Cliven Bundy -- The Man Who Said Too Much
Cliven Bundy could tell you what it’s like to go to sleep as a hero and wake up as a monster; and rightly so on both counts. Few men get to experience such a high coupled with the lowest of lows over the course of a week. At the very least, what he has gone through is unique.
The Nevada land rancher made headlines -- and made the world nervous -- during a recent standoff with the Bureau of Land Management. Depending on the political slant which you prefer to apply to it, either citizen patriots or armed rabble rushed to his defense.
Cliven Bundy’s case is an example of government overreach, though not the most compelling case I could imagine. Boiling a complicated confrontation down to a paragraph, the general argument in support of Bundy seem to follow the lines that the cattleman and his family have been using the (now protected) land since before the federal government had the ability to tax him on it. As such, he garnered sympathy from many state’s rights circles; few making the case that Bundy didn’t owe the government over a million dollars in “grazing fees”, but many supporting the idea that he shouldn’t.
After an extended standoff, officials withdrew from his property on April 14th. Bundy not only played a game of chicken with the government, but he got them to flinch. The night of April 22nd, Cliven Bundy probably went to bed a content man.
Unfortunately for him, April 23rd came to be. It was then that the New York Times published comments from Bundy which started with the word “Negro” and seemed to build to a crescendo. From the New York Times piece:
“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” he said. Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in Northern Las Vegas, “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.
“I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing other things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”
The “they” in his comments, of course, being the “Negros” in question.
Once released, the reprehensible comments set even his most ardent supporters on a race to distance themselves. The Drudge Report -- which for days assigned the ranch standoff its lead headline -- now links to a Washington Post blog with the Drudge-assigned banner, “Rand Paul, Republicans – RUN!”
Distance themselves, they should, not just because Bundy’s comments are flatly racist, not just because he managed to project an awful lot onto a segment of society after driving by a building one day, and not just because continued political support will end careers. His supporters should separate from his cause because his statements go against American ideals on a very basic level.
These comments revolve around the fallacy that slaves could be freer than free persons. Even if the rest of Bundy’s thought process is fair (it’s not) or justifiable (it isn’t), it revolves around the consistent point that Cliven Bundy is fit to decide if each man has used his God-given freedom in an acceptable manner. At this core is where the published quotes attributed to the Nevada rancher become the most concerning.
As an attempt to restate his argument into interrogatives that would seem to honor his thought process: would African American’s be better off if there had been no Civil War? Is it better for an individual to live as property? Supposing a man is not up to the challenge of freedom, is it then someone’s place to take it away once again?
To the 99% of Americans who cherish a free society, the simple answer to these questions should come as naturally as reciting the alphabet. Turn it on yourself, Mr. Bundy. Which would you prefer?
Republicans must distance themselves from the man with the same haste and purpose in which a doctor would remove a gangrenous arm. His comments threaten to taint a movement. His quoted opinions become a weapon to be used against a party with which had just been making headlines for its desire to improve minority outreach. Proper conservatives believe in the value of each individual in very clear terms, but the world will never accept such truths if individuals like Cliven continue to weigh down their message.
Cliven’s supporters should not be blamed for walking away from him now, just as they should not be blamed for standing with him in the first place. Going forward, though, do not imagine that the two can be neatly separated. Cliven Bundy has seen to that.
And what will happen the next time the Bureau of Land Management comes a’ knockin’? Who will support Cliven Bundy then? It would seem that the man found a way to silence his own rallying cry.
The frank truth is that the minorities that he referenced in his tragic racism may spend their lives as takers from the government (simply restating his supposition), but none of them can be accused of living off of government resources and then failing to pay the millions that they owe for it. Who was the drag on our system again, Mr. Bundy?