It’s hard to forget the armed confrontation between federal law enforcement and Cliven Bundy’s well-armed supporters in Nevada. In fact, the standoff, which the Obama administration, in the interest of public safety, chose not to escalate, was exactly one year ago.
The L.A. Times noted that the controversial rancher, who claims not to recognize the legitimacy of the United States government, threw a “shindig” over the weekend – a “freedom celebration” to honor the anniversary.
This weekend marks the one-year anniversary of when federal agents swooped onto the public lands near Bundy’s ranch to round up hundreds of cattle that the 67-year-old had been grazing without permits. The land is administered by the Bureau of Land Management.The raid didn’t go well: Hundreds of supporters – self-named citizen militiamen, many with semiautomatic weapons – rallied around their new leader, creating at tense standoff between two armed camps. In the end, on last April 12, the federal government backed down, released the cattle agents had corralled and – poof! – vanished.
The underlying dispute has not been resolved. Bundy has still ignored multiple court orders and still owes the United States more than $1 million after he was fined for grazing on protected land.
Bundy’s posture, as a long-term proposition, remains unsustainable – a fact he seems to realize. “It’s hard to tell, but the feds, they’re probably going to do something,” Bundy told the L.A. Times. “[T]hey’re probably just standing back, looking at things.”
He added, however, in reference to the Bureau of Land Management, “They know if they make a move, they’ll upset America. And I don’t think they want to do that.”
It’s an ominous choice of words from a fringe activist who may not enjoy quite as much support as he thinks he has.
Remember, Republicans and conservative media personalities quickly elevated Cliven Bundy to folk-hero status early last year, right up until some of his racist views came to light.
Suddenly, the right was forced to reevaluate whether they were prepared to stand behind a racist lawbreaker who doesn’t recognize the United States and whose supporters pointed high-powered weapons at American law enforcement.
I’m reminded, in particular, of Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) who said last April, “I am very quick in calling American citizens ‘patriots.’ Maybe in this case, too quick.” Around the same time, the Nevada affiliate of the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity started scrubbing their online messages offering praise for Bundy and his radical campaign.
In April 2014, Bundy was a cause celebre for the far-right and anti-government voices. In April 2015, his “freedom celebration” enjoyed less national support. If he’s assuming “America” will be “upset” if there are consequences for his defiance of the rule of law, he’s probably going to be disappointed.
Postscript: ThinkProgress noted a bill in the Nevada legislature, sometimes referred to as the “Bundy Bill,” intended to empower the state to seize federal properties Nevada wants to control. The legislation seems to be a brazenly unconstitutional scheme, but it’s nevertheless working its way through the Republican-led legislature.