The Liberty Convention: Largely Free of Attendees

How much attention should the media and political establishment keep paying the far right fringe in this country? Despite cries of liberal media bias, every little “rally” of 20 or so people at the Capital seems to get front page attention and every pronouncement by self-appointed spokesmen for right wing makes its way into the news.

It’s a tough call. On one hand, these groups are clearly more attention than they deserve. The much ballyhooed Liberty Convention in Missoula this weekend, which claimed to be preparing for 5000 attendees came up a little short:

The two-day gathering in Missoula was predicted to bring 5,000 attendees of Tea Party-affiliated conservative groups, according to Ravalli County organizer Mona Docteur. The Friday night and Saturday morning sessions each had about 5 percent of that goal.

I know the rhetoric is exciting. It’s exciting to hear speakers talk about “Karl Marx Republicans” and  and compare the current political climate to Romanian soldiers killing Ceau?escu and the Vigilantes killing Henry Plummer. 

But as amusing as they may be, it might be time to stop giving them so much attention. There were no doubt more people at the Missoula Target Saturday than attended the Liberty Conference; it’s time to adjust the coverage accordingly.

Why do I think we’re paying too much attention? Gary Marbut is a perfect illustration:

But small, active numbers can make a difference, gun rights advocate Gary Marbut told the audience. To poke fun at the University of Montana’s ban on weapons in the Adams Center, Marbut came with a bright yellow squirt gun holstered on his belt.

Talk about turning yourself into a metaphor. Marbut’s entire career has been built around convincing the Montana Legislature and media that he actually represents a large percentage of Montanans despite all the evidence to the contrary.

What the Liberty Conference and people like Gary Marbut demonstrate is the manner in which the right wing has moved the debate in this country. A tiny, shrieking minority on the far right has managed to realign the political spectrum, defining  mainstream Republicans as gun zealots opposed to sensible federal legislation like the Americans with Disabilities Act.

It’s time to put the fringe right wing back where they belong, on awkward web sites and anonymous comments on newspaper sites.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.


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