The state of Idaho: The far-right’s new testing grounds

Far-right media influencers
Far-right media influencers

Idaho is a “red state,” no doubt about it, having voted for Republican presidents for the past 14 election years. But, as of recently, far-right Republicans are slowly taking over the state, pushing conspiracy theories, Christian nationalism, and radical hateful ideologies into the mainstream. This trend is surfacing both across the state and nationally.
In the years after former president Donald Trump’s election, the Republican party, nationally and on a state level, started to seemingly fall from its core values. Rather than favoring little government regulation, the party swung in favor of extremely limiting statutes based on extremist beliefs. In Idaho, House Bill 242 of the 2023 legislative session denies a woman’s right to an abortion. And House Bills 421 and 538 of the 2024 session are anti-LGBTQ+ laws to limit gender expression. Then there’s House Bill 710 of the 2024 session, which blocks certain library materials and books from persons under 18.
Idaho’s Republican primary has become a national test for how far the Republican party can be pulled to the right. Several candidates tied to extremist groups have run for governor and the legislature, with one example being Ammon Bundy and his People’s Rights movement. But this problem extends beyond a governmental level. It stretches far into the personal realm, causing adversity for already-marginalized citizens in some unexpected ways.
In June of 2022, National Public Radio reported that 31 members of a far-right white nationalist group, Patriots Front, were arrested near a Pride event in Coeur d’Alene. The men were in the back of a rental box truck and suspected to be heading to the Pride event; multiple men had weapons, and all were charged with conspiracy to riot.
In August of 2023, Fox News reported that Idaho’s former far-right gubernatorial candidate, Bundy, was arrested and later sued after accusing St. Luke’s Medical Center of child trafficking and harassing medical staff.
Even closer to home, one TikTok video has shown two men covering their faces while holding a white nationalist banner reading, “It’s great to be white!” near the intersection of Main Street and 21st Street in Lewiston.
Not surprisingly, before any of those events occurred, the Southern Poverty Law Center labeled Idaho as the most hateful state in 2018, based on its data and research on hate groups.
The solutions to these problems are apparent. It starts with education and awareness. Residents of communities like ours, so close to such hateful and dangerous groups, need to be made aware of the dangers of far-right extremism and the impact it can have on the community. Idahoans can be informed through programs discussing the history of extremism, its consequences, and ways to combat it.
Lastly, law enforcement agencies must be more proactive in dealing with these groups. This isn’t just limited to arresting them when they break the law, but preventing them from causing harm in the first place.
These solutions, if implemented, would send a clear message that hate and extremism will not be tolerated in Idaho.

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