Since February, PRA has been covering the emergence of theocratic, white nationalist candidates from both major parties running for public office in Maryland. Now, two of them, Joe Delimater and Michael Peroutka, are, respectively, the Republican candidates for sheriff and county council. Peroutka, a wealthy attorney and 2004 Constitution Party presidential candidate, has a good chance at winning in his historically Republican council district. The controversy over his candidacy has become hot in the media and in state politics—but there is still an elephant in the room.
Leading Democrats, Republicans, and editorial writers in Maryland have called on Peroutka to disavow the neo-Confederate agenda of, and his personal involvement in, the white nationalist, secessionist League of the South. (Peroutka was a member of the board of directors of the League in 2013, and remains a defiantly proud member.). A conservative columnist recently worried that Peroutka will be a drag on the national Republican Party in 2014. Others have called on the GOP to decide if it will stand by and allow Peroutka to win his race for county council in his historically Republican district.
That is a useful discussion. But there is an eerie silence about other obvious aspects of the vision of the League, Peroutka, and his closest religious and political associates. The fact is that they are involved not in an eccentric nostalgia for retrograde racial politics and wishful thinking about secession of the Southern states so much as a revolutionary vision of theocratic, white nationalist violence.
Peroutka certainly holds views that are far beyond anything that could be described as “conservative.” But let’s consider the views of his close friends and allies in the League of the South, the organization he used to lead and which he refuses to distance himself. For example, his friend and ally Michael Hill, the president of the Alabama-based League of the South has, among other things, called for the formation of death squads to take out American government officials and journalists and for white men of all ages to become “citizen soldiers” in a great modern defense of archaic notions of Christendom.
On July 15, just a week after Peroutka’s upset win in the primary for the GOP nomination for Anne Arundel County Council, League president Michael Hill published an essay on the organization’s web site. Hill’s essay advocated for the deployment of death squads in the context of guerrilla civil war, in which “the lines between the military and the political, economic, cultural, and social are blurred past the point of recognition.” This essay, titled “A Bazooka in Every Pot,” describes this effort as featuring “three-to-five-man” units with a hair-raising mission: “The primary targets will not be enemy soldiers,” Hill wrote. “Instead, they will be political leaders, members of the hostile media, cultural icons, bureaucrats, and other of the managerial elite without whom the engines of tyranny don’t run.”
On July 25, Hill followed up with an essay in which he calls on the young men of “Christendom” to become “citizen-soldiers” in the battles against the tyranny of our time. He sees himself and his comrades as part of a long line of such men, invoking historic battles with Islamic armies going back to the Battle of Tours in the 8th century. His role models for warriors for Christendom, however, are the White Westerners who fought against Black liberation movements in Southern Africa in the 1970s. “So if Western men in past times were willing to fight for their civilization in remote areas of the world,” he asked, “shouldn’t we expect them to be just as willing to fight for that civilization here at its very heart—the South?”
“The traditions and truths of Western Christendom are anathema to the [Obama] regime,” he concluded. “The tyrants’ regime and Western Christendom cannot co-exist—that is not possible. One must win and the other must disappear. It is indeed the ultimate Zero Sum game.”
In his 2102 keynote address at the League national conference, Peroutka declared: “I don’t disagree with Dr. Hill at all that this regime [apparently referring to the Obama administration] is beyond reform, and I think that’s an obvious fact, and I agree with him.” Then he added a glimpse of his own theocratic vision for what might come next:
“However, I agree that when you secede, or however the destruction of the rubble of this regime takes place and how it plays out, you’re going to need to take a biblical world view, and apply it to civil law and government. That’s what you’re still going to need to do. We’re going to have to have this foundational information in the hearts and minds of the people or else liberty won’t survive the secession either.”
The Past is Prologue
Michael Hill epitomizes the escalation of the open expression of violent ideologies, as I discussed in an essay in The Public Eye in June titled “Rumblings of Theocratic Violence.” One of the featured characters was David Whitney, who leads a small church in Pasadena, Maryland, and is Peroutka’s pastor and business partner in the Institute on the Constitution. Whitney has justified the assassination of abortion providers—calling it “biblically justifiable homicide.” He has also called for establishing theocratic governance under Biblical law; restricting citizenship to Christians of the right sort; forming citizen militias to resist governmental tyranny; and leading imprecatory prayer against the White House staff—including, presumably, against President Obama. Whitney is the chaplain of the Maryland chapter of the League of the South.
On July 8, Peroutka e-mailed Hill asking him to help get League members to support his campaign. (Hill posted the e-mail under the headline: “A political victory for us in Maryland!”) Peroutka wrote, “I ask you to ask the membership for prayers and for whatever financial support they can muster. I am grateful for our friendship and for the work of LS. [League of the South].” (Apparently the members came through, because the League has already sponsored telephone polls in his district.)
Peroutka and his running mate, GOP candidate for county sheriff Joe Delimater, provide the League a measure of democratic legitimacy for its anti-democratic, revolutionary aims. But Hill’s vision of armed resistance to the alleged tyranny of the state and federal government and his open call for covert teams of assassins make Michael Peroutka’s claim to oppose racism seem like a small bit of political spin in a gathering political storm of far greater consequence.
Unsurprisingly, the League is a political home for other would-be violent revolutionaries. Former Green Beret Michael Tubbs, for example, was a League leader in Florida when Intelligence Report, the magazine of the Southern Poverty Law Center, revealed in 2004 that Tubbs was actually a convicted “Aryan” terrorist. Tubbs had been arrested with arms, explosives, and a hit list that included newspapers, television stations, and businesses owned by Jews and Blacks. As the SPLC’s profile on the League reports, “When these embarrassing facts were revealed, Hill and other league leaders allowed Tubbs to stay on, saying he’d paid his debt to society.”
So far, the political community has been eerily silent about the explicitly violent intentions of the emerging Peroutka faction of American public life. Hill’s recent call for the formation of death squads has been reported only by Jonathan Hutson at the Huffington Post and Van Smith at the Baltimore City Paper. This explicit and specific call for violence is part of several related trends involving ideologies and actions related to the ideas of nullification and secession, as well as related ideologies of theocratic violence among elements of the Christian Right. We are seeing one manifestation of these trends on vivid display in Anne Arundel County. Some of us, that is.