On Tuesday, the select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the United States Capitol held a hearing on the role of far-right paramilitary organizations in the attempt to prevent the certification of the presidential election of 2020.
Focusing on groups, including the Proud Boys, Oathkeepers and Three Percenters, that were involved in the 2021 insurrection attempt, the hearings presented compelling evidence of significant coordination between these groups, as well as awareness within the Trump administration of their plans.
They didn’t just attack the police or a building. They didn’t just disrupt elected officials. They attacked the simple, but crucial, principle of American democracy enunciated by committee chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Mississippi: “We settle our differences through the ballot box.
“That could have been the spark that ignited a new civil war,” former Oathkeepers spokesman Jason Van Tatenhove said.
The danger of such violence across the country is high and has increased since Trump’s election. The danger in Idaho, including from many of the same groups that organized to attack the Capitol, is particularly acute.
Idaho was famous for being the home of the Aryan nations. Then we chased them away. But the same soil that allowed them to take root allowed a second resurgence of the far right in Idaho.
This has been an obvious and growing problem for years. Examples abound.
Far-right extremism has attempted, and sometimes succeeded, inroads into the halls of the Idaho Legislative Assembly.
- Rep. Chad Christensen, R-Iona, still proudly lists his membership in the Oathkeepers — which Van Tatenhove called a “violent militia” — in his legislative biography.
- Eric Parker, a Three Percenter militia leader from Idaho, known nationally as the “Bundy Ranch Sniper” for pointing a gun at federal law enforcement during the Cliven clash Bundy in Bunkerville, twice sought legislative office.
- Todd Engel, another Bunkerville participant, ran for office this year.
Fortunately, GOP primary voters gave Christensen the boot this year, and neither of the other two managed to win a majority — though Engel came uncomfortably close.
Even more members of the Legislative Assembly stood ready to offer their support to their causes, such as when Representatives Heather Scott, Sage Dixon and Judy Boyle attended the 2016 standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in the Oregon organized by Ammon Bundy and various miscreants.
With actions like these, it’s no surprise that most Mountain West residents expect further violence. A survey of Intermountain West commissioned by Boise State University’s Frank Church Institute last year found that 59% of Idahoans expect to see more political violence similar to what happened on January 6, 2021. And about one in six Idahoans said political violence is justified in certain circumstances.
This is a situation that cannot be allowed to continue, nationally or in Idaho. Idaho needs the same kind of work that led to the ousting of the Aryan nations – the kind of work that many in Idaho are already undertaking to reaffirm the commitment to settle our differences through the ballot box.
Statesman editorials are the unsigned opinion of the Idaho Statesman Editorial Board. Board members are opinion writer Scott McIntosh, opinion writer Bryan Clark, editor-in-chief Chadd Cripe, newsroom editors Dana Oland and Jim Keyser, and community members Johanna Jones, Maryanne Jordan and Ben Ysursa.
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