Bonner County Redoubters are wasting taxpayer money and the judicial system to extend that prohibition to private entities renting city property. What’s next?