Tim Steller had an interesting profile of Richard Mack in the Arizona Daily Star the other day:
For years, Richard Mack wrote books and gave speeches, arguing for gun rights, sovereign states and "constitutional sheriffs."
At first, not many people listened to Mack, a two-term Graham County sheriff who lives in Safford. Many wrote him off as a radical.
But that's changing. The tea party's nationwide emergence and Arizona's drift to the right are bringing Mack's ideas from the political edge into the eddies of the mainstream.
Since Barack Obama's election as president, Mack, 58, has been a hot national speaker, and some of his dearest ideas have come up in the current Legislature.
A system for Arizona to "nullify" federal laws reached the floor of the state Senate before being voted down last month. Another bill would have forced federal regulators to register with the sheriff in any Arizona county where they want to work.
The bill's author, Rep. Chester Crandell of Heber, said Mack inspired him.
"I think the county sheriff has that power and should be protecting the rights of the people," Crandell said. "This is a way to send a message and say we are a sovereign state."
This is, of course, the same scheme tea-partying legislators in Montana are attempting to pass, too. And as you can see from the above video, it all emanates from Mack's ceaseless promotion of the radical right's extremist localism -- the belief that the sheriff, and not the federal government, represent the supreme law of the land.
Mack certainly didn't invent this system. Rather, it was first promoted back in the 1960s and '70s by the old Posse Comitatus movement, which contended that "there is no legitimate form of government above that of the county level and no higher law authority than the county sheriff. If the sheriff refuses to carry out the will of the county's citizens:"
...he shall be removed by the Posse to the most populated intersection of streets in the township and at high noon be hung by the neck, the body remaining until sundown as an example to those who would subvert the law.
Not only was the Posse one of the most radical far-right organizations -- it became closely associated with the racist Christian Identity movement -- it was also one of the most violent, inspiring acts of "lone wolves" like Gordon Kahl as well as the radicals at the Covenant, Sword and Arm of the Lord.
And now, according to Steller, Mack is getting a broad audience at various Tea Party-related gatherings -- and lots of new adherents:
In the last 18 months, Mack said, he has given 125 presentations, including an April 15 speech last year before thousands in Amarillo, Texas, and a December appearance at Faneuil Hall in Boston.
But he's got plans, and they could include running for office in Pima County.
"Let's not beat around the bush here," Mack told about 25 people at the Dusenberry-River Library in the Catalina Foothills March 8. "We no longer live in a free country."
"They control our land, our air, our water, our education, our finances and now our health care," Mack said of the federal government in a later interview. "What do I get to decide for myself? Nothing."
Of course, we pointed out the meaning of Mack's involvement with the Tea Parties some time back -- namely, he represents an increasing flow of radical-right ideas into mainstream conservatism, where they are being gobbled up like candy. And now Republican legislators are trying to enact these extremist beliefs -- which are profoundly inimical to progressive ideals -- into law.
And no one seems to be paying it much of any mind.