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Exposed on the Right

Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy likes to pose with the American flag, but he refuses to recognize the authority of the United States/
Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy likes to pose with the American flag, but he refuses to recognize the authority of the United States/
Photo by George Frey

Cliven Bundy loves to pose with the American flag as a backdrop, yet he refuses to recognize the authority of the United States.

Bundy’s refusal to pay fees for grazing his cattle on federal land made him a hero to some ultraconservatives, rightwing militia groups, and Fox News’ anchor Sean Hannity.

Now it turns out that ol’ Cliven is just an old-fashioned, not-very-bright, cliche-ridden racist.

Many of his quondam supporters are bailing.

They are embarrassed by Bundy’s inability to stop talking, as in this discourse he gave during his daily “press conference” last Saturday. “I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” he said. He discussed driving past a public-housing project, “and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids — and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch — they didn’t have nothing to do. They didn’t have nothing for their kids to do. They didn’t have nothing for their young girls to do”

As if that weren’t bad enough, Bundy then plunged enthusiastically into a “Gone With the Wind” interpretation of the Old South. “And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?” he asked. “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”

African Americans on “government subsidy!” From the rancher who grazes his cattle on public land for free.

Earlier, libertarian darling Rand Paul defended Bundy, saying “the federal government shouldn’t violate the law.” It doesn’t seem to bother the Kentucky Senator that it’s Bundy who has violated the law and ignored numerous court decrees. But Paul found the Nevada rancher’s racism a bit too much. “His remarks on race are offensive and I wholeheartedly disagree with him,” he said in a statement.

Nevada Republican Senator Dean Heller, who previously referred to Bundy’s armed supporters as “patriots,” quickly backtracked. According to a statement released by a spokesperson, “Senator Heller completely disagrees with Mr. Bundy’s appalling and racist statements, and condemns them in the most strenuous way.”

Paul and Heller weren’t alone in their support of Bundy. Right-wing media, Fox News in particular, have given the rancher hours of airtime and pages of coverage, far in excess of the news value of his story. Conservative media have romanticized Bundy’s lawlessness and the armed militia groups that support him. None have been more fawning than Fox anchor Sean Hannity, who asked, “How did we get to this point where the government sends hundreds of people in there? There seems to be a total lack of proportionality in this.”

Given Bundy’s nihilism and anarchy, it’s odd any Republican or respectable conservative media figure would have supported him. Perhaps, it’s a case of what “Morning Joe” co-host and former Republican Representative Joe Scarborough labelled picking “friends based on who [your] enemies are. In this case, a lot of people in conservative media have raced to this guy’s defense. They must be feeling very exposed this morning.”

But it’s not just Bundy’s racism that exposes his supporters. They should have been leery from the start of a man who says, “I believe this is a sovereign state of Nevada… I abide by all of Nevada state laws. But I don't recognize the United States government as even existing.”

Bundy’s mainstream supporters presumably believe in limited government, but there’s a point at which limited government becomes no government becomes anarchy. Bundy’s refusal to pay grazing fees is not a stand for limited government; it’s a recipe for anarchy, one that Rand Paul and Dean Heller and Fox News should have recognized.

Or perhaps it’s just a case of a man who just wants to get something for nothing and has bamboozled a whole slew of people who should have known better.

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