It’s been nearly a week since the U.S. Bureau of Land Management tried to enforce federal court orders at Cliven Bundy’s Nevada ranch, only to back off in order to deescalate a potentially dangerous situation with heavily armed protesters.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D), who of course represents Nevada, said earlier this week, “We can’t have an American people that violate the law and then just walk away from it. So it’s not over.”
Yesterday, Reid went further.
U.S. Sen. Harry Reid on Thursday called supporters of Bunkerville rancher Cliven Bundy “domestic terrorists” because they defended him against a Bureau of Land Management cattle roundup with guns and put their children in harm’s way.“Those people who hold themselves out to be patriots are not. They’re nothing more than domestic terrorists,” Reid said during an appearance at a Las Vegas Review-Journal “Hashtags & Headlines” event at the Paris. “… I repeat: what went on up there was domestic terrorism.”
The senator added that he’s been in communication with Attorney General Eric Holder, FBI leaders, and Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie, as well as the Nevada Cattlemen’s Association, ‘which has not backed Bundy’s personal battle but has expressed concerns about access to public land.”
There is, Reid said, a task force being set up to deal with the situation. “It is an issue that we cannot let go, just walk away from,” he added.
One assumes Bundy’s militia allies weren’t impressed with the senator’s comments, but Reid probably isn’t foremost on their minds. Rather, many on this far-right fringe are contemplating their next move, embracing what they see as a new precedent established six days ago at the Bundy ranch.
Reuters ran a striking piece yesterday, citing militia experts saying that armed Americans “using the threat of a gunfight to force federal officers to back down is virtually unparalleled in the modern era.” It’s left the radicals feeling emboldened.
Energized by their success, Bundy’s supporters are already talking about where else they can exercise armed defiance. They include groups deeply suspicious of what they see as a bloated, over-reaching government they fear wants to restrict their constitutional right to bear arms.Alex Jones, a radio host and anti-government conspiracy theorist whose popular right-wing website, Infowars, helped popularize Bundy’s dispute, called it a watershed moment.“Americans showed up with guns and said, ‘No, you’re not,” before confronting the armed BLM agents, Jones said in a telephone interview. “And they said, ‘Shoot us.’ And they did not. That’s epic. And it’s going to happen more.”
“More” is precisely what the American system cannot expect to tolerate.
As we’ve discussed, there’s an obvious problem with establishing a precedent that says Americans can disregard laws and court orders, whenever they feel justified in doing so, if they surround themselves with friends with guns. It’s a dynamic that invites and encourages lawlessness.
And it’s why this standoff isn’t over.