[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]
Taylor Rose likes to project a fresh-scrubbed, wholesome image to his fellow Montanans while campaigning for a seat in the state’s House of Representatives. It’s easy for the blonde-haired, blue-eyed and clean-shaven 28-year-old from the rural Columbia Falls area to do, flashing a toothy grin and ranting about the need to get the federal government out of workers’ hair and open up the state’s timberlands to lumber operations.
The image, combined with a pleasing message (Rose likes to label himself a “pro-labor Republican”) and a slick campaign, have all raised the prospects that Rose might be able to pull off an upset win over incumbent Rep. Zac Perry, a Democrat, in the race for the House seat in District 3, which historically leans Republican.
What many voters may not realize, however, is Taylor’s long history of deep involvement with the white nationalist movement, and the dangerously bigoted worldview he has promoted since his teenage years –– a history well documented by the SPLC and the Anti-Defamation League in the years leading up to his campaign.
But Taylor has now carefully whitewashed his image with the help of the Montana Republican Party. GOP candidates have employed Rose for state campaigns and as a legislative aide. A number of mainstream Republican candidates, including GOP gubernatorial candidate Greg Gianforte, have contributed to Rose’s campaign. And one leading Montana Republican dismissed concerns about his background, saying “the rest of us think of him as a good conservative.”
Rachel Carroll Rivas, executive director of the Montana Human Rights Network, said the GOP’s embrace of Rose is taking place in the broader context of a national Republican party that has nominated Donald Trump, whose own alliances with the radical right have radically altered the nation’s political landscape.
"In the current climate it's hard to pick out the most concerning things we see playing out on the ground, but Rose's candidacy makes the list easily,” she said. “The political environment has clearly shifted when there is mainstream party acceptance and grooming of someone with well-documented white supremacist activity in recent years.”
Rose first came to enter the movement in 2011 when his activities on behalf of the white nationalist Youth for Western Civilization were reported by the Center for New Community. Rose, then a recent graduate of Liberty University (the college founded by religious-right leader Jerry Falwell), appeared at a YWC-sponsored “March for Freedom” in Cologne, Germany. He also met with members of Vlaams Belang, the far-right Belgian political party, and members of German organizations designated by authorities there as “right-wing extremist.”
Rose also authored a book in 2012 titled Return of the Right: How the Political Right Is Taking Back Western Civilization, which argued that Western humanists are attempting to impose a “vision to destroy the nation-state, eliminate religion, break down all defined barriers in society (such as family) and eliminate western civilization from the face of the earth in the attempt to institute a radical, multicultural, New World Order agenda.” In the book, Rose argued that this nefarious plot is failing because “the Western world is coming to realize the complete emptiness and harm of belief systems that are at their core, nihilistic.”
The neo-Confederate hate group the League of the South interviewed Rose about the book when it came out. During the interview, Rose continued to warn of the evil nature of “the Left” and predicted that a white nationalist Right would soon rise to the fore in global politics. “You will first see the Right-Wing act as a great power of political influence, mainly upon the center-right, by reorienting the ideas of the center-right to reform immigration policy and take a more hard-line anti-Socialist stance,” he said.
Since returning to Montana, Rose has cultivated political ties with an eye toward running for office –– mostly through the auspices of the state’s GOP, which has made no effort to renounce or distance itself from Rose. Indeed, in the years since Rose's radical beliefs surfaced, the Montana GOP has warmly embraced him:
- Rose worked as the Northwest Montana campaign coordinator for then-GOP candidate Steven Daines in his 2014 U.S. Senate race, which Daines won. Sen. Daines’ office did not respond to Hatewatch’s request for comment or explanation.
- In 2015, Rose was hired by Montana Senate Republicans as a legislative bill title reader and as a majority aide, a staff position that enabled Rose to network widely with party officials and senators. According to Carroll Rivas, Rose used that position not only to make political connections but to actively tamper with the political process: “He was so bad and out of line that there were times in committee that he would actually say a vote in the back of the room – they would be voting in committee, and he would say ‘yea’ or ‘nay’ in the back of the room.”
- When asked about Rose’s candidacy during a roundtable political talk show in June, Rep. Matthew Monforton of Bozeman, a leading House Republican, dismissed concerns about Rose’s white nationalist background, saying “the rest of us think of him as a good conservative.”
- On his campaign Facebook page, Rose has boasted of his broad engagement with the local Republican Party, including posing for photos with local leaders at the Flathead County Fair.
- Several mainstream Republican candidates have donated to Rose’s campaign, notably GOP gubernatorial candidate Greg Gianforte, who gave a $170 donation to Rose that was matched by his wife. Rose also received donations from Republican Sen. Mark Blasdel of Kalispell and Rep. Greg Hertz of Polson.
Hatewatch attempted to reach a number of Montana GOP officials, including Monforton and Daines.
In addition to coverage by the SPLC, Rose’s white nationalist background has been detailed at Montana Cowgirl, Raw Story, and Wonkette. However, most Montana media coverage of his race and his candidacy (such as Rose’s profile at the Missoulian) has omitted any mention of his history of radicalism.
