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17 June 2010

Meet HD-4’s tea party poster boy

He thinks Montana has the right to secede from the United States of America. Glenn Beck and Ron Paul are the most influential human beings in his life. He’ll say no to federal stimulus money, and yes to legislation empowering Montana to nullify federal health care laws. He turned off his television in 1998 (but I think he left his radio on). God, he reports, gave him the gift of a “great memory.” Jim Dupont and Ray Thompson are financial backers. Yet he considers himself to be dead center on the political spectrum.

His name? Derek Skees. He’s the Republican candidate for House District 4, the legislative seat that represents Whitefish in Helena — and Democrats had better take him seriously. He’s hungry and on the move.

And moving right, far, far right. Montana Tea Party right.

Derek Skees That’s where I met him, at a Tea Party rally in Kalispell on 20 March. In the full image, Skees, affable and bursting with pride, holds a pamphlet touting The 5,000 Year Leap, Willard Cleon Skousen’s notorious tome that’s become a bible for the teabaggers.

In the Leap, Skousen argues that the U.S. Constitution is based on the Bible, not on Enlightenment philosophy as most mainstream historians contend. Glenn Beck, like Skousen a Mormon, wrote the forward to the current edition of the book, which is popular among those teabaggers who favor making the U.S. a theocracy.

According to the Northwest Montana Patriots, Skees “…teaches a class on the 5,000 Year Leap and the U.S. Constitution every week to a large group.” On his campaign’s website, Skees promises to “…measure every aspect of my office through the Founders Basic Principles (Skees’ link to The Leap) and vote only to their measure.”

Which means: how would Skousen have voted? That’s a thought that generates heartburn, for no one ever accused Skousen of being in the dead center of anything except trouble. By the time he died in 2006 at the age of 92, Willard Cleon Skousen had become too much for even the true blue conservatives at the National Review:

Who is Cleon Skousen you might ask? In answering that question, it’s hard to even know where to begin. Skousen was by turns an FBI employee, the police chief of Salt Lake City, a Brigham Young University professor, consigliore to former secretary of agriculture and Mormon president Ezra Taft Benson and, well, all-around nutjob. Rommney’s Radical Roots.

Was Skousen a dirt bag? Possibly, although I think Skees’ baseball cap refers to a Bible study group, not a dead man.

Skees & the Civil War

But it’s another article of clothing that’s likely to get Skees in a heap of trouble. In Whitefish’s 2010 Memorial Day parade, Skees wore a jacket sporting the confederate flag. When a person watching the parade congratulated him on the courage required to wear that flag, he replied:

I must relay a bit of history regarding our uniforms. They were actually club jackets for a cannon club where we compete in yearly in Gillette Wyoming. The cannon is a replica from the Civil War. My family is from the south (Kentucky and Georgia to be specific) and we dress like our ancestors to compete, and have quite a bit of fun with the Northern uniformed clubs during the competition.

The Flag and the War are a heritage to us like you commented, and it represents to us all that our ancestors sacrificed in the fight of that War.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Please take this in the spirit for which it is given, and know that I abhor all types of Slavery, from physical to emotional, and I am glad that Slavery was abolished in America.

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In the discussion of flags, the Stars and Bars Represented slavery for 5 years (1861-1865), while the Stars and Stripes did so for 72 years (1789-1861).

That having been said, I must add that the “Civil War” is a tragic failure of our history in its current remembrance … It was actually an unconstitutional war declared by congress and President Lincoln, as it is the Constitutional right of the individual states to depart the union whenever they feel any grievance that may arise is too great to mend. This right was heavily fought for by anti-federalists like Patrick Henry and Sam Adams in the Constitutional Convention.

The war was not fought over slavery but rather states rights.

Granted the secessionist states wanted to retain slavery and that was a major point of contention. [But] the struggle was actually driven by the southern states cotton, and the northern states shipping … Add a healthy dose of Yankee Trader greed and Southern Honor, and you get what happened. You can discover this by delving into the writings contemporary to the time, by authors who were there. Revisionist historians, bent on an agenda that serves today’s politics have contorted it to the current fallacy.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

I only wish to educate on these critical points, because of the lessons we as a Republic should have learned from the outcome of that War. It was the death of States rights, and the ascendancy of the Federal Government. Just look at the Amendments we are saddled with from the reconstruction era and the fact that [the] income tax stems from this as well.

So there you have it, friends. Derek Skees has The Truth about the Civil War. Our teachers and professors lied to us. The war wasn’t about slavery. It was just a cottonpickin’ trade war, unconstitutional because every state has the right to secede from the Union (Jefferson Davis, you were right). And perhaps worst of all, it led to the federal income tax.

Hooooo Boy!

What’s next? The independent Republic of Montana? The Flathead Free State? The Constitutional Nation of Whitefish?

That’s where Skees’ notion that succession and nullification are constitutional leads. And he’s not alone in his beliefs. As I reported in Will Montana Fire on Fort Sumter? last year, two nullification resolutions, HR-3 and HJR-26, were introduced in the 2009 session of Montana’s legislature. HR-3 reached the House’s floor, but died on a tie vote. “A century and a half ago,” I observed,

the doctrine of nullification led to the attempted secession of the Confederate states and the Civil War. It is more than a little disappointing and disquieting that some members of Montana’s legislature are attempting to give new credence and voice to a discredited idea over which so much blood was spilled.

In my book, asserting the constitutionality of succession and nullification does not put a man dead in the political center. It puts him in cloud cuckoo land.

And it might, if not strongly countered by his Democratic opponent, Will Hammerquist, put Derek Skees in the 2011 Montana legislature.

Why? Because Skees is hungry and he has the zealous energy of a true believer. He’s mounting a strong campaign, and unlike Dane Clark, he hasn’t been foolish enough to open-carry a sidearm while campaigning. During the campaign finance reporting period that ended on 27 May, he raised $6,200, almost $2,000 more than the $4,390 raised by his Democratic opponent, Will Hammerquist. And unlike Hammerquist, he didn’t loan himself any money.

Skees won a clear majority in the GOP primary on 8 June, receiving 612 votes. Hammerquist, who was denied the benefit of a primary challenger, received only 436 votes in a Democratic District that three times sent Mike Jopek to Helena by convincing margins. HD-4 now is an open seat in a slightly Democratic district in a year of angry voters. At this point, I rate the Hammerquist-Skees contest as even money.