July 20, 2022

The radical-right takeover of Idaho’s Republican Party was completed last weekend at the GOP’s annual state convention in a clean sweep: Every incumbent member of the party’s leadership was defeated and replaced by far-right activists. In particular, party chair Tom Luna was ousted by “Patriot”-friendly legislator Dorothy Moon of Stanley, who has a long and deep record of extremism.

Moon marked the occasion by indulging in the threatening rhetoric that’s become endemic to American far-right politics. “We have to make sure with the Democrats coming at us with full force that we have our barriers up, our guns loaded and ready to keep this state free,” Moon crowed after she won the seat.

Idaho is far from alone in experiencing this kind of takeover. It’s happening to state and local GOP parties across the nation, reflected by the 100-plus far-right candidates currently running for office as Republicans, and in the polls that show not just an embrace of extremist ideologies and conspiracism but of the fondness for violence and intimidation that always accompanies them. A similar takeover has already occurred in Oregon.

But Moon’s elevation to party chair by a wide 434-287 margin at the convention in Twin Falls on Saturday offers a window into how radicalized the Republican Party has become in Idaho—which is to say, it’s become indistinguishable from previous “Patriot” movement entities like the Constitution Party and the Populist Party, with its politics fueled by John Birch Society.

Indeed, Moon’s husband Darr serves on the John Birch Society’s national board. But that is hardly her only connection to the radical right.

Moon is one of the leading figures in the Idaho Legislature’s significant bloc of far-right extremists serving in office—according to a May study by the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights (IREHR), the state has the third-highest percentage of extremist legislators (22.86%) in the nation.

The IREHR study found that Moon belonged to six far-right Facebook groups, including COVID denialist groups like Restore Liberty in Idaho, as well as militia/Patriot groups like U.S. Militia Northern Command and Idaho Freedom Alliance. She also is a member of the Idaho Parents’ Rights in Education group, which heavily promoted this year’s House bill that would have banned transgender transition treatments and criminalized parents who took their children out of state to receive it (later shelved in the Senate).

In addition to her hyper-conservative voting record, Moon is known for her embrace of extremist figures like Ammon Bundy and former lieutenant governor Janice McGeachin, as well as Bundy Ranch figure Eric Parker, who has made a couple of runs at a seat in the Legislature.

While McGeachin and Parker both lost badly in the May 17 GOP primary election to mainstream Republicans, Moon only narrowly lost her race for the lieutenant governor’s seat to Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane. As part of that campaign, Moon hosted extremist Arizona legislator Wendy Rogers at a rally that focused primarily on promoting Donald Trump’s election “Big Lie.”

“They stole the election,” Rogers told a May 4 rally in Meridian, a Boise suburb. “We can never give up. This is our country, and we’re going to take it back! And we will not move on to 2022 until we find the truth about 2020.”

Moon joined her onstage to announce showings of Dinesh d’Souza’s fraudulent pseudo-documentary about the election, 2000 Mules, around the state. Moon called Rogers her “new best friend,” adding: “We are sisters, sisters of the West.”

On Saturday in Twin Falls, she was ready to put her losses behind her, thanks to the swell of far-right support within the ranks of GOP delegates. “The primaries are over, and my heart is strong,” Moon told the crowd after her victory. “And I’m committed to seeing Republicans up and down the ticket get elected in November.”

Unsurprisingly, the GOP platform that emerged from the convention was appropriately extreme, particularly on the hot top of abortion rights, which the delegates voted to abolish altogether. Some Republicans attempted to bring some sanity to the platform by offering up an exemption for always-fatal ectopic pregnancies,

“We affirm that abortion is murder from the moment of fertilization,” the platform reads. “All children should be protected regardless of the circumstances of conception, including persons conceived in rape and incest.” The platform supports criminalizing abortion and strengthening Idaho’s constitution to protect “preborn children.”

When a group of delegates offered an amendment that would permit procedures involving ectopic pregnancies—which are never viable, and nearly always threaten the mother’s life—it failed 412-164.

Scott Herndon, the victor in the Panhandle’s District 1 in the May primary against incumbent Jim Woodward, heatedly argued against the exemption. He insisted that the lives of both the fetus and mother are of equal value in that situation.

Some Republicans have begun fighting back against the extremist tide in Idaho. Their organization Take Back Idaho issued a statement voicing their dismay with Moon’s ascension in the Idaho GOP.