Taylor has never renounced or apologized for his radical past, which is extensive. Indeed, he has continued to embrace it, even appearing last fall on a young-conservative website's podcast discussing his candidacy with a “Montana Sovereign” banner proudly displayed behind him – referencing his apparent involvement in the far-right sovereign citizens movement as well. In a recent interview in the Flathead Beacon, Rose denied that he was a racial supremacist and focused on defending the traditional cultural values of Western Civilization.
“I am not affiliated with white supremacist groups or leaders,” Rose told the newspaper. “To say otherwise is slanderous. YWC was a cultural group, not a racist group. We defined Western civilization by the classic definition of ancient Greeks and Romans, and we were pro-Christian. We did not say it was exclusively white. We were also very critical of Islam, but that is an ideological issue, not a racial issue. I can promise you that Liberty University would not have tolerated a white power group on its campus.”
In reality, YWC was an overt white nationalist organization with multiple connections to white supremacists, though it often used code words such as “cultural identity” and “racial chauvinists” to disguise its racism, arguing that white people face rampant discrimination at the hands of multiculturalism. Some of its better-known members and associates –– Matthew Heimbach and Kyle Bristow –– have gone on to found their own white nationalist groups.
In the meantime, Rose has been busily voicing racially and ethnically incendiary sentiments on social media over the past year. He expressed revulsion at the prospect of a white couple giving birth to two black babies via artificial insemination. He also bitterly complained when it was announced that Harriet Tubmann, the black woman who helped lead the Underground Railroad during the Civil War, would replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill. In one of his Facebook posts, he compared the action to the removal of Confederate monuments around the nation in the wake of the mass shooting at a black church in Charleston, S.C., by a white-supremacist Confederacy admirer.
One of his commenters chimed in: “It’d be a lot quieter if they were all hanging from nooses.”
On Rose’s campaign Facebook page, he has openly indulged in Islamophobic attacks on Muslim immigrants and Syrian refugees. In one post published in March, he wrote, “Terrorism in Europe during the Cold War was mostly conducted by homegrown, native European Leftist terrorist groups. Now it is committed by Islamic immigrants or the decedents of Islamic immigrants. If we stop the importation of the jihadies, we won't have these attacks.”
Rose also posted a racially incendiary rant about “domestic terrorism by the black supremacist group ‘Black Power Political Organization,'” and called for legislation making it a hate crime to assault a police officer. The BPPO is an obscure group that claimed responsibility for the shootings of seven police officers in Dallas earlier this summer, but which subsequent investigations showed had no known connection to the shooter, Micah Xavier Johnson, though Johnson in fact was apparently enamored of several other black nationalist groups (the BPPO was not among his Facebook “likes”).
And while he’s running for a legislative seat, Rose nonetheless appears not to be a fan of democratic republics. He’s a member of a Facebook public group called Monarchists, which “exists for the purpose of civil discussion between monarchists and those interested in monarchy as the ideal form of human governance.”
Rose also conducted an interview in April with the “Patriot” movement website NorthWest Liberty News’ weekly podcast (though the link for that interview appears to be broken).
In an interview for a podcast with Ryan Girdusky of the young-conservative website Red Alert Politics, Rose lightly brushed over his radicalism and focused mostly on his status as a “young millennial” running for office. However, behind Rose for the duration of the interview was a banner declaring “Montana Sovereign – Don’t Tread On Me,” clearly indicating that Rose considers himself an antigovernment “sovereign citizen,” a movement that has been part of the Montana scene since the 1990s, in the heyday of the Montana Freemen and the Militia of Montana. Rose’s description of his warm welcome by the Montana GOP in that interview made for a stark contrast with the banner behind him.
ROSE: Local Republican leadership in the county, and I’ve spoken with a lot of the Republican leadership across the state, is very, very excited. They really have been very nice to young people rising up. In the current Legislature, we already have several millennials sitting in House seats across the state, and so when I decided to throw my hat in the ring and started talking to people about this, the leadership was very excited. They’ve been very helpful, they’ve been very excited at the idea that there are more young people that want to get involved, and they don’t want to get in our way. There’s definitely – they’re not being restrictive. The old guard of the party is being very helpful and very nice to us young people in helping us rise up and have a voice and speak for millennials.
In his interview with the Beacon, Rose touted his broad acceptance by the local and state GOP as proof that accusations about his radicalism “don’t add up.”
“I was open about my past involvement with YWC, and I was vetted by the Republican Party,” he told the newspaper. “I wouldn’t say that I am a mainstream candidate, but I’m not on the fringe either. The minute you reject multiculturalism, you become a target for the left, and that is what’s happened here.”
Rivas said that Rose’s embrace by the GOP represents an unfortunate evolutionary shift in the state’s politics, in which such extremists, always present in the background, had typically been relegated to the fringe.
“In previous years, the Montana Republican Party distanced themselves from candidates like Rose who had ties groups like the Klan and National Socialist Movement,” she said. “The times have changed. The efforts by the Alt-Right to put a nice suit on their racism may be viewed as effective in this case. And, while Rose’s views seems aligned with the Richard Spencers of the world, his vision isn’t so different than April Gaede’s Pioneer Little Europe.
“This is the reality of what the people of the Flathead Valley are facing right now –– a triangulation between two white supremacists on the national stage and a candidate for state house that just might win. I fear to imagine what’s next.”