Eric Parker has disagreed with Ammon Bundy before.
They’ve disagreed on Parker’s front porch, and they’ve disagreed in solitary confinement, as Parker will tell you. They disagreed in 2016, when Bundy asked Parker and his fellow members of the Real 3%ers Idaho to join him in occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
Now, as Parker watches his Hailey home become a hotbed for the global coronavirus pandemic, he’s disagreeing with Bundy again.
Bundy has made headlines in recent days for his opposition to Gov. Brad Little’s statewide self-isolation order, which he describes as unconstitutional. Parker, who gained name recognition for his involvement in the 2014 standoff between federal agents and the Bundy family, is taking a different approach to the pandemic.
Like Bundy, Parker said he has constitutional concerns about the self-isolation order.
“Now, what we do about it, I think that’s where we’ll end up having differences of opinions,” Parker told the Idaho Mountain Express.
As the founder and president of the Real 3%ers Idaho, Parker is leading an effort by the organization to aid in the coronavirus response, locally and across the state. The Real 3%ers Idaho are a self-described nonpartisan group whose mission is to “serve, protect, and defend the Constitution as well as the American people and our way of life.”
Frustrated with what Parker describes as a pattern of “bogged-down bureaucracy” in governmental responses to disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, Parker and the Real 3%ers Idaho are taking matters into their own hands.
“What our concern would be is that this thing gets really bad in the next two weeks like we’re being told it will, and the capabilities of rural Idaho are not what they need to be to handle it,” Parker said.
The organization has helped respond to other crises over the years, Parker said, including hurricanes in southern states and fires in Oregon. But coronavirus, a deadly and highly contagious disease, has posed new challenges for people everywhere who want to lend a hand.
Right now, the group is trying to determine how best it can offer assistance in the coming weeks, Parker said. Would collecting and delivering groceries and other household supplies to vulnerable people be helpful, for instance, or would it ultimately put those vulnerable people at greater risk?
“It’s really tricky right now with the current circumstances, with a pandemic,” Parker said. “So we’re all just kind of looking at each other going, what can we do to help?”
For now, Parker and members of his organization around the state are reaching out to local leaders, law enforcement, and first responders to ask about their supply needs, and calling around to collect face masks and other protective equipment for health care workers. Several privately-owned facilities around the state have been offered up for the group to use as staging areas should it need them, Parker said.
Parker also worries about the relatively low number of ventilators available in Idaho compared to how many ventilators may be needed in the coming weeks and months, he said, though he isn’t sure what his organization can do to help in that particular capacity.
There were 426 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Blaine County as of 1:40 p.m. Tuesday afternoon, according to the South Central Public Health District’s website, and upwards of 1,100 cases in Idaho. The statewide self-isolation order issued March 25 will be in effect until April 15 unless it is extended by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.
Whether the self-isolation order is unconstitutional and whether the order is necessary are two different questions, Parker said. For now, he’s encouraging members of his organization to document how the state and local law enforcement are enforcing the order.
“The fact of the matter is we’re in the middle of a health crisis and a constitutional crisis,” Parker said. “And as long as we can get through the health crisis, we can address the constitutional crisis after the fact.”
Parker, who is currently a Republican candidate for the Idaho State Senate in District 26, said he hopes “people’s preconceived notions” about him and his politics don’t prevent them from working with the Real 3%ers Idaho to address the pandemic.
“We need to help our neighbors, and that’s where our focus should be,” Parker said. “If you watch Fox News, this thing doesn’t exist. If you watch MSNBC, we’re all going to die and it’s the orange man’s fault. There’s a third group out there: people who just want to make sure their community is safe.”