GOP won't condemn state lawmaker who offered help to extremists

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Washington state Republicans don't seem eager to expel Rep. Matt Shea, even though he seems just fine with violence and illegal surveillance against political opponents.

Matt Shea, a Washington state GOP representative, participated in a discussion about violence and illegal surveillance against political opponents with members of the far right — and even offered to help them.

But his party doesn't care.

The Guardian recently confirmed that Shea had taken part in secret Signal chats with three far-right extremists. He used the name "Verum Bellator," which is Latin for "true warrior." White supremacists have taken to using Latin terms and symbols, including during Charlottesville.

Other members of the group included a far-right radio show host, Jack Robertson, and Anthony Bosworth, who helped occupy the Malheur national wildlife refuge at Shea's request back in 2016.

The Signal chats occurred in the runup to an "Antifa revolt" that was supposed to occur in late 2017. (Though the right-wing media breathlessly hyped fears about the event, there was no leftist revolt, nor was there ever a plan for one.) Robertson and Bosworth chatted about how if they could catch a left-wing protester alone, they would "work him over a little bit."

When they discussed a specific Spokane-area female protester, Robertson's violent streak got worse: He said he would "face slam" her and shave her bald, and went on to talk about "hoisting communists up flagpoles" by their "nipple rings."

Shea didn't participate in those portions of the conversations, but he was in the chat itself and didn't push back at all on the calls for violence.

And when the talk turned to surveillance of left-wing activists, he was all in. He named three local left-wing activists — and offered to do background checks on them.

This isn't the first time Shea has called for violence. Last year, he wrote and distributed a document that explained the "Biblical Basis for War." After railing against abortion and same-sex marriage, Shea also wrote: "If they do not yield – kill all males." Shea was stripped of his leadership position after that document came to light, but the GOP never took further action.

Shea's latest acts have led to condemnation and calls to step down from Democrats in Washington state — as they should. Shea's previous history of abstract violence was bad enough, but now he is a part of specific calls for violence and surveillance related to Washington state activists.

The Democrats have been unified in their calls for the GOP caucus to expel Shea. The governor, the lieutenant governor, and the state Democratic party have all asked the GOP caucus to do the right thing.

Thus far, the GOP isn't listening. The House Republican leader, J.T. Wilcox, condemned the other people in the chats but said Shea didn't make any threats himself. Wilcox also refused to condemn Shea's eagerness to surveil political opponents, saying that he “would want to understand a little more about the conversation.”

Another Spokane Republican, Rep. Bob McCaslin, issued a statement of support for Shea saying that allegations about the text weren't true because Shea "is an honest man who really works hard for his constituents.”

There's no way that Shea can be said to be working hard for his constituents when he says nothing when they are threatened with violence. Similarly, there's no way he can be said to be working hard for those constituents when he is willing to perform background checks and apparently, help with surveillance efforts.

Unfortunately, this is another instance of the GOP seeing politics as an all-out war in which anything is permissible if their side does it. Until that attitude changes, Matt Shea and people like him will continue to be welcome in the GOP caucus.

Published with permission of The American Independent.