IT'S A BAD COURT BRANT.
Yesterday, the US Supreme Court, which loves "state's rights" just as long as you're attacking women's bodily autonomy, trans people, or people of color, decided to jump into Wisconsin's redistricting war. Because why not?
And, of course, this Court is never just going to fuck things up in the normal Republican-evil way of the past. No, they are in the midst of an all-out attack on voting rights — especially for Black and brown Americans. (Full disclosure: In my other life, I'm the Policy Director for Wisconsin Voices and have been working on redistricting and ensuring Black and Brown voices are represented in our state's maps. This is not my first rodeo.)
When this Court goes for it, they really go for it. And so, the Court didn't just issue a stay or decide to hear Wisconsin Legislature v. Wisconsin Elections Commission; in an unsigned opinion, it summarily reversed the Wisconsin Supreme Court's ruling on the state's electoral maps without any argument or briefing on the merits. And in that unsigned opinion, they made it pretty clear that Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act is next on the chopping block.
Here's the background
Since before the 2020 Census results were even released, we knew redistricting in Wisconsin was going to be a shitshow and that a court was going to end up drawing our maps. The Wisconsin Constitution requires that the legislature and the governor agree on electoral maps, and we have a batshit insane legislature hell-bent on destroying our democracy as well as a reasonable governor in Tony Evers. When the legislature and the governor can't agree, the issue goes to the courts.
In the past, the Seventh Circuit has drawn Wisconsin's maps when there was no agreement, but this year our state supreme court decided to step in. The majority-conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that it would choose the maps that presented the least change from our uber-gerrymandered 2011 maps. And earlier this month, the court did just that, finding that Governor Evers's maps presented the least change from the 2011 maps and also complied with the Voting Rights Act by creating a new majority-Black district in Milwaukee because of the increase of Black voters in the area.
Let's talk law
When race can be considered in redistricting is a very normal legal doctrine — by which I mean it's one full of rules and exceptions and "well, it depends" answers to what sound like simple questions.
The general rule is that the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause prohibits making race a primary consideration when drawing political maps. To use race as a predominant factor in map-drawing, you have to pass the strict scrutiny test: You have to show the maps are (1) narrowly tailored to further a (2) compelling state interest.
Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act prohibits voting practices that discriminate on the basis of race. This includes a ban on diluting minority vote by doing things things like packing minority voters into a small number of districts or cracking minority voters across several districts. Since 1965, the Supreme Court and lower courts have considered compliance with the Voting Rights Act to be a compelling government interest.
After the US Supreme Court decimated Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder (aka the Plessy v. Ferguson of our time), Section 2 became the most important federal tool for challenging racist election practices. But don't you worry, racists who hate it when Black and brown people vote, because our esteemed Supreme Court justices are working to destroy Section 2, too.
Last summer, the Court weakened Section 2 by ruling in Brnovich v. DNC that it was totally fine for Arizona to enact racist voting laws that target racial minorities, as long as those laws might also disenfranchise some poor white people. And yesterday, the Court showed us once again just how excited it is to do away with these so-called "voting rights" once and for all.
Let's talk Milwaukee
During the five months the Wisconsin Supreme Court spent on the redistricting litigation, all parties pretty much agreed Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act applies to Milwaukee. Per long-standing SCOTUS precedent (Gingles v. Thornburg), Section 2 applies when a minority population is "sufficiently large and geographically compact to constitute a majority in a single-member district," is "politically cohesive," and the "majority votes sufficiently as a bloc to enable it ... usually to defeat the minority's preferred candidate."
Milwaukee ticks all of those boxes. And I agree with Governor Evers that Section 2 requires seven majority-Black districts in Milwaukee. The problem isn't the idea of an additional majority-Black district, but ensuring any Section 2 districts actually create opportunity for minority voters.
As Senator Lena Taylor, one of just three Black Wisconsin state senators, argued to SCOTUS, the issue with the maps wasn't carving out seven majority-Black districts — it was creating "majority-Black districts" that didn't have enough Black people to comply with the Voting Rights Act. (The Republican maps would have reduced the number of majority-Black districts from six to five, despite a growth in Milwaukee's Black voting age population and a corresponding drop in Milwaukee's white voting age population, but that's an issue for another court and another day.)
