While Montana Republicans were eager to distance themselves from reporting this weekend that Representative Rodney Garcia called the killing of “socialists” as a constitutional and legal right, his unhinged rant is not a bug in the Montana Republican Party; it is a feature of a party that has become increasingly dominated by those who combine a dangerous lack of knowledge with an even more dangerous penchant for violent acts and rhetoric.
Garcia is the culmination of two decades of feeding hateful rhetoric to Montana voters and tolerating their extremist views.
While Garcia—the kind of legislator who condemns the dangers of socialism while proposing that the State of Montana own and operate the power plant at Colstrip—may seem like an aberration, he is part of a troubling trend of Montana Republicans who have been radicalized by conservative media and social media.
And like Frankenstein’s monster, the mass of dangerously ill-informed voters that the Republican Party mobilized to win elections has now taken control of the GOP, and no leading Montana Republicans have the courage to resist them.
Garcia has shared some of his more ill-informed and violent rhetoric, including his claim that Montana Child Protective Service workers were “kidnapping” Montana children and that people should “defend their family” from them on Montana’s premier militia outlet, Northwest Liberty News. Northwest Liberty News, as readers of this site know, is the kind of site that traffics in offensive conspiracy theories and calls for violence.
But it’s not just Garcia who speaks to them. During the 2018 campaign, the Rosendale campaign issued them a press credential for a rally and Senator Steve Daines agreed to be interviewed by them. Legislators from the Flathead area regularly appear on the site and show, as well.
In a sane time, a sane political party would distance itself from an outlet like Northwest Liberty News as forcefully as Rodney Garcia distances himself from facts, but instead, Montana Republicans legitimize a site that promotes the idea that the Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 Americans stigmatized the “alleged militia involvement” and that the Parkland High School mass killing was a CIA false flag operation to take away our guns.
It’s pretty hard to take the GOP’s disavowal of Garcia’s remarks very seriously when their candidates and elected officials give their tacit support to a site that calls for violence almost every week.
Unfortunately, it’s not just the decision to endorse militia media that characterizes the descent into dangerous rhetoric and ideas in the Republican Party.
Consider Theresa Manzella, who, after endorsing armed insurrection against the federal government, was invited by the Montana GOP to be a national delegate at their 2016 convention.
Consider Senator David Howard, who was re-elected and seated on legislative committees after calling for a second Civil War if President Obama were re-elected, not to mention an explicit call for his death.
Consider Senator Jennifer Fielder, who kept advancing in the Republican ranks despite advocating Bundy-style lawlessness.
Consider legislators Barry Usher, Brad Tschida, and Greg DeVries, who share racist lies on their social media.
Consider Steve Daines, who fundraises on racist attacks against fellow members of Congress.
Consider Greg Gianforte, who donated to and took donations from white supremacists.
Consider Matt Rosendale, who attended a rally put on by the anti-government Oath Keepers and attended a church service of the well-known anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist Chuck Baldwin.
Of course, the Montana Republican Party wants you to believe that it condemns the remarks made by Representative Garcia. The truth, though, is that after feeding a segment of the Montana electorate a steady diet of fearmongering about socialism, dishonest screeds about government overreach, racist and xenophobic attacks against our fellow Americans, the Republican Party has been consumed by these voters.
That’s why Republicans didn’t denounce Garcia until they were caught by the press. That’s why leading Republicans won’t use their position to condemn the violent rhetoric that comes from voters and even elected officials. That’s why they legitimize extremist views and outlets.
They’re afraid of the power of the monster they’ve created and more interested in winning primary votes than in preserving the moral center of their party and our institutions.
Representative Rodney Garcia is an ill-informed messenger, but don’t let Republicans convince you he is an aberration. He’s the embodiment of what the Republican Party has become and will continue to be unless brave men and women in the party reject the dangerous ideology that is eating away at the soul of the GOP like a cancer.
Will anyone in the GOP find the courage to resist?