Let’s be very, very certain about this. The organized, window- smashing break-in to the gallery of the Idaho House of Representatives last week by Idaho “citizens” portends more violence. Possibly in the streets. Bet on it!
I started covering the Idaho Legislature in late 1966 and did so - off and on - until 1985. During that time, I watched people protesting this-that-and-the-other politely escorted from both chambers and committee hearings for being nuisances. Politely. But, never in all that time, did I see an angry bunch of “citizens,” following a guy with a rifle, break through a Statehouse gallery door and refuse to act in accordance with House rules when asked by the Speaker of the House to be orderly or leave. Never even close!
Then, the next day in a hearing room, more shouting and refusal to leave a seating area specifically reserved for the press. More shouting, profanities, more chants of “This is our house,” more continued disruption.
As far back as the ‘60's, we’ve watched what was, at first, a fringe “conservative” branch of Republicans in North Idaho, twist and shout their looney conspiracies and back political candidates who espoused the same craziness. Even split the GOP-North into several “real” Republican Committees. Folk in the South didn’t pay much attention.
In recent years, from Lewiston North, citizen “militias” formed. Armed groups of citizen “militias.” They play “war games” in the forests and cling to their automatic weapons while they chant many of those same old conspiracy theories.
Still, most Idahoans haven’t paid a lot of attention to the evolution in another time zone. Things in South Idaho have been a lot more “city-fied” and quiet when it’s come to saber-rattling. East Idaho - quiet but with some rural conservatism though, as far as we know, unarmed.
But, last week’s Statehouse outburst - with professional trouble-maker Ammon Bundy in the crowd - has shown it’s time to pay attention. Bundy, who’s had many run-ins with the law in Idaho, Oregon and Nevada, had to be carried out off the premises by State troopers - not once but twice. He’s since been banned from entering the Statehouse for a year.
Something else to note. The law-breakers were not just from the North. There were some Treasure Valley faces in that crowd. Quite a few. How many and how close an attachment to the armed folks up North we don’t know. But, the more militant spirit seems to have spread.
For many, many years - and not just in Idaho - most of us have just ignored the Limbaugh-loving folk. We left them alone. They left us alone. But, during those same years, Limbaugh’s voice was joined by others: Hannity, Beck, Carlson, Dobbs, Malkin, Ingraham and a dozen more. Each with a handful of “vocal” matches lighting little rightwing fires here and there. And over there.
Still, we’ve let ‘em alone. We’ve treated ‘em as a “minority” and turned our collective backs on the yammering. “Sooner or later,” we thought, “they’ll get tired of their minority status and join the rest of us.”
Well, the Idaho Statehouse rabble and the “soldier wannabees” in the North Idaho bushes aren’t going to re-adjust and join the rest of us down by the river singing “Kum-Ba-yah.” Ain’t gonna happen.
At the risk of being labeled a rabble-rouser, it seems adding Idaho’s increasingly upscale violent activities to the continued and escalating violence across the country, it’s beginning to look like we’re headed to some confrontations. Maybe many confrontations. Armed confrontations.
We’ve got growing political violence in the streets. We’ve got increasingly dangerous protests of cop-killings. Cop-killings all too common. We’ve got death threats being made against peaceful, law-abiding groups who’ve had to cancel their own community public rights out of fear. We’ve got I-net web sites, many of ‘em
linking these “militias” and threatening more armed violence against the rest of us.
The peace and enjoyment of community we used to have are being threatened by armed, vocal and dangerous people. Their numbers are growing and becoming more publically active. Their basic belief seems to be get a gun - or many guns - for self-protection and to fend off people who don’t think their way or who represent what they see as threats to the Republic. Now, they’re in our streets. Pushing against us and against authority. Seemingly anyone’s authority.
The unexpected incursion at the Idaho Statehouse last week was small on its face. But, throw in a guy at the front with a rifle, busting through a locked House door, a professional trouble-maker like Bundy in the crowd, refusal to obey decorum and orders from elected authority, the added raucous disruption of a legitimately-held legislative hearing, state police having to eject people and you’ve got a precursor of more trouble. Not less.
“See ya next year?” Quite possibly.
Sooner or later - sooner is my thought - these people and many, many others breaking our laws, making streets unsafe, challenging legal authority, destroying public property and threatening our peace and tranquility have to be stopped. Either that or we face a dangerous world of increasing lawlessness and disorder.
Was the vandalism, the incursion, the refusal to follow rules or requests of duly elected officials at your Statehouse just a one-time event? Was it a warning of louder, more violent things to come?
Or was it just an outlier?