But this, of course, is not the Supreme Court's problem with our maps. Rather, the Court stepped in here to try to ensure the Wisconsin Supreme Court takes even more power from Black voters if possible, Voting Rights Act be damned.
For most of the redistricting litigation, it was essentially undisputed that Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act applied to Milwaukee. Even Wisconsin's 2011 maps, often declared the most gerrymandered in the country, created six majority-Black state Assembly districts in Milwaukee County. But now, the US Supreme Court is saying that the analysis done by the Wisconsin Supreme Court wasn't enough to justify the creation of seven majority-Black districts.
One of the scariest parts of all of this is that Governor Evers never argued that his maps were primarily drawn to create majority-minority districts. Historically, the rule has always been that the Equal Protection Clause prohibits using race as the predominant factor in map-drawing. The maps that were submitted weren't drawn specifically with race in mind — they were created to follow the Wisconsin Supreme Court's guidance of creating the least change from the 2011 maps. They also created seven majority-Black districts in order to comply with the Voting Rights Act.
The posture of this case is different from normal Voting Rights Act cases. Usually, when a court is considering a Section 2 issue, it is in a Voting Rights Act case filed in federal court — and the court creates a large record analyzing maps, legislative history, historic voting patterns, and the local history of minority disenfranchisement. That gives the courts the ability to consider all of the relevant facts and do a full analysis.
That just isn't going to be possible in certain cases where courts are acting as map drawers. The Wisconsin Supreme Court was creating the maps, not reviewing them for Section 2 compliance. The governor submitted maps to the court specifically to follow the court's "least change" measure. The governor also considered compliance with the Voting Rights Act when drawing his maps.
This is what should happen! It has been the law for decades that compliance with the Voting Rights Act is a valid reason to take race into consideration when drawing maps. Requiring states to completely ignore Section 2 compliance when drawing maps will, at the very best, result in justice delayed. Minority voters will be required to wait until illegal maps are drawn and then litigate the issue, likely for years, before any corrective measure can be taken. But that is essentially what SCOTUS said must happen when it wrote:
The question that our VRA precedents ask and the court failed to answer is whether a race-neutral alternative that did not add a seventh majority-black district would deny black voters equal political opportunity. Answering that question requires an "intensely local appraisal" of the challenged district. When the Wisconsin Supreme Court endeavored to undertake a full strict-scrutiny analysis, it did not do so properly under our precedents, and its judgment cannot stand.
The rule in Section 2 cases has never been that the court must consider race-neutral alternatives. And if this is applied in all Section 2 cases, that part of the Voting Rights Act is, at least in practice, probably going the way of Section 5 à la Shelby County.
The Court's suggestion to the Wisconsin Supreme Court is that "the court is free to take additional evidence if it prefers to reconsider the Governor’s maps rather than choose from among the other submissions. Any new analysis, however, must comply with our equal protection jurisprudence."
No mention of the Voting Rights Act.
This is fine
While the impending decimation of the rest of the Voting Rights Act is the scariest thing about this opinion, it's far from the only fucked up part. The Court issued a summary reversal without full briefing — parties had only filed briefing on the legislature's request to stay the state court ruling and had not even briefed the merits. Summary reversal is rare and generally requires six justices to sign-off, so even though the opinion is unsigned (cowards), we can be reasonably sure John Roberts, who hates Black voting rights as much as anyone, sided with the five fullblown fascists. Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan were the only noted dissents.
This case is also another example of the Supreme Court using the "shadow docket" to make important rulings. Most major Supreme Court rulings come after months of briefing, oral arguments, and consideration by the Court. But in recent years, the Roberts Court has increasingly enjoyed issuing major rulings on the merits of cases without any of this. Precedents intended to last for decades if not longer are created, as in this case, after just a couple of weeks and no full picture of the issue at hand.
Between this case and the Supreme Court's recent ruling in Merrill v. Milligan (another shadow docket case), the Voting Rights Act is, at best, on life support. In Merrill, the Court overruled a decision requiring Alabama to create a second majority-Black congressional district. (The very "liberal activist" three-judge panel the Supreme Court overturned included two Trump appointees.)
