Chuck Baldwin hasn’t stated outright that he plans to run for governor of Montana. But in a speech to a packed room at the Outlaw Inn in Kalispell last week, he all but declared his candidacy, describing the prospect as, “so thrilling I just get goose bumps.”
“Because so many people have asked me, I am seriously thinking about it,” Baldwin said. “There has to be a governor willing to put his life on the line to defend the Constitution.”
Baldwin, the 2008 presidential nominee for the national Constitution Party, described waking in the middle of the night and imagining himself, as governor of Montana, writing a letter to the federal government taking control of all the state’s national parks, forests and Wilderness areas.
“I write, ‘all of the land that you claim is federal has just been reclaimed by the state of Montana,’” Baldwin said. “All these wilderness areas and U.N. wilderness is just an excuse to enslave the citizenry.”
As Montana’s chief executive, Baldwin said he would also reject the federal government in the manner of Arizona’s adoption of a strict and controversial immigration law, which is being challenged by the U.S. Justice Department.
“We need a governor who will do whatever (Arizona Gov.) Jan Brewer did about whatever the issue is,” Baldwin said. “Draw that line in the sand, but then, just take it the next step and say, ‘We don’t care what the Supreme Court says.’”
“That’s what states have the power to do,” he added. “They have the power under God, don’t you see?”
Baldwin described other states, particularly in the Rocky Mountain West, eventually joining Montana in its fight against, “the terrorists of Washington D.C.” It is that struggle he believes is coming that prompted the former head of Florida’s Moral Majority to leave the Baptist church he led there for 35 years and move his family to the Flathead Valley several months ago.
“We know there’s a fight coming. We know there is a line being drawn in the sand, and we want to be in the right place,” Baldwin said. “The good ground is right here in Montana and we want to be in the right place.”
His remarks were met with thunderous applause by the more than 200 people who braved a frigid, January evening to hear Baldwin speak. In the audience were several members of Kalispell’s growing white nationalist community, some of whom have been screening Holocaust denial and Nazi propaganda films at the public library over the last year. Also in attendance were members of Lincoln County Watch, a Eureka group that meets to discuss suspicious government activity in the area.
But the vast majority of the audience was comprised of curious, conservative valley residents, many of whom are active in Tea Party-style groups like the Northwest Montana Patriots. The event itself, titled, “Montana: The Tip of the Spear,” was sponsored by a group called Flathead Liberty Bell. Before Baldwin’s remarks a member of the group, Dane Clark, presented a donated rifle to Demari DeReu, the Columbia Falls teen temporarily suspended after she unintentionally brought an unloaded hunting rifle to school in the trunk of her car.
Unlike DeReu, many in the audience were not from Montana, a fact that appeared to confirm for Baldwin that like-minded people from all over the country were traveling to Montana due to, “a hunger and a thirst for freedom.” When he asked audience members to raise their hands if they are not originally from Montana, he estimated 60 percent of the crowd did so.
“How many of you came to Montana because you wanted to live free?” Baldwin asked. “How many of you are not disappointed?”
A man in the audience shouted: “How many were called by God to come here?”
Baldwin went on to state that being born in Montana does not necessarily make one a Montanan.
“There are a lot of people that were born in Montana but are not Montanans,” Baldwin said. “And there are a lot of people, like me, who were not born in Montana but we have been Montanans our whole lives.” (Baldwin arrived in the Flathead in October.)
“Real Montanans love freedom,” he said. “Real Montanans will fight and die for the principles of truth, honor and freedom.”
Over the course of his hour-long speech, Baldwin castigated the Republican Party for failing to overturn Roe v. Wade and outlaw abortion during the six years when the White House and Congress were under GOP control. He also described the “church problem,” blasting religious leaders who he said have become “sheepish slaves of the state,” for failing to proclaim “the principles of freedom,” out of a fear of losing the tax-exempt status granted to churches. Baldwin is beginning his own ministry in Kalispell, the “Liberty Fellowship,” that will not be tax-exempt so that he may address political topics from the pulpit.
He also emphasized that whether someone is a Christian should not cause divisions among those girding for the coming fight.
“Some of our biggest enemies call themselves Christians,” Baldwin said. “Some of our biggest allies do not call themselves Christians.”
“I will fight alongside anyone who will fight for liberty,” he added. “And I will fight against anyone who opposed liberty even if they call themselves Christian.”
While Baldwin largely avoided any specifics, speaking broadly of infringements on concepts like freedom, his overall message was that the U.S. is dangerously close to collapse, and some type of revolution is imminent.
“The days in which we live today are tantamount to the days of 1775 and 1776,” he said. “You don’t have to be a prophet to see the handwriting on the wall, ladies and gentlemen.”
As for the national debate underway over violent political rhetoric in the wake of a shooting rampage in Arizona that killed six people, and nearly took the life of a Congresswoman, Baldwin said the incident is being used by the media to call for stricter gun control measures.
“What happened in Arizona is just another indicator that we the people have the right and need the right to keep and bear arms,” Baldwin said. “I pity the poor fool who would come into this audience tonight and try that.”
Following his speech, Baldwin was asked whether he is “anti-government.” He replied: “I am anti-oppressive, unconstitutional government.” From there, questions ranged from the “chem trails” left in the sky by jets, to the World Trade Organization, to how attacks from groups that monitor extremists – like the Southern Poverty Law Center, Jewish Anti-Defamation League and Montana Human Rights Network – could best be combated. (Baldwin tops a list of leaders in the so-called “Patriot” movement compiled by the SPLC, a ranking Baldwin called, “a kind of honor.”)
Toward the end, a young man asked, “Talk is great … but what do you recommend we actually do about this? Where do we start?”
“We start right here,” Baldwin replied. “You ought to be energized by what you see here tonight.”
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