In the circus that has become American politics, a recurring ploy by the conservative right wing has become evident. Repeatedly, reactionary conservatives latch on to some random citizen, often a White male, as the embodiment of all the virtue of their self proclaimed noble struggle against the abuses of government. During the 2008 election it was the rather vapid figure Joe “The Plumber” who filled that role, and today that character is the gun slinging cattle rancher Cliven Bundy.
Bundy’s dispute stems from the fact that his cows have been grazing on federal land in the state of Nevada for over 20 years without paying the required grazing fees. Bundy accumulated over $1 million dollars in fees and went through several court actions claiming “States Rights,” arguing the land belonged to Nevada and not the Federal Government.
Therefore, Bundy claimed his rights as a citizen of Nevada were being encroached upon. Bundy lost all those court battles. When federal authorities began to seize Bundy’s illegally grazing cattle he alerted his fellow local ranchers for support and staged an “O.K. Corral” type of stand off likened to a scene from the classic TV Western Bonanza. Right wing media, always seeking to score points in the Obama age, caught on to the story and caused a Republican circling of the wagons around Clive Bundy’s cause. Of course Republicans have no problem with the government using tax payer dollars to fund spurious military exploits and savagely brutal drone campaigns, but when a clearly wrongheaded cattle herder who fits their ideological profile offers the ability to make great talking points, why not join the party.
From this link:
“His cause has won support from Senator Rand Paul, the libertarian
Republican from Kentucky who is likely to run for president. Senator
Dean Heller, a Nevada Republican, referred to Mr. Bundy’s supporters as
“patriots.” Senator Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat who is the Senate
majority leader and has a long history of pushing for protection of
public lands, denounced the rancher’s supporters as “domestic
One of the greatest ironies about all this claptrap by Republicans about the Federal Government “abusing its authority” in what they are billing as over-reach is that little attention has been payed to the likely way Bundy acquired his “family land” in the first place. According to reports, Bundy inherited his land from his ancestors who “settled” there in the 1880s. In the wake of racially charged statements Bundy spewed asserting that Blacks would have been better off if still slaves as opposed to doing nothing as he perceives them to be, it’s interesting to note that maybe if those supposed Blacks got hundreds of acres of land in a free government handout like Bundy’s ancestors probably did, he’d think twice about making such ridiculous comments. Between 1862 and 1976 the United States government gave hundreds of thousands of acres of land to the White poor to graze and populate the great western expanse often for FREE. The program was called the Homestead Act.
Over ten percent of all the land in the United States was given to poor whites to economically empower themselves starting under Abraham Lincoln while at the same time Black people were being denied 40 Acres and a mule. For Clive Bundy, a likely beneficiary of this program, to have the nerve to even prattle on about government abuse, and even better, yammer on about lack of Black initiative, in the face of the Federal Government probably bankrolling his whole family’s estate over a century ago is beyond comical, it’s offensive. The United States government has NEVER made a bona fide effort to repair the economic gulf caused by both slavery and Jim Crow–which lasted well into the 60’s in comparison to what was done to lift the White poor into the middle and upper middle class. This includes not only the Homestead act, but also the New Deal which lifted the white poor well into the middle and upper middle class into the 20th Century. Ira Katznelson, in his treatise, “When Affirmative Action was White,” does an excellent job of listing the ways Southern Segregationist Senators denied benefits from the Social Security Act to the GI Bill to the super majority of Blacks who lived in the South in order to maintain the economic exploitation of Black labor under Jim Crow. So next time you hear Jonathan Chait, Paul Ryan, or even Barack Obama prattle on about some “cultural defect” in the Black poor remind them that the only defect is that poor Blacks didn’t get the economic gravy train that has been given to poor Whites since the 1860s.
Though this is a digression, this all plays well into the fallacy of how the Supreme Court, or anyone else, can argue that enough has been done to level the playing field for Blacks, and affirmative action is no longer needed. There is not enough policy on the planet that could properly adjust Black people in America for the economic loss and damage caused to them because of White Supremacy. The fact that Affirmative Action for whites – which is partially listed in this link – has been going on unbounded well into the 20th century should alert anyone to how much the chips have been stacked in one groups favor to the detriment of another group.
Here is an excellent video of Dr. Martin Luther King discussing how ridiculous it is for people to expect Blacks to “lift themselves up by their bootstraps” when compared to the bailout the white poor and working class have been getting for over a century: MLK on Economic Justice