In the Alabama case, the judges said it was just too close to the state's May primary to bother worrying about the Voting Rights Act. Sorry, Black voters!
Here in Wisconsin, on the other hand, our maps were summarily reversed and sent back despite the Wisconsin Elections Commission repeatedly saying that it needed the state's maps finalized by March 15 at the latest. That's because the candidate nomination period starts April 15 and people need to know what district they live in. Oh well! If you don't know what district you're going to be in for the next decade, too bad, so sad.
For the record, I part from most Dems in that I don't think it's a bad thing for a court to take a second look at Governor Evers's maps. But my issue is that the governor's maps didn't give enough power to Black voters — and SCOTUS is out here trying to diminish the power of Black voters even more than they already have.
But all of this is par for the course with the Roberts Court. I'm almost surprised they didn't just force the Wisconsin Supreme Court to just choose the Republican maps, like the legislature asked them to.
[ SCOTUS ]
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Some good news and some full on WTF news.
As we mentioned in our weirdass Idaho story yesterday, Idaho is having a bit of a moment just now. Let's review: In just the past two weeks, Yr Wonkette has featured these steaming nuggets of Pure Idaho Weird — and half of them involve the state legislature!
- Idaho House votes to jail Idaho librarians for Sex Books
- Idaho House votes to impose life sentences on parents and doctors of trans kids
- North Idaho GOP tries to take over county Democratic Party, install sweaty antisemite as chair.
- Idaho legislature passes Texas-style abortion bill
- Ammon Bundy goes to bat for parents' right to let baby starve.
- Tucson "rape camp" frauder not really helping child custody dispute.
Happily we have some updates on a few of those, and they don't all suck, so let's take a look-see!
Yay! Librarians Can Keep Promoting Degeneracy!
Yr Doktor Zoom just loves his Boise Library and its exclamation point.
After the state House passed a bill that would have allowed librarians and libraries to be criminally charged for "disseminating materials harmful to minors," the state Senate leadership told reporters last week the bill wouldn't get a hearing in the Senate, effectively killing any chance of the bill moving forward. State Senate President Pro Tem Chuck Winder said at a virtual luncheon with reporters, "I do not see the chamber picking this one up. I do not see it getting a hearing in committee. I think it’s very appropriately numbered, 666.”
"We don’t really tell our chairmen what to put in their drawer or not to put in their drawer. [...] But there are a lot of bills, probably moreso than normal, that are in drawers around our side of the building. I think most of them will stay there. So I don’t think you’ll see some of the craziness that the House seems to like to do get very far in the Senate."
At the same meeting, Winder said he didn't expect that another crazy House bill — HB 675, which would prohibit gender-affirming care for trans kids — would proceed, either. And as our next newspotato indicates, he was right! [Idaho Press]
Senate Kills Anti-Trans Bill Too
This week, Idaho Senate Republicans issued a statement that they will not consider HB 675, which would have banned gender-affirming care for trans kids and would have imposed life sentences in prison for doctors who provided such care, as well as parents who approved it. The Republicans were very careful to make clear that they absolutely oppose "any and all gender reassignment and surgical manipulation of the natural sex of minors," but said the House's bill went too far because it
undermines parental rights and allows the government to interfere in parents’ medical decision-making authority for their children. [...]
We believe in parents’ rights and that the best decisions regarding medical treatment options for children are made by parents, with the benefit of their physician’s advice and expertise.
Hating on trans people is all well and good, and Idaho Republicans are happy to do it, but only if that only hurts trans people themselves, like trying to ban trans athletes. Interfering with parents' decisions about their kids' healthcare, however, is more than they're ready to do, unless a woman wants to terminate a pregnancy. In that case, she needs to become a parent, and after that, Republicans don't care one way or the other about her or her brat. [Idaho Statesman]
Kootenai Dems Foil GOP Ratfuckery
In North Idaho, Republicans came up with a kooky plan by to take over the Democratic Party in Kootenai County. The place is already a GOP stronghold, but one of the brain geniuses in the county Republican leadership was recorded talking up a plan to infiltrate the Democrats by running Republicans for Democratic precinct captains in May's primary. Luckily, a non-insane GOP guy shared the recording with the media, and Kootenai Democrats chair Evan Koch wrote this week that
In less than 48 hours we identified and recruited the real Democrats needed to save our Central Committee. They turned out and committed to run in most every open precinct. In fact, many people contacted us to volunteer before being asked.
