The Path to January 6 Ran Through the Obama-Era Tea PartyBreaking News
tags: far right, Tea Party, Oath Keepers, January 6, Stewart Rhodes
The sentencing today of Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes to 18 years in prison for seditious conspiracy for the Jan. 6 attack prompted me to dig into the TPM archives. We’ve been covering Rhodes and the Oath Keepers for a long time. But I couldn’t remember exactly how long. On closer look, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was from virtually the beginning of his emergence on the national stage. But rummaging through our past coverage also helped me to re-familiarize myself with the context in which Rhodes founded the Oath Keepers.
Rhodes incorporated the Oath Keepers in 2009 (gee, who became president that year?), and you can’t divorce its creation from the then-emerging Tea Party movement.
The first mention of the Oath Keepers at TPM came in January 2010 in a story by Zachary Roth headlined: “Former Marine With Ties To Right-Wing Movements Charged With Child Rape, Possessing Grenade Launcher.” A lot going on there, no? Here’s an excerpt:
It’s not clear what Dyer might want with a grenade launcher. But he has declared himself a proud member of Oath Keepers, an organization that aims to enlist ex-military and law enforcement personnel, and has stoked fears that the federal government may try to seize Americans’ guns and round people up into concentration camps.
In this video, Dyer appears at a Tea Party event to promote the Oath Keepers and to rail against what the group — perhaps uniquely — sees as the federal government’s overzealous response to Hurricane Katrina.
A month later, in February 2010, Stewart Rhodes made his first appearance at TPM in a story by Eric Kleefeld about a Tea Party candidate for Texas governor in the GOP primary against incumbent Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison:
Debra Medina, the Tea Party activist and candidate in the Texas Republican gubernatorial primary who has attracted attention for her favorable comments about 9/11 Truthers and Birthers, is also involved with another extreme ideological movement: The Oath Keepers.
Will Bunch at the Philadelphia Daily News points out that Medina will appear this Sunday at an event in San Antonio, called “Taking Back Texas.” The other two top-billed speakers are Stewart Rhodes, founder of the Oath Keepers movement, and Oather activist Richard Mack, a former sheriff of Graham County, Arizona.
You can see in each of those initial stories the adjacency, to put it charitably, of the Oath Keepers and the Tea Party, with a little birtherism and 9/11 trutherism thrown in for good measure. I’m not suggesting TPM was alone at the time in covering the flourishing of right-wing extremism, but to this day I don’t think it’s as widely understood as it should be that the cauldron of racial grievance, white resentment, transgressive extra-constitutionalism, and conspiracizing in 2009-10 was a precursor to the Trump presidency and ultimately to Jan. 6.
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