Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Report outing Oath Keeper members serves as example of accountability

Free press serves as non-violent tactic for holding elected officials responsible to constituents
Montana Leggett

Madison City Council member Gary Halverson stepped down Sept. 14 after being vandalized and receiving threats following a report revealing his previous membership with the Oath Keepers, an extremist group linked to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

While other Wisconsin elected officials were included in the report, none have claimed current membership with the group. Halverson claimed his brief membership was a mistake which he has since corrected.

Halverson’s previous membership has raised numerous questions, including whether elected officials should be trusted and to what extent elected officials should be held responsible for their actions.


According to the Associated Press, the Oath Keepers, founded in 2009 by Stewart Rhodes, is a conspiracy theory-fueled group that has recruited many current and former military officers, police officers and other government workers. The Oath Keepers asks its members to defend the Constitution against all those who undermine it.

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According to the Anti-Defamation League, the organization is anti-government and believes in a conspiracy that the federal government seeks to strip Americans of their liberties.

While these are bold claims, the core message is not necessarily extreme. People should want to defend the Constitution and their personal liberties against those who may want to disband them. The fear that the federal government is out to strip citizens of their civil liberties may sound absurd but is not completely unquestionable given many actions taken by the federal government.

In the past three years, both the federal government and state governments around the country attempted to establish both vaccine and mask mandates such as the OSHA rule. Starting Nov. 5, 2021, employers were responsible for implementing and enforcing a COVID-19 vaccination policy, which the Supreme Court later overruled for likely exceeding its power.

Only a few months ago, the Supreme Court declared the Constitution protects an individual’s right to carry a handgun in public for self defense. This came in response to New York’s law limiting carrying concealed handguns. In response to the ruling, the Biden Administration declared the limits of the Second Amendment despite the clear words in the Constitution that state otherwise.

In June, abortion trigger laws went into effect after the overturning of Roe v. Wade in states such as Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana and Texas. Roe v. Wade was repealed in large part due to the Tenth Amendment of Federalism, meaning the federal power not granted in the Constitution is delegated to the states. But, federalism doesn’t imply that states have unlimited power or permission to interfere with a person’s right to make a private decision with their doctor.

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Both federal and state governments have exceeded their powers and interfered with the rights of the individual. Despite the overreach of the government, we cannot pretend the ends justify the means we use to oppose its policies. The way we hold the government responsible for infringement on civil liberties matters just as much as the end result.

Partaking in extreme acts, such as those of the Oath Keepers, is not the way to achieve change people may want or need. At the same time, Halverson faced harassment from the Madison community for his membership history, and violence and the infringement on others’ rights to achieve what we want is never okay.

We should never blindly trust politicians or people in power and releasing a report making an official own up to past behavior should set the standard for how we should go about holding those in power accountable.

We don’t answer to politicians — politicians answer to the people. Incidents such as Halverson’s remind us just how much free press matters, and also how much power the people have in making a difference.

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According to the ACLU, the free press helps protect the freedoms and liberties of American citizens. It is the vessel for the thoughts and emotions of a country’s citizens. It is a way of shedding light on secrets. When the press is indeed free and not corrupt, it should be a way of guiding citizens to the objective truth.

Partaking in groups preaching extremity is not the solution, though as individuals we can and should vote for those who promise to uphold their own vows to the Constitution and fight for the people they are meant to serve and represent.

The release of exposing reports is a vital part of rectifying situations and holding politicians accountable. The people have a right to transparency. Individuals dedicated to seeking truth through verifiable information is the best — and often the only ethical — way we can go about reminding those in power that they answer to the people and work to serve and protect us.

Jessica Lewin ([email protected]) is a junior studying journalism and philosophy.

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