Only nineteen Republicans filed to run for Democratic precinct captain and now their names and precincts are in the public record. Although this attempted insurgence is a clear concern, it will not threaten control of the committee.
Hooray for local journalism, and hooray for local activism, too! [Kootenai County Democrats]
Ammon Bundy Has HAD IT With You Sheeple, Also Baby Is Safe Now
In that weirdass case where professional rightwing liberty provocateur (and independent candidate for governor) Ammon Bundy tried to mobilize people to make Idaho CPS return a malnourished baby to his parents, it seems the baby's family has decided to let the state take care of the 10-month-old, at least for a while. The Idaho Statesman reports the baby's grandfather, Diego Rodriguez, a Bundy adviser, said the parents "are giving custody of (the baby) to the state." No word on any details there; but that seems at least a temporary end to the saga. We'd also note that Rodriguez's blog, which had been railing about authorities "kidnapping" the child and CPS and local police engaging in "child trafficking," hasn't posted any updated outrage since Wednesday. [Idaho Statesman]
Rightwing internet talkshow guy Stew Peters said on his Thursday show that he'd received email from Rodriguez saying the judge had ordered that the baby be cared for by the state, and that Rodriguez was planning a "legal review" with his attorneys. The show also featured an interview with Idaho Lt. Gov Janice McGeachin, with more talk of how the poor baby had been "ripped away from the arms of his mother," talk of the state as "abductionists" and so on. (We're not linking, because the video includes the names and photos of medical and law enforcement personnel and a CPS social worker involved in the case.)
Very early Monday morning, Ammon Bundy posted to YouTube a video in which he again said the parents were "perfect" and that the state was lying in order to take the child away, accusing the judge of having "taken hundreds of children," which probably shouldn't be too surprising since she's a family court judge and Idaho has more than 400,000 minors in foster care, with between 1,800 and 1,900 child maltreatment victims reported each year between 2016 and 2019.
Bundy said the next hearing would be held April 8, and again claimed that the only problem was that the parents had "missed an appointment," and denied the doctors' concerns that the baby was malnourished. (Instead, Bundy insisted the baby had only gone to the hospital because he was "throwing up" a lot.)
Bundy then offered some great advice from a guy who wants to be governor:
The lesson we learn here is that you don't, don't take your kids to the hospital. Don't take your loved one to the hospital. You can't afford it. [...] There's a good chance that the state will get involved if you take your child to the hospital. This just proves it.
Bundy speculated about some "pretty eerie connections that are going on in timing" in the case, explained that the judge is a "very wicked woman, I mean very, very wicked, very wicked" who simply wanted to "destroy the family" as family court judges generally do. Finally, he reached his big conclusion:
You don't own your children. If you think you do, if you think you own 'em, that they're your children, you're a damn fool, because the state owns them, and they take them when they want, how they want, when they want. So don't you dare think that you're the one who has rights to your children. Don't you dare think that, don't even act like in any way that you do have those rights. We haven't defended them enough, and now they're taking our little children.
You know, we probably could have pointed out to him that most people regard their children as human beings that they have a moral obligation to care for and raise well, not as possessions, but Ammon Bundy never asks us about anything.
Here's Wingnut Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin Being Very Persuasive
Finally, a master class on how to interview a wingnut who won't give a straight answer, from KTVB Boise reporter Brian Holmes. He tried to get Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin on the record about a pretty simple question: When she sent a recorded video to be played at white suprempacist Nick Fuentes's "America First" hatefest, was she aware of Fuentes's racist beliefs? And if she did know, why did she go ahead and participate?
The interview aired February 28, but went viral this week when it was retwote by journalist Sergio Olmos. It's really very good: McGeachin tries to avoid the questions, and Holmes refuses to chase after her attempts to distract her.
