One of the real-world effects of the rise of the Tea Party movement, as we've been reporting here awhile, is that it has effectively revived the militia/Patriot movement of the 1990s.
A crystalline example of this is the Sarah-Palin-endorsed GOP Senate nominee in Alaska, Joe Miller. As Justin Elliott reports for Salon, Miller is a favorite of the gun-toting secessionists who populate the state's militia ranks:
But the so-called "open-carry" display actually underscores the unusual enthusiasm Miller's candidacy has generated among members of militia and Second Amendment absolutist groups in Alaska who are excited about his hardline stance against the federal government.
"It's safe to say that Joe Miller is a friend of patriots," Norm Olson, commander of the Alaska Citizens Militia, told Salon. "His beliefs and platform favor Second Amendment rights as well as the power of nullification when the federal government intrudes into the private lives of Alaskans."
Olson, who lives on the Kenai Peninsula, claims that his group has several hundred members and supporters, adding, "what fuels the militia is fear." The militia's ideology is outlined in a list of 17 "acts of war." The list includes "firearms restrictions or other disarmament," "mandatory medical anything," "federal patrols," "taking control of children under duress or threat," "federalization of law enforcement," and "surrender powers to a corporation or foreign government."
That emphasis on opposition to federal power meshes with Miller's central message: get the federal government out of our lives. He often calls himself a "constitutional conservative." His website explains what that means:
The only answer [to government spending] is to return our federal government to the limits prescribed by our Constitution. Federal powers not specified in the Constitution are reserved to the States by the 10th Amendment.
Critics call this Tentherism, an interpretation of the Constitution that does not allow for a vast swath of what the federal government does today -- from Social Security to gun regulation. This is the centerpiece of Miller's political identity. He asserts that there is no constitutional authority for the health care reform law or proposed cap and trade legislation. He advocates a state takeover of federally controlled land in Alaska such as Denali National Park.
These are the kinds of positions that are creating buzz in the militia world.
Indeed, as I've explained in detail previously, the "Tenthers" are Patriots, pure and simple: the whole "state sovereignty" scheme was invented in the 1990s by a far-right Oklahoma legislator named Charles Duke, who was known for consorting with the vilest elements of the extremist right, including Christian Identity leaders.
Elliott's piece is excellent, though as Political Animal at the Alaska Dispatch notes, there are additional facts that add more nuance to the story. In particular, while the story focuses on some of the more colorful Patriot-movement figures in the state -- including Norm Olson, who actually only relatively recently moved to the state from Michigan -- it omits the state's longest-running and most substantial Patriot-movement presence: the Alaska Independence Party, which has the been movement's chief vehicle in Alaska since the early 1990s.
Miller claims he doesn't know what the agenda of the AIP might be, but as Craig Medred at Alaska Dispatch observes, Miller's scheme to boot the federal government out of the state of Alaska is pretty much identical to the AIP's.
Listen to Miller here, last Thursday on Fox with Neil Cavuto:
Miller: Well, you know, to change D.C., you've got to change the people that are there. I mean, this is the mindset -- it's a crisis of leadership that's caused our country to be at the point that it's at. The direction of this nation, it's not happened, you know, in one or two years. It's taken decades. And that's really reflected, I think, in the composition that we have up in D.C. today. So, you know, it's not an easy task, I will tell you. But that seniority's not going to matter after November.
[It sure won't in Alaska, bub. Because you know that pork pipeline Alaskans have been used to bellying up to and feeding off of? It's going away, far away.]
Miller: Clearly Alaskans are going to I think embrace the future, which is, I think, resource development, moving forward our state by getting more state control, and pushing the federal government out our back yard.
That's going to be one helluva removal job, considering that we're talking about 222 million acres -- 60 percent of federal lands -- that was granted to the state when it was granted statehood in 1959. It's almost entirely impenetrable wilderness. All told, that's an area surpassing either Texas or California in size.
But that's just part of what the AIP has been pushing as its agenda for some time. Moreover, it makes sense that Miller would sound like an AIP candidate, since his sponsor, Sarah Palin, has a long and colorful history with the AIP too.
* Palin formed a political alliance with Wasilla's Patriot-movement faction while still a Wasilla city councilman, and they played a significant role in her successful campaign against the three-term incumbent mayor in 1996.
* Palin, in one of her first acts as mayor, attempted to fill the seat vacated by her ascension to the mayorship with one of the leaders of this faction -- a bellicose man described by the city councilman who blocked his appointment as having a "violent" disposition.
* Mayor Palin also fired the city's museum director at the behest of this faction.
* Palin also organized this faction to turn out at a city council meeting to shout down a proposed local gun-control ordinance. Palin also determinedly allowed the testimony of the pro-gun crowd before the bill had even been presented to the council or prepared for public hearings -- a clear violation of city-council policy.
* Palin had a continual association with Alaskan Independence Party chairman Mark Chryson (a Wasilla resident) throughout her tenure as mayor, and joined to support him in a series of anti-gun-control and anti-tax measures, both locally and statewide.
* Palin attended the AIP's state conventions in 1994 and 2006, the latter when she was campaigning for the governorship. The 1994 appearance is more questionable, since it came at time when the AIP was more openly radical (its members had backed militia figure Col. James "Bo" Gritz in the 1992 election), and its platform then contained what Chryson calls "racist language".
* She sent a videotaped address to the AIP at its 2008 convention, ostensibly because "I've always thought competition is so good, and that applies to political parties as well" -- though notably, she sent no such similar videotaped welcome to the state's Democratic Party.
You'll recall the memo that McCain campaign chief Steve Schmidt wrote to Palin and the staff after Sarah got agitated watching me on CNN, describing what the AIP stands for:
"Secession," he wrote. "It is their entire reason for existence. A cursory examination of the website shows that the party exists for the purpose of seceding from the union. That is the stated goal on the front page of the web site."
As I noted then, the cold reality is that Palin has a real history of empowering these extremists, and pandering to their conspiratorial beliefs, from her position of public office. That was an issue then, and it continues to be an issue today.
For Joe Miller, especially.
Especially appalling has been the tone-deaf idiocy of the DSCC in failing to step up to the plate, as Shannyn Moore at Mudflats puts it:
It’s mind-boggling how the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee hasn’t shown up for Scott McAdams, Alaska’s Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate.
They’ve had weeks to help secure a now open seat they didn’t think they had a prayer to take. Why aren’t they fighting for Alaska? Lisa Murkowski asked McAdams where his DSCC support was. When it didn’t show, she threw back in as a write-in candidate.
The front page of their website features a picture of Sarah Palin. Fear of her brand of crazy has been an ATM for the DSCC. They’ve raised millions off of Palin word salads with guano dressing. The DSCC website also has a link to Palin’s anointed Alaskan proxy for US Senate, Joe Miller, but they haven’t supported his opponent.
Alaska is the cheapest place in the country to run a campaign. One hundred dollars of campaign money in such a small market is equivalent to $2,000 for a race in Texas. With Palin’s negative numbers over 50%, her candidate, Joe Miller, is vulnerable. The Tea Party is recruiting people with “Lisa M” type names to run a write-in, and every Murkowski vote will be challenged by their attorneys. It will make the Franken/Coleman recount look like play-dough hour in kindergarten.
Stay tuned. I have a feeling this Bizarro Planet soap opera isn't over yet.