Government & Politics

Choose Your Mascot Carefully

Leftmedia latch on to Bundy's comments to discredit all conservatives.

Apr. 25, 2014

The federal government’s standoff with Cliven Bundy in Nevada has brought to light an issue that has long been dormant, and that is just how much land the federal government owns and how much power Washington has over the states. It’s unfortunate that the face of that argument should be Bundy himself.

In Bundy, the Leftmedia found the perfect fall guy in their attempt to portray any individual standing up against the government as a racist fool. The New York Times gave him the opportunity to run off at the mouth, and what came out was indeed ugly. Bundy said that Barack Obama was “articulate” and “clean.” (Oh, wait, that was Joe Biden.) Bundy said that Obama was “light-skinned” and had no “negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.” (Oh, wait, that was Harry Reid.)

What Bundy actually said was, “I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro. [B]ecause they were basically on government subsidy, [t]hey 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?”

The grain of truth here is far overshadowed by what sounds like ignorant bigotry. Blacks do abort their children at a greater rate than any other race and they are overrepresented in prison, but it has absolutely nothing to do with picking cotton or slavery as it existed in the 19th century – an inarguably reprehensible institution. It does, however, have to do with exploitation by the Democrat Party.

Nevertheless, Bundy’s comments presented the perfect opportunity for the Leftmedia to recast the story of Washington’s land mismanagement as one about a crank whom they could use to discredit all limited government conservatives. We won’t get further bogged down in his muddle, which has nothing to do with the real issue at hand – other than the choice of mascot. The truly important part of the story is just how much land the federal government controls.

Bundy is a Nevada rancher who has been grazing his cattle on federal land for decades. But it’s hard not to be on federal land in that state, as Washington lays claim to more than 80% of it. In fact, the federal government owns nearly half of all the land west of Texas, and 60% of Alaska. Ranchers, homeowners and entrepreneurs haven’t had much of a problem living and operating on these lands until recently. Bundy is merely one person who was using federal lands without paying taxes for about two decades. When the government came to collect, he decided to make a “federal case” out of it. He is legally wrong, no two ways about it. He was grazing his cattle on land that did not belong to him, and for two decades refused to pay the feds for it. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a real problem with federal land ownership and the accompanying regulatory burden, or that Bundy is entirely an unsympathetic figure.

The real question is, by what authority does the central government claim so much territory in the states, and what specifically is the constitutional authority for the Bureau of Land Managements actions in Nevada? The feds stood down after making a show of force and shooting some of Bundy’s cattle. But more important, why does Washington continue to stand in the way of growth and prosperity in an entire region of the country?

Some say the Nevada issue has to do with the fact that Harry Reid, proud (and we do mean proud) senator of the state, has a deal in the works to allow donors to develop in that region. But probably not. What is certain is that Reid’s statement that Bundy and the people that flocked to support him are “domestic terrorists” was outrageous and unserious.

So we conclude with another question: Who’s a greater threat to Liberty – an old cattle rancher in the Nevada desert who still calls blacks “Negroes” and suggests that government poverty plantations are as devastating to those enslaved on them as old South plantations were, or an old Leader of the United States Senate in the Beltway swamp, who calls those exercising civil disobedience against armed government police in the Nevada desert “terrorists”? According to Harry Reid, “Those people who hold themselves out to be patriots are not. They’re nothing more than domestic terrorists. I repeat: What went on up there was domestic terrorism.”

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