“Dorothy Moon’s election to Idaho GOP leadership is absolutely disturbing. Moon’s dangerous gallery of associations— including militant Ammon Bundy, militia leader Eric Parker, convicted rapist Aaron von Ehlinger, and white nationalists like Wendy Rogers — should be disqualifying for state party leadership,” the statement said. “But, fresh from their rightful rejection by Idaho voters just eight weeks ago, Moon and her powerful cronies are doing what they do best: changing the rules, courting extremists, and demanding allegiance to their dark vision for Idaho. With Dorothy Moon’s election to leadership, the Idaho Republican Party has firmly lost all touch with the average Idahoan.”

Moon’s supporters apparently weren’t beyond engaging in dirty tricks during the campaign, either. Luna had organized a pizza party for delegates on Thursday called “Pizza and Patriots.” But then someone printed up a set of fliers advertising it as “Pizza for the Hungry” and distributed them at a local homeless shelter. So a number of homeless families looking for free pizza began showing up.

Kelcie Moseley-Morris described what happened in the Idaho Capital Sun:

Tyler Hurst, a Republican campaign staffer, organized the Pizza and Patriots event for Luna and said he was sitting in the hotel where the event took place and saw a child come up to the front desk and ask if it was the place where they could get pizza for dinner.

When he realized what was happening, Hurst said he told them there was free pizza for everyone and that it was a town hall event.

“I didn’t want them to feel out of place or embarrassed. These are people who left their homes behind, and they’re just looking for something to eat,” Hurst said. “I don’t care about being politically punked, but what was really sad is the position it put these little kids in.”

Moon called it a dirty trick: “If I am your chairman, there will be no more dirty tricks,” Moon said. “We will never treat hard-working Idahoans with anything less than full respect.”

However, Hurst was caught on video confronting a prominent Moon supporter afterwards. A number of observers believe the man had been involved in passing out the phony fliers.

And as usual, the politics of intimidation showed up at the convention as well to silence any dissenters. A small group of protesters showed up outside the convention hall on the College of Southern Idaho campus, and reported being threatened and harassed—by, among others, Eric Parker.

Twin Falls resident Bailey Blake, who participated in the protest, reported that Parker—who is nationally notorious as the man photographed aiming a sniper rifle at federal agents at the Bundy Ranch standoff in 2014—particularly targeted an elderly veteran. Video also showed him physically shoving the man with his torso. When a group of women tried to intervene, he reportedly shoved their signs, hitting the women in their faces:

[We] had a Vet with us yesterday who traveled from Pocatello to protest with us. He was SUCH a sweet person with some of the coolest stories I had ever heard, and he also deserves a HUGE shoutout for having my back as well at the time of the assault. He was being targeted specifically by Eric Parker when they began to walk out of the building after the convention ended. There were multiple reports of our protesters being grabbed and screamed out, people within an inch of our faces with their phones, getting spit on. I saw a young girl in a heated confrontation with an older man in a cast. He wouldn’t leave her alone, so I went and grabbed Belle and another friend to help me have her back just in case anything went south. As we began to walk over, I noticed the 71-year-old vet making his way over too. Low and behold, that nasty vulture Eric Parker began circling over too. I saw him in this vets face, way too close for comfort. Belle and I walked over and placed ourselves in between Eric and our Vet. We held our signs up to keep our faces and his face from being spit on and from having his phone touch our faces. At that time, Eric Parker took both hands and shoved them towards us in a pushing motion. What he ended up doing however, was hitting belle in the face with his phone and broke her glasses. He hit me in the cheek with his other hand and immediately caused a bruise to start forming. After he had hit and shoved us, he got back in the vets face and tried shoving him over me with his chest. That’s when I had to place my body behind his to keep him from toppling over. I had remembered someone said it wasn’t illegal to throw water on someone, so I emptied my entire water bottle out on him. He started yelling that he only hit us because he “thought we had a gun”. At that time, the older man in the cast who was harassing the younger girl came and gripped my arm hard and yanked me out of the way to get Eric Parker out of there safely while they SPRINTED to the parking lot to their cars.

After the convention, Moon issued a statement seemingly at odds with her bloodthirsty war cry to the audience. “I promised my fellow Republicans that I will lead our party with civility and conviction,” it read.

A Republican commenter on Facebook, however, refused to forget the earlier—and overriding—message of the convention. “Screw ‘Civility.’ We are at a War to the Death with Leftist/Communist Democrats. Get tough.”

Republished with permission from Daily Kos.

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