The U.S. Bureau of Land Management announced today that it was ending its effort to seize Cliven Bundy’s herd of cattle that has been illegally grazing on federal land. The reason the BLM suspended the cattle round up was to protect the safety of federal employees and members of the general public. Bundy and a smattering of his right-wing supporters have threatened to wage a range war if the government continues with its effort to enforce the law. Let that sink in for a minute. The government is halting their efforts to enforce the law because of the threats being made by Bundy supporters.
BLM Director Neil Konze issued a statement arguing that:
Based on information about conditions on the ground and in consultation with law enforcement, we have made a decision to conclude the cattle gather because of our serious concern about the safety of employees and members of the public.
In other words, the threat of violent opposition to the federal government enforcing current law, caused the government to back down and yield to the demands of domestic terrorists.
Cliven Bundy has refused to comply with the law since 1993 when he stopped paying for permits to have his cattle graze on federal lands. Unlike other ranchers in the region, he is a freeloader who defiantly refuses to pay for grazing permits and who rejects the authority of the federal government to enforce the law.
While conservative bloggers, media personalities, and even some politicians are treating Bundy as some sort of folk hero, they should be careful about the precedent Bundy is setting. Patriot groups are quick to rally to Bundy’s cause, but his rhetoric and behavior is eerily reminiscent of the violent insurrectionist behavior of past domestic terrorists like Gordon Kaul, an anti-tax “sovereign citizen” who murdered two federal agents in North Dakota in 1983. When anti-government extremism reaches the point where it is used to justify murdering police officers and federal officials, it undermines the rule of law and puts people’s lives needlessly in jeopardy.
Turning anti-government ranchers who advocate waging war on the federal government into heroes simply emboldens domestic terrorists to feel justified in murdering federal officials with self-righteous zeal. Right-wing pundit and bloggers who hail Bundy’s political grandstanding as some sort of victory for liberty should bear in mind that Bundy is a supremely selfish individual who refuses to recognize the rule of law because he does not want to pay his fair share. Furthermore, they should recognize that by embracing the tactics of Bundy and his supporters who threaten armed violence against federal law enforcement officials, they are fanning the flames of domestic insurrection.
The leap from the rhetoric of Cliven Bundy to providing aid and comfort for the next Gordon Kaul or the next Timothy McVeigh is not much of a jump. Responsible citizens and journalists should not applaud Bundy’s actions or those of the “Patriot” groups that armed themselves on Bundy’s behalf. Americans should the reject anti-government violence Bundy and his supporters espouse and instead defend the rule of law.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.