What if I told you that there were revolutionaries in the United States who would like nothing better than to overthrow the federal government and that a large faction of one political party was supporting them outright? No, I’m not talking about the Tea Party fantasies of an apparently ultra-liberal Barack Obama and his band of imaginary Kenyan Muslim socialist fascist merry men who are supposedly trying to bring the country to its knees. I’m talking about Cliven Bundy.
You may not have heard of Cliven Bundy. That’s completely understandable; I had no idea he existed until just a couple weeks ago. Mr. Bundy owns a large ranch in the wilderness of Nevada. In 1993, the federal government began requiring Bundy to pay grazing fees in order to allow his cattle to feed off of the public land. Bundy refused. Many of the other ranchers in the area were also unhappy about the government’s new requirements, but nevertheless most of them agreed to remain in compliance with the law. Bundy has been taken to court several times by the government, and he has lost in court every. Single. Time. Not once that I can find has any judge or jury ever ruled in favor of Bundy’s made-up “right” to continue taking resources from the public lands (and harming the environment, ecosystems, and long-term grazing prospects in the process) and using them for his own gain.
Well, after several court cases and several failures on the part of Mr. Bundy to repay the debt that he owes to the American people, the government (specifically the Bureau of Land Management, or BLM) has had enough. A few weeks ago, the BLM began closing off these federal lands, making preparations to begin impounding Bundy’s cattle until his debt is paid. This is something that the courts explicitly gave the BLM the right to do, and even in a 1998 decision a district court said “the government has shown commendable restraint in allowing this trespass to continue for so long without impounding Bundy’s livestock.” Now, having waited for 16 more years for Bundy to come to his senses, the BLM decided to finally take control of the situation.
Except Bundy was having none of that. Bundy sent out a call to some of the far-right militia movements in the area to come and be prepared to do battle with any federal enforcement officers. How crazy is that? This man believes he can get something for nothing from the government and is fostering open rebellion to help his cause. Oh man, I can hardly wait to hear how hard Fox News and the rest of the conservative media come down on this America-hating, “welfare-state” moocher.
Oh wait, I forgot. There’s no attempt at ideological consistency from these media outlets and Tea Party groups when it would get in the way of obstruction and paranoia. The same people who minimized the legitimacy of the Occupy movement because some guy somewhere pooped on a cop car are now looking at Mr. “I don’t recognize the United States government as even existing” Bundy (yes, he actually said that) and thinking that he’s some kind of amazing patriot.
One of Bundy’s supporters has even compared him to Rosa Parks. I seem to recall that it wasn’t Rosa Parks threatening federal enforcers with violence during the civil rights movement–it was the people standing in the schoolhouse door, or those who made Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner “disappear.” The BLM may have called off its roundup for now, but Bundy needs to be held to account. If the message sent to right-wing, racist militias by this event is “threaten the feds with violence and they’ll back down,” then we’re in big trouble.