We've cued the video up to the actual interview, but go right ahead and watch the whole report, if you need context on this shitbird Fuentes.
There's a full transcript of the interview at KTVB, and this post is already way too long, so we'll just focus in on McGeachin's brilliant hair-splitting: OK, maybe she'd heard of Fuentes, but she sent a video to express her views, not his, so why does anyone even care what he thinks? Also, she insists, it's totally unfair to ask her about the views of someone whose conference she participated in, because that's guilt by association and the media only pulls that on conservatives.
She perhaps has never heard of Jeremiah Wright or Bill Ayers.
Still, we guess McGeachin has a point: We're always hearing about how bad it supposedly is when Republicans speak at neo-Nazi conferences. But why doesn't the media ever report on Democrats speaking at neo-Nazi conferences? We just never hear about that, for some reason. [KTVB-TV]
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Oh, another child custody fight with insane militia ties? Must be something in the air.
My home state of Idaho has gone a little funny these days, although there's always a high level of background crazy here. Hot on the heels of Ammon Bundy's followers' fight to return a malnourished baby to the parents who allowed the baby to become malnourished, we have an all-new outbreak of crazy in the Gem State.
Like the Bundy story, it involves a child custody case. If anything, it's even more batshit crazy, and the militia dude who's gotten involved is, Crom help us all, probably far more dangerously off-kilter than Ammon Bundy. Nothing in the previous sentence should be misinterpreted as an endorsement of the stability or trustworthiness of Ammon Bundy.
QAnon, Sovereign Citizens, And Family Court: Not A Great Mix
Earlier this month, East Idaho News published a story about a custody fight between Lee Jennings, of Seattle, and Sarah Stanley, of god-knows-where-she-is because she's hiding from authorities to keep Jennings from seeing their son, three-year-old River. He's a dangerously cute little guy, as you can see in this photo, which in a decent world wouldn't have to be in the context of a "Missing" poster:
The story itself is very sad, and no doubt just one of many that will eventually be collected in a doctoral dissertation on the mass psychosis of Trump and QAnon adherents in the last few years. The two met online in 2016, and broke up in November 2018, when River was just eight months old. Before they'd actually arranged custody, Stanley took off for Arizona with 1) the baby, and 2) no advance notice. After a complicated series of court appearances, Stanley ended up back in Idaho, and eventually refused to let Jennings see River at all.
Jennings has been granted full custody, but that doesn't impress Stanley, who insisted in an interview with East Idaho News that River is just fine, she's not "missing," and that she's actually a victim of government persecution. Also, a whole LOT of Sovereign-Citizen word magic hooey.
Stanley argues the family court system is a “fake system with abusive males against women who are just trying to protect their babies.” She says judges in her case do not have valid oaths of office and claims her American Disability Act rights have been violated, along with her due process rights.
“I have filed a federal lawsuit against many people,” Stanley explains. “We the people need to realize courts don’t have power over you. People’s rights are being stolen left and right. I’m standing up for my rights and I’m being retaliated against.”
Stanley argues the family court system is a “for-profit corporation” and “the largest human child trafficking sector in the state.” In her eyes, the rulings from judges on child custody are unconstitutional and illegal.
"I have not done one wrong thing. I do not consent (to the proceedings). You need my consent. What is the opposite of not consent? It’s rape. And that is what the court system is. It’s a ‘legal rape system,'” she says. “They need my consent per the constitution to continue what they’re doing, and they do not have my consent. I have said that on record time and time again.”
Funny how that never seems to carry any weight with judges. Guess that just proves how illegitimate the courts are.
And now we get to the dangerous bucket of crazy who's moving events along. Ms. Stanley refuses to "co-parent with the government," and instead says the custody case should be taken care of through her "church," an outfit called "Walking for the Forgotten Ministry," founded by one Michael Lewis Arthur Meyer of Tucson, Arizona.
If those four names sound vaguely familiar, that's because Yr Wonkette has covered Mr. Meyer previously: He's the guy who was briefly Wingnut Famous in 2018 when he found an abandoned homeless camp in the desert near Tucson and proclaimed it a "child sex trafficking camp," because what else could it be? Police said no, it's a homeless camp, which just proved they were covering up for the international Soros-Clinton cabal and all that. Meyer also operates a grifty border militia he calls "Veterans on Patrol," although predictably enough, he's never been in the military.
