The promise of a pluralistic democracy in America is at risk. From the American Presidency, his cabinet and court appointees to the Lieutenant Governor of Idaho and members of the Idaho Legislature, White nationalism now occupies the highest seats of power in America and is growing in political power and influence in rural and small-town communities across the nation .Reactionary groups across the country have capitalized on a void left by the lack of philanthropic investment in rural and small-town communities. This was particularly prominent in Idaho in 2008 after the stock market crash leading to massive divestment from the state. The second hit came after Idaho lost a Congressional house seat to tea party candidate, Raul Labrador; thus, the perception of movability as the funders concentrated their efforts in to expedient efforts in urban centers to influence representatives sympathetic to their issues. After 9/11 the alt-right experienced a dramatic resurgence and increased their organizing efforts across the Pacific Northwest. Far-right groups redoubled their efforts to fill the void, laser focused on state legislatures they began a strategic campaign targeting the most marginalized communities, shredding the safety net and exercising unprecedented power over state governments. The writing has been on the walls for over a decade as rural states have been used as the testing ground for these policies, acting to normalize and implement them through the courts. The pace at which civil rights, social, economic and environmental justice policies have been steadily eroded and dismantled is in plain view. These trends have created both a moral and political crisis in and created an existentialthreat to our democracy.
Hate groups across Idaho have doubled since 2016, infiltrating rural areas including Central, and Eastern Idaho. As rural communities across Idaho have increasingly become havens for white nationalist and white supremist groups, the internet has allowed unprecedented communication and coordination on a global front. The links between the Tree of Life, Charlottesville, El Paso, Eastern European elections, revisionist history and rural America are easily traced.
White Nationalist groups exploit human struggle stemming from economic decline, use cultural resentment, and racism to build a governing strategy that has now unleashed a form of racial exclusion that is mainstreaming a worldview of ethnic cleansing. Using the “politics of resentment” arising from the interaction of social identities, economic insecurity and emotions of resentment leads people to understand their conditions as the fault of a “less deserving” social group rather than attributing them to the broader social, economic and political forces at work for generations. These dynamics are deeply racialized and serve to pit people against each other and distract from the agenda of elimination at work.
Spectacularly unique to this moment is that White nationalists have been emboldened by their role in helping to elect a president and seat prominent supporters in the highest levels of government. The “alt-right” have found their charismatic leader in Trump. He uses his pulpit to exploit the pain of poor and working class rural folks blaming people of color, immigrants, and foreign nations when the fact is corporate interests have largely created these conditions. This Administration both incites hate and violence and connects it’s rhetoric and policies to a block of America caste as nothing more than red, rural, racist a further characterized by the mainstream media as his immoveable base. The more this narrative is reinforced, it provides little ability to move from this identity, providing a perfect storm for White Nationalist groups to offer connection, and a feeling of belonging that is glaringly absent in our deeply divided times.
In fact rural places are not a monolith, and are increasingly becoming ethnically diverse. It is incumbent upon each of us to move beyond the “us” vs “them” frame and explore systemic discrimination that has relegated the vast majority to suffering under crushing economic and social disparity. It is hardly a rural phenomenon that many have become distrustful, if not resentful of government. Just as our government has become the unbridled tool of special interests and dark money, policies have been coopted and obscured by political parties trying to carve out an identity as the pendulum widely swings leaving many to wonder what exactly they represent?
The line between conservatism and liberalism depends much more on one’s vantage point, while the line between most people is not nearly as deeply entrenched in the labels attached to them. In thousands and thousands of one-on-one conversations we have conducted – it’s clear is that when asked, what values and issues matter to you? What would make a difference in your life?, resoundingly most people are aligned with each other. Rural communities are fiercely independent and dedicated to family and community. Hard work and bold ideas are hallmarks of small towns across the country. The problem is no the intrinsic value of rural people. The problem is that amidst real crisis the only articulation of the cause of that pain comes from a social and political analysis provided by the far-right. The vast majority of rural people get their news from media that have become little more than propaganda and a pulpit for Donald Trump. The narrative that juxtaposes rural America to the rest of the country is one we must abandon. We need little more evidence to know that if the progressive movement can only reside in urban and suburban places we will continue surrendering the kind of people power that is needed to transform our country into one that works for everyone.
What doesn’t work is claiming moral superiority and tirelessly making the case that our view is right all in an attempt to transform their thinking to ours. Yet, we keep using this model and wondering why we are losing day by excruciating day. People want to be heard, valued and included. They want to put food on the table, pay the rent, get the healthcare they need, they want be paid fairly for hard work, they want their children to have access to quality, affordable education, they want to drink clean water and breathe fresh air; they want to live without the constant fear and anxiety of meeting life’s most basic needs. The notion of America is one of fairness and equal opportunity. Rather than blaming one another we need an honest conversation about the practice of America and how it doesn’t align with the fundamental values we hold. The reality is that we can reconcile these without each other.
We won’t undo the foundational and systemic harm or the damage of this Administration in one election cycle, and we won’t do it continuing to do things the way we always have. This is a time that requires each one of us to commit to the long and hard work ahead if we truly want a movement that can place people first and achieve our needs; a movement designed to outlive us.
