A couple of months ago I traveled out to Montana as part of a project examining how the extremist right -- particularly the Patriot movement -- has embedded itself within the Tea Party movement, particularly on a local level in rural areas where elements of the 1990s militia movement were still lurking. This includes Hamilton, Montana.
The piece is now up at AlterNet:
Maybe it's the gun-making kits that are being raffled off as door prizes. Or maybe it's the fact that nearly everyone inside this hall at the Ravalli County Fairground is packing heat. But most of all, it's the copy of Mein Kampf sitting there on the book table, with its black-and-white swastika, sandwiched between a survivalist how-to book on food storage and a copy of Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals.
It is obvious: This is not your ordinary Tea Party gathering.
Mind you, they don't explicitly call themselves Tea Partiers. Their official name is Celebrating Conservatism. But their mission statement is classic Tea Party -- "to restore our country, counties, and cities back to the Republic and the Constitution of the United States" -- and Celebrating Conservatism is listed as a member of the national Tea Party Patriots organization. Everyone in Hamilton, Montana -- the whole of Montana's Bitterroot Valley, for that matter -- knows them as the Tea Party's main presence in town. Once a month or so, the group holds a potluck dinner at the county fairgrounds that typically attracts a couple hundred people, which in a place like the Bitterroot is a sizeable presence.
Of course, you should read the whole thing.
To accompany your reading, you can view the above video, which I shot at the gathering as I covered it.
A big shout-out to The Nation Institute's Investigative Fund, which financed the project.