TWIN FALLS — A new group in Twin Falls hopes to inspire people to make their hometowns great again through “populist localism.”
“This approach involves less government and more activism,” said Lee Stranahan, a reporter for the conservative news website Breitbart and also the spokesman for the group “Make Your Hometown Great Again.”
Julie DeWolfe, the group’s executive director, told a group of reporters and supporters at a news conference Thursday at the Twin Falls Public Library, that “globalism is often thrust upon communities under the name of diversity,” replacing the culture that used to be passed on organically through families and local institutions with “a one-size-fits-all plan.”
“We are a hometown already together,” she said. “Globalism is eradicating local culture.”
DeWolfe is one of the more active refugee resettlement critics in Twin Falls. Stranahan moved here and has been writing about the issue for the past several months after three boys from refugee families were accused of sexually assaulting a 5-year-old girl at the Fawnbrook Apartments brought national attention to the city. The case is sealed and in juvenile court.
Stranahan and DeWolfe are both supporters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who has based much of his campaign on his opposition to illegal immigration and his populist appeals against the influence of big money and special interests in politics, and who called last year for a moratorium on letting Muslims into the country. He has since modified that to a moratorium on immigration from regions linked with terrorism. The group’s name is a nod to Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”
However, “our movement is open to anyone who agrees with us that change needs to happen at the national level,” Stranahan said.
Stranahan said the support this year not only for Trump but for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, and for third-party candidates such as Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein, shows many people with differing perspectives are growing skeptical of “the increasingly clear connection between big business and big government” and the influence of campaign donors and lobbyists in politics.
“We’re going to combat globalism through populist localism,” DeWolfe said.
Stranahan said there are problems local politicians don’t want to discuss, and that the influence of companies such as Chobani, which has hired many refugees to work at its yogurt plant in Twin Falls, and the dairy industry, which employs many undocumented immigrants, plays a role.
“When I talk about corruption, I’m not talking about some secret backroom deal,” he said. “I’m talking about the open corruption we’ve all come to accept.”
Stranahan and DeWolfe pointed to illegal immigration as an issue where the left and right could find common ground — conservatives might be more concerned with stopping illegal immigration, while liberals might be more concerned with employers taking advantage of workers.
“My thing is, they’re related,” Stranahan said. “You can’t deal with one issue without the other.”
As part of the group, they also plan to start a “microbusiness incubator,” or a place where people who want to start a business can find some resources and some cheap office space, giving them the freedom to experiment without having to take on massive debt to do so. Stranahan said they are looking at some possible locations downtown. DeWolfe said they would target millennials in particular with this, possibly making it easier for some of them to stay in the area and not move to bigger cities for work.
“We want to give them that chance,” she said.
For the time being, the group is operating as a limited liability company registered to Stranahan, although the structure could change as they grow. Their hope is to start chapters across the country.
“We believe that this approach will work anywhere from the heartland to Harlem,” Stranahan said.
They also plan to get involved in local and state-level issues. Stranahan said that, given Twin Falls’ size, they could have an impact quickly.
“We believe changes we make here will be immediately visible,” Stranahan said.