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Opinion >  Editorial

Redoubt movement threatens Idaho politics

A Washington Post article about the “American Redoubt” is being shared on social media near and far. Newspapers are featuring the reporting on this movement of survivalists looking for a haven from the anarchy they believe is inevitable.

North Idaho is the focus of the Post article, and if this all sounds familiar, it’s because The Spokesman-Review’s Betsy Z. Russell reported on this phenomenon last spring. The article appeared on May 15, with the headline “Extreme right invites like-minded to region.”

The Post reporter talked with Don Bradway, who arrived almost five years ago from California. Russell also spoke with Bradway. He told her, “I know people who’ve said, ‘I’m looking for something that’s defensible, if the teeming hordes come surging out of Spokane.’ ”

So why worry? If people want to drop hundreds of thousands of dollars to stay off the grid and build defensible spaces, is anyone else harmed?

It wouldn’t matter if they were looking for a place to lay low, but some survivalists get involved in politics and bring their over-the-top suspicions with them.

Bradway, for instance, is a Republican precinct committeeman. And like-minded people are behind campaigns to oust more reasonable political leaders.

Though Idaho is one of the more conservative states in the union, Redoubters lump many of its Republican leaders with liberals. Some leaders have been pushed out of office and replaced with people who believe the government is coming for everyone’s guns and that one-world government is hiding behind a nearby tree.

Rather than focus on better schools and improved health care, extremists obsess about “Muslim enclaves” and “taking back” public lands the state never possessed in the first place. They want sheriffs who will rebuff the federal government when they decide – rather than the courts – that the founding document has been besmirched.

The good news – overlooked by the Washington Post article – is that reasonable Republicans largely prevailed during the Idaho primary in May. Kootenai County Sheriff Ben Wolfinger easily beat his “constitutionalist” sheriff opponent. Jim Chmelik, one of the region’s leading proponents for public land takeovers, lost his bid for re-election as Idaho County commissioner. Four far-right incumbent legislators in North Idaho were defeated.

So, in the short term, it would appear as if the majority of Idahoans haven’t bought into the fear-based agenda of the extreme right. They don’t envision teeming hordes streaming out of the Lilac City.

But the battle for the Republican Party, which is essentially the whole ballgame in Idaho, will drag on. Redoubters will recruit others to move to North Idaho, and possibly enlist them in their political battles.

The internet is rife with conspiracy theories. Websites stoke the fear. An online radio station offers helpful advice for people preparing for the great unraveling.

So stay vigilant, reasonable Idahoans, because the future you want to build may be undone by people preparing for the end.

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