It’s unusual enough that one of our state legislators in Washington was just accused of being a domestic terrorist.
But even more remarkable is what has happened after that. Which is … essentially nothing.
The lawmaker is still in office. No follow-up or further investigation is in the works. The state Legislature is signaling, before its yearly session starts next week, that it’s unsure what to do about the controversy. So it may end up doing what it often does best: nothing.
If anything, Rep. Matt Shea, officially “R-Spokane Valley” but known to his Christian militia buddies by his code name, “Verum Bellator,” or “True Warrior,” may be riding a wave of popularity after an explosive state report alleged he had “planned, engaged in and promoted a total of three armed conflicts of political violence against the United States Government” over a three-year period.
“It’s unbelievable the outpouring of support, literally thousands of people from the district, from around the country, rallying against what everybody perceives correctly as the march of tyranny,” Shea trumpeted about his case on the Dec. 26 edition of his podcast, Patriot Radio.
See how it goes with politics these days? Recently I wrote that my new pet theory of politics is that nothing matters. What I meant is that no matter how egregious or career-ending an action or policy may seem to be, it no longer breaks through our fog of polarization.
If any case proves it, this is it.
Check this out: Though mired in a series of jaw-dropping, medieval scandals about how he’s planning for Biblical holy war and fomenting “end of days” armed standoffs with the feds, Shea so far has received the second-most individual campaign donations of any state House Republican, behind only the House Minority Leader, Rep. JT Wilcox.
To be clear, Shea ranks 12th among state House Republican candidates in terms of total money raised, with $40,400. He ranks second in the number of listed individual donors, with 254, according to the state Public Disclosure Commission. Big corporate donations to Shea have dried up, but he’s got plenty of just plain folks rallying to his cause.
“America needs a whole Washington DC full of Matt Shea!” wrote one enthusiastic donor last week on Shea’s campaign Facebook page.
The GOP did suspend Shea from its caucus and strip him of his committee assignments, so he has suffered some censure. But the party leader, Wilcox, also laid the groundwork for that to be the end of it, by saying he’s against expelling Shea from the Legislature: “It’s up to the voters who is serving as their representative,” Wilcox said.
If plotting armed insurrection isn’t grounds for getting kicked out, what is? Yes these are just allegations, and yes Shea deserves ample chances to defend himself (he refused any contact with this House-ordered investigation, then called it a sham — remind you of anyone?) But the state ought to at least convene some hearings.
As it is, the official investigation hinted that because of the politics of the day, the whole thing could perversely end up benefiting Shea. The most interesting analysis is buried at the very end:
“Given that Representative Shea has suffered no negative repercussions to his actions, and that he ascertains political power from creating radicalization nodes such as the three armed conflicts he has either instigated or exacerbated, and each such radicalization node grows the Patriot Movement and enhances his standing in the Patriot Movement and his political power, it is more probable than not that he will continue with his activities of creating or engaging in conflicts that benefit him politically,” the report concludes.
Radicalization nodes. Beneficial conflict. No repercussions. This is like a synopsis of American politics circa 2020. Appealing to the center, negotiating or reaching across the aisle are out (the only people who still talk about such quaint notions are fossils like Joe Biden). Radical nodes, conflict and grievance — that’s the recipe.
Seems like the state, and the nation, ought to have higher standards than this. But in wishing for that I realize I’ve already forgotten my own new rule.