The Republican-led Senate in Idaho just advanced a bill that would define domestic terrorism as terrorist activity committed in connection with “foreign groups,” which leaves one glaring question: Why didn’t they just go ahead and call it the Americans Can’t Be Terrorists Act?
According to Idaho Capital Sun, on Thursday, the state Senate voted 27-8 to pass Senate Bill 1220, which not only defines “domestic terrorism” as terrorism associated with foreign groups but also redefines terrorism in general as pretty much the same thing.
Imagine that. You’re only a terrorist if your act of terror was in collaboration with someone outside of the U.S. Jan. 6 rioters, American white supremacists and neo-Nazis, and all of the white mass shooters the media and conservative politicians call “lone wolves”—none of them are terrorists unless we find out some Muslim guy overseas was in on the plot, according to the bill in Idaho.
So, how are Republicans going to justify this? Obviously, they’ll deny the white privilege aspect of it, because that’s what they do, but what’s the practical reason for legislation like this?
Spoiler alert: It’s every bit as dumb as you might imagine. From the Sun:
The bill sponsor, Senate Majority Leader Kelly Anthon, R-Burley, said the purpose of the legislation is to protect free speech.
“You have the right to say things that people don’t like,” Anthon said during the Senate debate. “(People) have a right to assemble and protest the government for their grievances, even when you don’t like the group. There’s a lot of these groups I don’t like, but they have a constitutional right to do it.”
Anthon said the bill was inspired by the government casting suspicion on parents who protested policies at school board meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic. Anthon used Moms of Liberty, who the Southern Poverty Law Center defines as a far-right anti-government organization, as an example of a group who would be protected under the legislation.
“If you are called a domestic terrorist it is going to affect your name, it’s going to affect your business, it’s going to affect your family,” Anthon said. “And it’s not fair if you’ve never had your due process and you’ve never had your day in court.”
First of all, who is calling Moms For Liberty and whiny, white and fragile parents domestic terrorists in any legal or official capacity? Sure, the group was indeed named a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center last year, but they weren’t accused of domestic terrorism and even if they were, no state law is going to prevent the SPLC from doing that. It’s almost as if Senate Republicans in Idaho are doing the other thing that GOP legislators commonly do, which is push bills that solve non-existent problems.
It’s like when Republicans were passing voter impression legislation under the guise of preventing voter fraud despite the fact that voter fraud is extremely rare in the U.S. All those laws have succeeded in doing is disproportionately preventing Black and brown people from voting—which appeared to be the point. When Republicans passed laws banning critical race theory from K-12 schools without being able to define CRT or prove that it’s widely being taught in K-12 schools, all they succeeded in doing was continuing the whitewashing of history and social studies, and causing educators to be nervous about what Black or gender-related studies that can and can’t teach—which appeared to be the point.
Now, Idaho Republicans are passing a law that would effectively exclude the overwhelming majority of violent white terrorists from being labeled terrorists—which appears to be the point.
“Ted Kaczynski did not have a connection with a foreign government,” Senate Assistant Minority Leader James Ruchti (D) said in a statement opposing the bill. “Timothy McVeigh did not have a connection with a foreign government. And those Aryan Nation members who bombed Rev. Bill Wassmuth did not have a connection with a foreign government, so they would not — under this bill — be a domestic terrorist.”
In fact, the bill would amend the “Idaho Terrorist Control Act,” which was implemented in 1987, just months after the bombing of Wassmuth’s home, which took place in—*checks notes*—Idaho.
Hell, we don’t even have to go back that far for an instance of potential white domestic terrorism in the state. In 2022, 31 Patriot Front members were arrested and charged with conspiring to start a riot at a Pride event in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. If their alleged plans had succeeded, they would most certainly fit the profile of domestic terrorists—but not if Idaho’s Senate Republicans have their way.
To be fair, there was at least one Republican who also opposed the bill calling it unnecessary.
“We have a good body of laws in this state which deal with most of the terrible acts that criminals could or would commit,” Sen. Daniel Foreman (R-Viola) said. “I really don’t see the need to create terms like terrorist or terrorist organization.”
Oh, but it is necessary, Foreman. It’s necessary to keep white supremacist violence going unchecked and not properly labeled. Again, that appears to be the point.
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