Last Chance Patriots is Western Montana's newest right-wing political organization, created by the merger of two chapters of ACT for America and headed by Vietnam vet, author and activist Ed Kugler of Big Arm. A year ago, Kugler brought a speaker to town to present "Unveiling the True Face of Islam," a presentation that claimed refugee resettlement was part of a vast, violent Muslim conspiracy. On Monday night in the conference room of the FairBridge Inn & Suites, the vast conspiracy on the agenda was the red menace.
The speaker was New Zealand author and filmmaker Trevor Louden, who claims that there are 100 Marxist-Leninist allied members of Congress, a state of affairs that was allowed to flourish after the 1975 abolition of the House Un-American Activities Committee. This is the first of five Montana appearances Kugler's organization has arranged for Louden. He'll speak in Kalispell, Polson, Bozeman and Great Falls before the week is over.
Loudon's talk was split between exposing what he says are secret Communists in American government and the dangers of undocumented immigrants. He repeated a Trump claim that Hillary Clinton promised to make every undocumented immigrant in the country a full citizen with voting rights within her first 100 days in office. That would, he said, secure millions of votes for the Democratic party. (Clinton's actual campaign pledge was to introduce immigration reform legislation within her first 100 days). Loudon himself is an immigrant, a permanent resident who has married an American woman.
Describing what he called the "miracle" of the 2016 presidential election, Louden asked his audience if they knew what schadenfreude meant. He called Bernie Sanders supporters "basement dwellers," but he could have as easily said "your grandkids" to the majority over-50 audience.
Outside, at the foot of the Reserve Street pedestrian bridge, a loose coalition of Missoula leftists stationed themselves with a large pot of soup and a sign offering Louden attendees a chance to eat with "your local enemy within." IWW member Charlie Copeland said he thought they all had more in common than not.
"The thing that really gets me is, a lot of these people that are in there, I doubt that there's any avowed fascists or white nationalists," Copeland said. "This guy is really manipulating them to think things like, 'The radical left wants to kill everybody who voted for Trump.' A lot of people in my family voted for Trump! We're still family."
At the end of Loudon's talk, Last Chance Patriot Linda Sauer addressed the audience, telling them she didn't see enough urgency in Missoula about the threats that Loudon had described, considering all the empty seats (there were about 30 people in attendance). They weren't going to make back the cost of the room rental, Sauer said, so anyone who could afford to was asked to drop an extra donation into a bucket on their way out.