It says a lot about the guy that his desert militia cosplay shenanigans were too flaky for the Oath Keepers and for Gateway Pundit.
Meyer told East Idaho News that, as "pastor" of Walking With the Forgotten Ministry, he's protecting Sanders from the evil government, and that she's staying in one of the "dozens" of "safe houses" that he very definitely operates all across America. Here's that audio interview, in which Meyer explains that he's ready to protect Sanders and River as long as they need it, and to mediate the situation just as he's done "dozens of times" previously.
Meyer explains that Sarah Stanley is "in a safe location with her son, and everything she needs will be provided for her and her son." Further, he insists he's really good at helping the helpless, since he claims to have run nine homeless shelters, and to have rescued more than 5,000 children at the border, plus another 14,000 immigrant children who'd been "dumped on my property" in Arizona in July 2021. Oddly, that appears not to have made the news, which again shows how deep the conspiracy goes.
Also, Meyer explains, River has to be protected from his father's nefarious plan to "vaccinate him and virtue signal to other families in Seattle. That’s not going to happen. We’re not going to allow anyone to inject the child with a bioweapon." Meyer apparently means not just the COVID vaccine (which isn't yet approved for kids under five anyway), but all childhood vaccines. He also accused Jennings of domestic abuse, a claim Stanley has also made, although there's no evidence, Jennings has no record, and of course Jennings denies being abusive.
Needless to say, he rejects the jurisdiction of the Family Court system, because "I don’t care what law enforcement says. I don’t answer to the government. The government works for me,” and Stanley "doesn’t have to comply with any of these court orders.”
Shit Gets Scary
Also, reverting to his usual strategy, he accuses everyone in the case of being criminals and "child predators." He's been doxxing most of them, too. Meyer earlier this week posted a nice video of himself standing outside the Idaho Falls office of Jennings's attorney, Laurie Gaffney, saying she's a "democratic socialist" and that he's simply there as a "border journalist," mmm-hmm.
Arizona border vigilante Michael Lewis Arthur Meyer has posted increasingly troubling rants recently regarding a child custody case in Idaho. Today, he shared a video from the front door of an Idaho Falls lawfirm involved in the case and warned: "We'll be seeing you again."pic.twitter.com/mWHjBxhOHD— Nick Martin (@Nick Martin) 1647374568
Nothing chilling there, just a guy accusing an attorney of perjury and of being "directly responsible for attempting to abduct 3-year-old River Stanley from his loving mother," then carefully naming the law firm: "Banks and Gaffney Trial Lawyers. Idaho Falls. We’ll be seeing you again."
This is actually getting into some potentially very dangerous territory; when he was chasing imaginary child smugglers around the desert, Meyer could confabulate all he wanted about rescuing thousands of kids, but now he's "protecting" a very real little boy, and the boy's mother appears to agree with Meyer's delusions.
In the latest turn, Meyer left a threatening phone message for Nate Eaton, the reporter who wrote the East Idaho News story.
Mr. Eaton, I want to know why you continue to pursue a woman and child in our safe house program. Do you want to get other women and children harmed? Are you interested in children getting hurt? Is that what your goal is? I’d advise you to remove your Facebook post; otherwise, you’re going to be seeing a whole lot of attention you don’t want. This woman is in protected custody. You are putting her life in danger, Mr. Eaton, and I’ll be knocking on your front door in a few days with a camera and a lot of people, your personal house, if you do not get off of her back. Leave her alone. Goodbye, Mr. Eaton. See you soon.
Eaton has filed for a protective order against Meyer; a judge signed off on it, but it can't be enforced until Meyer is served with the order. That's a bit of a challenge, since at the moment he doesn't seem to have a fixed address. Probably hanging out at one of his dozens of safe houses.
As of this morning, it appears nobody knows where Meyer is, or whether Stanley and River are with him. We're hoping this all has a peaceful resolution.
No, Mr. Bundy, we don't think your help is needed.
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Why bother with democracy at all?
