A Petri dish of right wing insanity and goofiness. That was my impression of the April 15 Tea Party that took place on the grounds of the Arizona state capitol and drew thousands in a mass fit of anti-Obama rage. Sure, not everyone there was a complete moon-howling loon. (After all, I was there.) But I would say that a good 70 to 80 percent of those present were about a nut short of a PayDay bar.
Don't get me wrong. I love me a PayDay bar. And such extreme, Glenn Beck-esque paranoia and far-right wackiness makes for perfect blog-fodder. So much so that I can't wait for the next spate of tea parties to occur on July 4 across the country, which organizers hope will be as colossal an explosion of pent-up falangist energy as the April 15 parties were. However, whether FOX News will get behind the national effort to the same degree remains to be seen. Plus, who'd rather protest than barbecue and eat ice cream on Independence Day?
Even if they're able to pull it together locally and get KFYI 550 AM on board, with cornpone hillbilly J.D. Hayworth to broadcast live again, it'd be tough to top April 15. On that date, Phoenix saw an influx of Paleolithic conservatives from deepest, darkest Gilbert and Mesa. Hausfraus and their high-school aged progeny compared Barack Obama to mass murderers such as Adolf Hitler, and to far-left revolutionaries such as V.I. Lenin. Obama's name and face were interchangeable with the hammer and sickle for these Looney Tunes.
No denunciation of our President was too far out at the jingoist jamboree, even though the Prez was elected to his national post by both the popular vote and the Electoral College. It wasn't too long ago in this country when even conservatives demanded a smidgen of respect for the POTUS. Sadly, those days are long behind us. At one point, I listened incredulously as a white, middle-class dad threatened Obama's life in front of his teenage daughter and roly-poly Arizona state Senator Thayer Verschoor. I was the only adult who challenged this imbecile on his threat -- though I have to give points to the crazy man's kid for trying to drag her daddy away as he spat his violence towards the nation's chief executive. In general, such deranged individuals were not confronted at the hootenanny, primarily because they were in the majority.
There were neo-Nazis in attendance, John Birchers, estwhile Ron Paul-ites (or "Ronulans"), middlebrows who'd read too much Ayn Rand, minutemen, nativist members of United for a Sovereign America and other anti-immigrant groups, you name it. One of those minutemen, or perhaps more properly -- minutewomen, reporting for duty was Shawna Forde, founder and leader of the group Minuteman American Defense. On June 12, Forde, 41, and two cohorts were arrested by the Pima County Sheriff's Department for their alleged role in a bloody home-invasion robbery in Arivaca that left a nine-year-old girl and her father dead.
Other members of MAD (a prescient acronym for an organization if there ever was one) have since taken down the Web site, leaving up a message that declares that they neither "endorse nor condone" Forde's actions, claiming she has "caused a lot of pain embarrassment and humiliation to the total Minuteman movement and fellow members of MAD."
Just tears me up to hear how the minutemen were hurt by all this. Maybe if they'd been less concerned with playing vigilante and weekend warrior, crackpots like Forde and her associates wouldn't have (allegedly) shed innocent blood.
BTW, Forde's blog from the Phoenix Tea Party is still up on Google cache. In it she gushes her enthusiasm for this outpouring of Obama-hatred. She concludes by exhorting her fellow rightists.
"This is the time for all Americans to join organizations and REVOLT!!!," she writes. "Refuse to be part of a system only designed to enslave you and you children. Times will get worse before they get worse, *Say no to illegal immigration* Lock and Load, Shawna Forde."
Forde was lockin' and loadin' all right. According to Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, the immediate motive was greed. Dupnik told reporters after the trio's arrest that Forde and the others wanted money and drugs. He suggested Forde desired cash to fuel her operation and make it more sophisticated. Dupnik also stated that "the plan was to kill all the people inside this trailer so there would be no witnesses." (Indeed, if the family's mother had not returned fire, she probably would have been killed as well.)
Those who recall the murderous neo-Nazi group The Order, which was active across the country in the early '80s, will remember that The Order financed its activities, in part, through armed robberies and counterfeiting.
Since she was arrested, other nativist and minuteman groups have attempted to distance themselves from Forde, who has a history of erratic behavior. This past December and January in her second home of Everett, Washington, she claimed to have been raped, beaten and shot at in bizarre incidents that involved her ex-husband. Forde blamed groups such as MS-13 and the Mexican mafia, but a lot of people -- including many nativists, believed the incidents to have been staged by Forde herself. Everett cops recently dropped the investigation into the December 29 rape because of "insufficient evidence."
One of Forde's alleged partners in crime, Jason Bush, has a criminal history of auto theft, according to Everett's The Daily Herald. That newspaper quotes members of Forde's family saying that Forde intended to pull off other robberies to bankroll her anti-immigrant activities. Her half-brother Merrill Metzger informed the Herald that one potential target "was a store in Phoenix where the owner was said to cash checks for people working illegally in the U.S." Forde also "bragged of connections to white supremacists and said some in her organization were willing to kill."
Bush was MAD's "operations director," and he has since been charged in Washington state with the murder of a homeless, Hispanic man in 1997. The other man involved, Albert Robert Gaxiola, has been identified as an Arivaca local, and his name is certainly Hispanic. I've seen conflicting reports on whether or not he was a MAD member. It wouldn't surprise me too much if he had been, as there are some Hispanics who've lent themselves to the nativist movement in general, such as Phoenix's own Anna Gaines.
The Southern Poverty Law Center's Hatewatch blog and other Web sites have pointed out that in a 2006 televised debate Forde presented herself as a spokesperson for FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform. FAIR has since denied that it ever had any dealings with Forde. Forde was a member of Minuteman Civil Defense Corps at one time. MCDC founder and now Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Chris Simcox has since said that Forde only lasted six months in MCDC before they kicked her out.
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The anti-immigrant movement is an incestuous, backstabbing clan. So when such connections are made between various nativist organizations and Forde, they are hardly eye-popping. Neither are the reports of Forde's contact with white supremacist organizations. If you were to do a Venn diagram of nativist and racist circles, there would be considerable overlap.
Include in that same diagram a circle for the Tea Party types, and all three would intersect, leaving a wide swath. This too should raise no eyebrows. The wackos who want to kill Obama and call him a communist are often the same ones who hate Mexicans: i.e., Racist white men with guns. You know, the ones highlighted in that DHS report on right-wing extremism, which Janet Napolitano fell over herself apologizing for. Not that she had much to do with it, but she shouldn't have apologized, considering how correct the white paper (pun intended) tirned out to be.
If the Tea Party mad-hatters are able to pull off another extremist wing-ding on July 4, I hope someone in the FBI is there taking notes on the haters. Particularly since racial, idelogical or simple criminal violence could follow in the Tea Party's wake.