In these times, everything looks like an ill omen. The capitol is crowded with crows. But it is not an exaggeration to say that if you're not following the ongoing insanity in Oregon, you are missing a look into a very dark future. It begins with a not-at-all-unusual squabble between the Republicans in the Oregon legislature and the Democratic Governor, Kate Brown. At issue is a huge bill aimed at dealing with the climate crisis. On Thursday, every Republican member of the Oregon state senate took a powder, denying Brown and the Democrats a quorum and effectively killing the bill.
Now this is not an unusual tactic. Not long ago, Democratic lawmakers in Texas and in Wisconsin blew town for the same purpose-to throw sand in the gears of a legislative act of which they did not approve and could not stop by conventional means. In Wisconsin, it was to slow down an anti-union measure. In Texas, it was about a redistricting map that gerrymandered the Texas legislature into a farce. The legislative lamsters all had a good time, taking goofy videos in what appeared to be Holiday Inn lobbies while Republicans back home fumed. (The Texans, it should be noted, won a temporary victory.) What makes Oregon different is what the fugitive Republican senators did.
The Republican senators-with the full support of the Oregon Republican Party-made common cause with armed extremist groups. (Calling them a militia is a misnomer, regardless of what they may think of themselves.) When a Republican state senator named Brian Boquist heard that Brown was sending the Oregon state police after them, he told a local television station:
Send bachelors and come heavily armed. I’m not going to be a political prisoner in the state of Oregon. It’s just that simple.
Almost immediately, the local extremist groups sprang to Boquist's defense. From ThinkProgress:
A member of the Oregon 3 Percenters - a militia group whose members have vowed to combat what they perceive as constitutional infringement - said they would act as the senators’ de-facto bodyguards against the state police. “We have vowed to provide security, transportation and refuge for those Senators in need,” they wrote in a Facebook post. “We will stand together with unwavering resolve, doing whatever it takes to keep these Senators safe.”
In Idaho, where some of the lawmakers have supposedly fled, the state’s 3 Percenters group was similarly willing to defend the Republicans as well, posting threatening memes on its Facebook page. “This is what the start of a civil war looks like,” the group wrote in one post. “Elected officials seeking asylum in a friendly jurisdiction.” Speaking to ThinkProgress, Eric Parker, president of the group Real 3 Percenters Idaho, said the group was currently networking to figure out if Brown had asked for any “out of state resources” - such as help from the FBI or Idaho State Patrol - and were willing to assist the the Republican senators in any way necessary.
And you could find a way to wave this off as well, except for what happened on Saturday. From the Oregonian/OregonLive:
A spokeswoman for the Senate President confirmed late Friday that the "Oregon State Police has recommended that the Capitol be closed tomorrow due to a possible militia threat."
An "Occupy The Senate" rally on Sunday, sponsored by the local and state GOP, seems to have fizzled. (Jason Wilson on the electric Twitter machine is your go-to on this, and he has pictures, including one of a chainsaw the size of a Saturn V.) That doesn't calm me down at all. There has been a wildness in the land for a while now and, at this moment, at the top of the government, we have a president* who's more than willing to give that wildness a purpose and a focus.
People with guns have involved themselves in a legislative dispute while the officials of one of the political parties was rooting them on, and one session of a state legislature was cancelled because of it. Roll that around in your head for a while and see where you end up. Something is building in our politics and now I wish I hadn't watched that series about Chernobyl. We may be exceeding the tolerances of all our systems.
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