As we keep documenting in this little mommyblog, Idaho Republicans are a special kind of crazy. Lacking the national influence of a Florida or a Texas, Idaho punches well above its weight in pure rightwing batshittery. But for the purest distillation of rightwing Idaho crazy, you need to travel to the panhandle, up north, where plenty of folks are looking forward to a nice civil war, or at least fining anyone who doesn't own a gun.
And now it seems the Republicans in Kootenai County, which includes the area's largest city, Coeur d'Alene, have been scheming to infiltrate and take over the local Democratic Party so they can install a repulsive antisemitic agitator as party chair, redirect Democratic political donations to rightwing causes, and generally brag about how clever they are.
Even more bizarrely, the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee (KCRCC, which is one letter too many to be a radio station) might just manage to pull it off, although local Democrats are mobilizing to head that off.
'If We Pull This Off We'll Eat Like Kings!'
The scheme came to light Wednesday when the Coeur d'Alene Press published details of a recorded phone call to John Grimm, a local Republican who ran unsuccessfully for county sheriff in 2020. In Idaho, it's legal to record phone calls with "one party" consent. The caller, Grimm says, was KCRCC Youth Chair Dan Bell, who had a simple proposition: "Long story short, we want to take over the Democrat Party. [...] If we pull this off, this will be national news."
Well golly, Yr Wonkette is certainly national.
Grimm told the paper he recorded the call because he wanted to have it on record.
I know from personal observation that certain members of the KCRCC are masters of deception with an ability to twist the meaning of even their own statements.
Grimm is a super-conservative Republican, but of the non-batshit variety that doesn't like how the full-on extremists are taking over the local GOP. (See? Idaho does so have a two-party system!)
The scheme is some pretty straightforward ratfucking that takes advantage of the fact that Kootenai County just plain doesn't have that big a Democratic Party. The KCRCC would run its own slate of candidates to be Democratic precinct captains. The Coeur d'Alene Press explains how that could work:
Elected by partisan primary voters in May of each even-numbered year, precinct captains are part of both county and legislative district central committees.
Leaders elected by these central committees then elect the state party leaders.
Kootenai County has 70 precincts. There are only 21 Democrat precinct captains. The remaining  precincts are vacant, compared to 10 vacant Republican precincts.
The scheme is pretty much a variation on the national plan by Donald Trump supporters to take over state and local Republican party organizations from the ground up, except in Kootenai County the idea is to seize control of the opposition party, for the sheer ratfucking joy of it.
What If They Held A Primary And Nobody Ran?
When the story ran on Wednesday, the Press reports, only 11 candidates had filed to run for those precinct captain jobs, and "At least one was reportedly a KCRCC volunteer." The deadline to file for the primary is today, Friday, at 5 p.m.
The Press reports in an updated story today that as of Thursday, the number of candidates was up to 35, with local Democrats hurrying to get more real Dems on the ballot by today's filing deadline. That said, it's not clear how many of those filings were from actual Democrats and how many were from KCRCC cuckoo birds.
Evan Koch, the chair of the Kootenai Democrats, told the Press Thursday, "We’re pretty darn close to filling the county now. [...] The threat of a takeover has galvanized us."
On the phone call, Bell said that as of Tuesday, he had commitments from 25 Republicans to help with the scheme, and that the KCRCC planned to get at least 40 of its people on the ballot before today's deadline.
“We’re going to do a bum rush on Thursday and Friday so that our people are on the ballot and theirs aren’t,” he said. [...]
After [the deadline], Bell said, Democrats will have to scramble to find write-in candidates, then spend time and money promoting them.
In the lead-up to the primary in May, Bell said, the KCRCC would use its voter lists to target Constitution Party members and unaffiliated conservatives to do a stealthy Get Out the Vote effort:
“We’re going to call these voters and say, ‘Hey, if you want to vote in the primary and take out the liberals, request a Democrat ballot and vote for our people for precinct committee,” Bell said.
Bell also told Grimm that the plan had the backing of county GOP chair Brent Regan, who also chairs the far-Right Idaho Freedom Foundation, that merry band of dark-money-funded wingnuts that's risen to prominence in its fight to promote the coronavirus and make sure everyone in the state has a gun and Bible. They also don't like diversity, because something something black cows and red cows.
