Republicans in Kootenai County, Idaho are changing their party affiliations—not because they’re fed up with the GOP but because they’re trying to infiltrate a local Democratic party and carry out a hostile takeover.
The plot, first reported by the Coeur d’Alene Press last week, is only the latest bizarre stunt by one of the nation’s most off-the-rails Republican committees. This week on Fever Dreams, hosts Asawin Suebsaeng and Kelly Weill take a virtual road trip to Kootenai County, where local Republicans have recently passed resolutions endorsing the far-right John Birch Society and immigrations privileges for a leader of Austria’s white nationalist scene. A new recorded phone call from a Kootenai County GOP leader appears to reveal a plot to, in the leader’s own words, “take over the Democrat Party” by installing covert Republicans in uncontested Democratic leadership races.
If successful, Kootenai Republicans allegedly planned to redirect Democratic funds to conservative causes, and to install the antisemitic troll Dave Reilly as the new Democratic leader.
“Reilly is sort of this F-list antisemitic troll,” Weill says. “He recently ran for school board in the area, despite saying he would never enroll children in public schools.”
Reilly appeared to confirm the plot on Thursday, tweeting that “today, I registered as a Democrat and filed to become a Precinct Captain.” The tweet, which included a picture of Reilly’s apparent voter registration, went on to accuse Democrats of “Left Wing Extremism.”
It’s a bizarre plot—one that could just as easily be achieved, Suebsaeng says, “by winning over more people there so they’re voting for you, thus depriving the Democratic party of any actual power in the area.”
But that’s not what’s happening in Kootenai. The county and its major metropolitan area, Coeur d’Alene, have become a fixation of the far right, with multiple fringe figures like Reilly moving to the area and becoming politically active in recent years. (Reilly unsuccessfully ran for a local school board seat last year.) The county GOP’s lurch to the right has earned condemnation from some longtime locals, including a county commissioner who rescinded his Republican registration last summer following a series of disagreements with the local party.
For now, the Kootenai plot appears stymied. Meanwhile, other conservative plans are also hitting speed bumps.
Elsewhere on the podcast, Suebsaeng and Weill revisit Truth Social, Donald Trump’s much-hyped social media network. After an initial flurry of interest, the website is limping through its soft launch, with comparable or fewer daily visitors as similarly unpopular conservative social media sites like Gab and Gettr. Not even power-poster Trump seems interested in using the platform. The former president has been making profane phone calls about Truth Social, demanding to know “what the fuck is going on” with his struggling website, Suebsang reports.
But while Truth Social flounders, pro-Putin messaging is picking up steam online. A new conspiracy theory, plucked from the depths of QAnon Twitter, baselessly accuses Ukraine of planning to unleash “bioweapons” on the world. That hoax (repackaged from previous conspiracy theories about COVID-19) has found a willing audience on Fox News, and in far-right circles eager to defend Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
While conspiracy theorists opine about the Deep State, this week’s guest takes us on a deep dive into real government cover ups. Reason reporter CJ Ciaramella details his latest reporting on police brutality and why, despite calls for transparency, federal and local law enforcement refuse to hand over data on killings.
Currently the FBI is withholding a huge data project about police killings, Ciaramella says.
“They’re just sitting on this massive trove of data that probably has thousands of data points on police use of force in departments across the country,” he says, adding that if the program expires, “without any of it coming to light, it would be a gigantic loss for these efforts to actually find out how police are operating in some of these jurisdictions. This is actually a pretty important issue for trying to better understand the police, both if you are a Black Lives Matter activist or a researcher or (if) you honestly think that like the police are getting smeared unfairly, this should be something that you should be concerned about.”
This month marks a full year of Fever Dreams and we want to cap it off with you the only way we know how: chatting about the American political swamp. Join our hosts and producer Jesse Cannon on Wednesday, March 23 at 2pm EST for a Twitter Spaces hangout, where we’ll take listener questions and discuss the wildest news of the coming week.