The peculiar ideology of Sharron Angle, the Republican nominee challenging Sen. Harry Reid in Nevada, is perhaps no better illustrated than by her embrace of the patriot group Oath Keepers, whose membership of uniformed soldiers and police take an oath to refuse orders they see as unconstitutional — including enforcement of gun laws, violations of states’ sovereignty, and “any order to blockade American cities, thus turning them into giant concentration camps.”
Back in April, Angle told TPMDC she was a member of the Oath Keepers at a press gaggle in Washington. On Monday, we decided to call Angle’s campaign to confirm her relationship to the group. Angle’s husband, Ted, picked up the phone.
“We support what the organization stands for,” he told us. “Sharron does.”Members of Oath Keepers — whose motto is “Not on our watch!” — subscribe to a 10-item declaration affirming that they will not, for example, force citizens into detention camps or invade a state “that asserts its sovereignty and declares the national government to be in violation of the compact by which that state entered the Union.”
Often seen at gun shows and similar settings, the Oath Keepers were singled out by the Southern Poverty Law Center in its 2009 report (.pdf) on the return of the militia movement since President Obama was elected as “a particularly worrisome example of the Patriot revival.”
According to the SPLC, Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes, a former staffer for Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) warns his followers against “a coming dictatorship” that will happen if “our brothers in arms go along and comply with unconstitutional, unlawful orders.” An extensive report on the group by Mother Jones in March suggests supporters of the movement believe they’re living through the first steps of the shift away from constitutional freedom. Members of the group — many of them in the armed forces — share the “belief that the government is already turning on its citizens, they are recruiting military buddies, stashing weapons, running drills, and outlining a plan of action [to stop it],” the magazine reported.
Angle’s relationship with Oath Keepers hasn’t been on the media radar, but she made a little-noticed attempt to woo the group’s members at a speaking event last fall, Rhodes told TPMDC Monday.
Rhodes said the event with Angle was organized after she reached out to the Southern Nevada chapter of Oath Keepers. It was held in a clubhouse in Las Vegas. She spoke and “we asked her some pretty tough questions” — about Hurricane Katrina, gun laws, and the Iraq War, says Rhodes.
“She’s got a pretty good track record of being a pretty sincere Constitutionalist,” Rhodes tells TPMDC, adding that Oath Keepers does not endorse candidates.
Ted Angle told TPMDC he doesn’t know if he or his wife are full-fledged members of the organization, but said that they fully stood behind its principles.
He “vaguely remembers” he and his wife being asked to join. “It’s one of things we desire to have happen,” he said about membership in the group. “I’m not sure if it has happened yet or not.”
(Rhodes says that full membership is only available to those who are in uniform or have been in the past, while folks like the Angles could be associate members. He wasn’t sure whether Sharron Angle is currently a member.)
The Reid camp is already signaling it plans to paint Angle as an extremist — or even a paranoid — by highlighting statements like her recent observation that Americans are “afraid they’ll have to fight for their liberty in more Second Amendment kinds of ways.”
Angle’s endorsement of the Oath Keepers will only bolster that image. The group is preoccupied with nightmarish visions of U.S. citizens being marched into Nazi-style concentration camps. One part of the Oath Keepers’ creed reads: “Such a vile order to forcibly intern Americans without charges or trial would be an act of war against the American people, and thus an act of treason, regardless of the pretext used. We will not commit treason, nor will we facilitate or support it.’NOT on Our Watch!'”
Late Update: Rhodes called us back to stress that Oath Keepers is not a militia. “We don’t train or horde weapons or any of that kind of nonsense. We are an education outfit,” he says.
Note: This post has been revised.