The Rise of Militias: Patriot Candidates are Now Getting Elected in Oregon
Like Trump, the Patriot Movement’s surge is due partly to fear and the perceived indifference of political leaders to places that didn’t recover from the 2008 crash
By Jason Wilson
Joseph Rice’s manner is a long way from militia stereotypes. The Patriot Movement leader does not present as a crazed gun nut nor as a blowhard white supremacist. He’s genial, folksy, and matter-of-fact in laying out his views. But talk to him for long enough, and time and again the Patriot Movement leader returns to what really drives him: land.
Rice is running for Josephine county commissioner in south-west Oregon and believes that the federal government’s current role in land management is illegitimate and even tyrannical.
His campaign is well-advertised around the country and appears well-organised. His growing experience in organising Patriot groups and community watch organisations has polished his skills in retail politics. He’s clearly done a lot of work to make himself politically palatable to conservative rural voters.
He has positions on education (kids should finish high school), legalised marijuana (it presents an economic opportunity) and Donald Trump (“people are tired of career politicians, and they know the country’s in trouble”).
But county supremacy is what really drives him.
It’s this notion that is once again becoming central to local politics in the Pacific north-west. Throughout the region, people whose ideas about land management broadly align with Rice and the now infamous Bundy clan are aiming for elected office in cities, counties, and even the state houses.
Taking notice of the trend, progressive watchdog group Political Research Associates even pointed to “a wave of Patriot-affiliated candidates in Oregon”.
Rice talks proudly of his connection with the Oath Keepers – a group which recruits from serving and retired law enforcement officers and military personnel. The group asserts that the oath was taken by soldier and police “is to the constitution, not to the politicians”, such that serving personnel is obliged to disobey unconstitutional orders.
He’s also proud of his role in founding the Pacific Patriots network, which aims to coordinate members of various patriot groups in the Pacific north-west.
Both groups and Rice himself were prominent actors in the standoff at the Malheur national wildlife refuge last January. On Rice’s account, “we acted as a buffer between the federal government and the refuge”.
In practice, this meant that they were a constant presence in and around Burns, Oregon, as the occupation unfolded. Their actions included everything from warning law enforcement officers against attempting a forceful resolution of the situation to forming an armed perimeter around the refuge...
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