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Opinion >  Column

Shawn Vestal: Redoubt figure and Idaho legislative candidate faces rape, molestation charges

Alex Barron is shown speaking at a Freedom Fest in Sandpoint in 2019.
Alex Barron is shown speaking at a Freedom Fest in Sandpoint in 2019.

As we mark the anniversary of a day when unhinged, violent talk turned into unhinged, violent action, it’s worth an update on North Idaho’s “Bard of the American Redoubt” – Alex Barron.

Barron, a notable figure in the ultraconservative politics of North Idaho, has said and done plenty to give people pause in recent years.

He once asked a far-right crowd at a Freedom Fest in Sandpoint, “What are you willing to kill for?” He regularly blogged antediluvian ideas about the battle of the sexes, depicting men as the victims of divorce-happy, money-grubbing feminists and claiming that women drive men to suicide in huge numbers.

“ ‘Good Christian’ women are often cold, self-absorbed, feminists, when it comes to interacting with men,” he wrote in a 2019 post on his Charles Carroll Society website. “And many of them will die barren because of their willful rejection of the men the Holy Spirit puts in their path.”

Nothing he’s said or done so far, however, compares to what police and prosecutors say he did in September. Barron stands accused of two felony charges: sexual abuse of a child and rape. According to charging documents, Barron came home drunk from a Post Falls bar, repeatedly groped and fondled a 12-year-old girl, then violently raped a woman, leaving bruises and bite marks.

Barron’s claims to officers in his own defense – that he was slipped a roofie at a local bar and that the woman who reported his crimes was given to making things up – were all but scoffed at by investigators.

“In my contact with (Barron), he appeared to be trying to absolve himself of responsibility, discredit (the victim) and minimize the events,” Kootenai County Deputy Doug Goodman wrote in a report.

Goodman also described him as “evasive” and inconsistent in his statements. Barron appeared at a preliminary hearing Wednesday and entered a not-guilty plea.

Barron is, in many ways, representative of the kind of political refugee that has taken over North Idaho politics in the past couple of decades – the California carpetbagger who arrives in the Gem State and begins telling everyone about “Idaho values.”

This dynamic has dragged an already conservative state further to the right and has allowed people with once far-out views to find themselves firmly resituated in the mainstream.

Barron served as secretary of the Kootenai County Republican committee from 2016 to 2020, and he ran unsuccessfully for the Legislature in 2020 on a campaign funded almost entirely by people outside his district.

He regularly wrote pieces online at his own blog and other Redoubt sites, and called himself a “thought leader” for the movement. His posts came with a regular disclaimer about the attacks he had suffered as a Black conservative who walked off “the liberal ‘woke’ plantation.”

“I describe myself as the Bard of the American Redoubt to suggest a wayward vagabond carousing through clubs, bars and churches spreading the word that we live in uncertain times in a nation that is increasingly hostile to our culture and faith and asking the question, ‘So what are you going to do about it?’ ” he told the Sandpoint Reader in 2017.

Often, Barron’s answers to that question came with a strong flavor of revolutionary violence. Speaking at that Freedom Fest in Sandpoint in 2019, alongside other Redoubt figures like Matt Shea and Heather Scott, Barron spoke of the possibility that he and his fellow travelers might have to be the “blood price” demanded by God to restore the nation to some former glory.

He also told them that, while it’s common – in those circles, at least – for people to ask themselves what they would be willing to die for, the more important question is: “What are you willing to kill for?”

“That’s the question you need to ask yourself,” he said. “When you’re shaving in the morning; when you’re putting on your face. Is there anything you’re willing to kill for? Anything at all. It’s not my question. It’s your question.”

These are the kinds of questions the Jan. 6 insurrectionists seem to have asked and answered for themselves, and the kinds of questions that a growing number of people on the far right seem to be asking themselves even as the lies that spurred that awful day a year ago continue to animate modern conservatism.

The criminal case against Barron is far removed from those events, yet there is a sliver of connection: People who rail about unhinged, violent acts sometimes do more than rail about unhinged, violent acts.

We might be shocked, but we shouldn’t be entirely surprised.

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