While this is undeniably a very bleak period, the good news is that our government is the making of people and when people organize, we have the power to revision and remake it.That’s just what’s happening in Idaho. On Tuesday, September 24th, Boise, Idaho is slated to become the third city in the Pacific Northwest to pass a city ordinance denouncing White Nationalism and white supremacy, spearheaded by United Vision for Idaho. A first, but important step in citizens standing up to the White Nationalists that occupy the highest seats in government, those that occupy state legislatures, and groups across this country seeking to expand their ideology of hate to divide us to gain unprecedented power, not this time and Never Again.
Southern Poverty Law Center
Cramer, Katherine J. The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker. Chicago: The
University of Chicago Press, 2016. Print. http://www.press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/P/bo22879533.html
Join our Deep Canvassing and Multi-Issue Work to Create Real People Power and Uniting Communities
United Vision for Idaho is dedicated to building power for the multi-racial working class in small town and rural Idaho. Through our network of member-led, county-based groups, we are engaged in year-round organizing, leadership development, and campaigning. We are unique in our focus on building permanent progressive infrastructure in rural places. From family farms to communities and cities across Idaho, ordinary people are rising up to take back our democracy. We are organizing on our shared values and issues, not a political platform. We want to make sure that all voices are heard and represented. We are committed to reimagining and rebuilding our state through movement politics - one that does not seek to advance a party platform, but to hold all elected officials and those seeking office to a higher standard, one that reflects the values and issues most important to the people of Idaho.
We use a transformative model to win systemic change. When we come to see self-interests as shared, it provides a powerful motivator for change. In towns and neighborhoods, we have conversations about the issues and the world we’re fighting to build, mapping the state by issue motivators, and building statewide capacity and power for the long-term.
Too often we pivot from issue to issue, campaign to campaign, but fail to do the work of investing in local communities to build infrastructure and sustainability for structural change. We are making the kind of investment that is really needed to achieve a vision of our state and world that works for ALL of US.
We work with national and international organizations working to develop models for confronting and disabling White Nationalism and interrupt the pervasiveness of white supremacy. Our work has become a model for multi-issue organizing for other rural parts of the country that provides real alternatives to the alt-right and escalating presence of White Nationalist groups.
“Our lives are inextricably linked and our futures bound. This moment that demands of each of us that we work together to fight the real threat of White Nationalism and white supremacy. We are not each other’s enemy. But, make no mistake we have a shared enemy, one determined to destroy US democracy and strip us all of our humanity and fundamental rights. There is no standing on the sidelines or sitting this one out. We encourage everyone to find an organization working to unite people and defeat White Nationalism.” Adrienne Evans, United Vision for Idaho, Executive Director
"We know that if we are not present in rural communities, white nationalists will be. We are facing an existential crisis in this country and if we are not doing the work of uniting rural, suburban and urban communities in a shared vision for the kind of world that works for all of us, we may not have one left to fight for.
People’s Action has made defeating white nationalists our priority. Comprised of hundreds of thousands of people across the country, we are putting rural organizing back at the center of movement organizing and leaving no one out. This ordinance, spearheaded by United Vision for Idaho, is just the third to be passed in the Pacific Northwest - long a haven for white nationalist groups. And this kind of organizing--the kind that propels a working class movement--is exactly what it will take to create, finally, a functioning multi-racial democracy here in the United States of America." George Goehl, People’s Action Executive Director
“In the past four years we have tracked a 30 percent increase in hate group growth, mirroring a similar pattern of FBI statistics illustrating a continued increase in hate crimes over a three year period ending in 2017,” said Heidi Beirich, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project. “The way to stop this trend is by making it a priority to end bigotry in our communities. As the resolution points out, Idaho is no stranger to racially motivated oppression. United Vision for Idaho's efforts to pass this ordinance in the city of Boise should be celebrated as strengthening diversity, equity, and inclusion for all.” Heidi Beirich, Southern Poverty Law Center
"Where white nationalist rhetoric is allowed to be pushed into the mainstream, hate violence follows. According to a report by the ADL, far-right extremists were responsible for every extremist killing in the US last year. The potent combination of bigotry and violence central to the white nationalist movement is a serious threat to community safety.
Sadly, our region has attracted white nationalists and other racist and sexist paramilitary groups because of our history and our demographics. These groups seek to sow violence and mayhem in our communities. They drain public resources, destabilize our public institutions, and threaten the safety of people of color, women, LGBTQ residents, immigrants, and religious minorities.
It is critically important for elected leaders to speak out in support of values of equity and inclusion, and against groups that build power based on spreading bigotry, so that we can create communities where everyone is free to live, love, work, and pray free from bigotry and fear." Eric Ward, Executive Director of Western State's Center
“It's no longer possible to view white nationalism as existing only on the fringes of our communities. Those driving the efforts to make America a white ethnostate now occupy the highest offices and institutions of our country. The threat that white nationalism poses to our democracy can no longer be denied, and we must take every opportunity to interrupt and confront it, including at the community level. My organization has worked to combat and oppose white nationalism in Montana and the region for 30 years. The stakes have never been higher. We must come together to confront white nationalism and build an America that truly reflects our democratic principles and institutions, instead of tearing them down.” Travis McAdam, Executive Director of Montana Human Rights Network