So yeah, Bell said that Brent Regan is "totally on board” with the plan to take over Democratic precinct posts. In its updated story today, the Press says Regan had sent an email denying that the KCRCC had been recruiting its own candidates to run in the Democratic primary:
“Whatever efforts or statements Mr. Bell made, he did so as a private individual and not in any official capacity as a member of the KCRCC,” Regan said.
So that's a denial of any official involvement, all right.
Meet The New Boss, Definitely Not The Old Boss
In the recording, Bell explained what the Kootenai GOP might do if it managed to pull off the takeover of the county Democratic Party, at least once the members were done high-fiving each other. Once in control, he said, they'd elect David J. Reilly as party chair. He's the sweaty antisemite whom the KCRCC officially endorsed in his unsuccessful run for the Post Falls school board in 2020. Reilly has promoted the racist "Great Replacement" conspiracy theory, and as recently as 2019 insisted that it was actually Jews who secretly pushed white supremacy to cover supposed Jewish responsibility for "the mess the West finds itself in today."
Reilly has also claimed that Jews "pretend to be white when it's expediant [sic] for them" and has fondly wished that more Americans would believe antisemitic stereotypes. Bell seemed almost giddy at the prospect of installing him as head of the local Democratic Party:
“A guy that they call racist, antisemitic, Holocaust denier,” Bell said. “That same guy would be the chair of the Kootenai Democrat Party.”
Bell claimed on the phone call that Regan had come up with that brilliant idea. Again, in today's update, Regan denied that:
“No, it is not true,” he said Thursday. “I really don’t care who the Democrats elect as chairman.”
Perhaps inconveniently, Reilly posted on Twitter Thursday that he had "registered as a Democrat and filed to become a Precinct Captain" so that he could fix the party, you see.
Today, I registered as a Democrat and filed to become a Precinct Captain.
The Democrat Party has veered towards Left Wing Extremism, working with groups like BLM & Antifa, while promoting Abortion, Transgender ideology, & anti-2A policies.
Idaho needs a Pro-Life Democrat party.
Spoken like a true loyal member of the Democrat Party, which we all say. Or will, once we're assimilated by Reilly and his ilk.
Regan's denials aside, Bell said on the recorded call that with Reilly as chair, there'd be ample opportunities for further mischief:
In addition to using the local Democratic Party’s website and social media channels to promote conservative causes, Bell said Reilly would use his position to take money donated to Democrats and give it to Republicans.
“He’s going to revamp their website,” Bell said. “He’s going to take donations and spend that on conservative causes.”
The Press scrupulously adds that Idaho law defines "theft by false promise" as a crime involving one person taking the property of another by "representing that he or a third person will engage in particular conduct with no intention to actually engage in that conduct." Not that it's saying anyone in particular is trying to do said crime.
'There Is Another'
Also too, the Press says Grimm isn't the only Kootenai County Republican to come forward to say they'd been contacted about the alleged scheme. A woman who wished to remain anonymous told the paper that another party luminary, Greg McKenzie, had asked her at a recent KCRCC meeting if she might be willing to register as a Democrat, to help take over the local den of Dems.
“He said it’s a thing where you register and then you can get into their organization and sway votes,” she told The Press on Wednesday.
She said she wasn't interested, and that McKenzie asked if she'd at least be willing to help recruit others for what she called the "scheme." She again said no thanks. McKenzie told the paper he didn't remember the conversation.
Fortunately, McKenzie and Regan told the Press they know who the real villains are: the newspaper, obviously, which they accused of working with Democrats to ratfuck the Republican primary, don't you see?
In Idaho, Republicans have had a closed primary since 2011, and are constantly claiming that there's a widespread plot by Democrats to infiltrate the GOP primaries to elect "liberals," by which they mean non-batshit conservatives like the establishment pro-business GOP people whose hair isn't on fire.
Yr Wonkette will keep you up to date on this heinous fuckery most foul. If you happen to be a Democrat in Kootenai County, you have until 5 p.m. "Pacific Time" to file as a precinct captain candidate. NO FAKES.
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