You gotta admit, Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy had a good run at his 15 minutes of fame playing The Poor Aggrieved, Victimized Old White Guy Being Menaced by Tyrants!
Actually, the “tyrants” in question were BLM repo men attempting to round up and repossess his cows on federal land, collateral for 20 years worth of non-payments of his grazing fees. Simple action, really, happens all the time with cars – don’t pay your car loan, car disappears, usually in the middle of the night.
With a herd of cows, of course, it’s different. That’s where the comedy started and where Cliven became a star . Before you could say “John Wayne,” a gaggle of armed wannabe self-styled “militia” showed up to strut around a gaggle of tents they set up and called “Camp Trip Wire,” brandishing their weapons for the TV cameras, little Half-Minute Men ready to face down the BLM guys. One Local Hero even went so far as to excitedly declare that if there was gonna be trouble, he was gonna make sure the women-folk would be placed up front so they’d get shot first so the whole country could see just how awful the “gummint” was. I’m sure he thought his little plan would serve to shock the viewers, but I’ll bet the only thing the viewers thought was, “If that guy’s married, I sure hope he doesn’t go home tonight.”
Not wanting another Ruby Ridge triggered by a bunch of stupid Aggrieved Resentful Angry Armed White Guys, the federal agents backed away, leaving Cliven’s cows uncollected.
The right wing, of course, loved everything about this story. Loved it! It hit all their grievance-politics notes, plus cowboy hats! And they rushed to declare that they were with old Cliven, that he was an American Hero, a Patriot, the perfect image of what a Conservative is all about, all that stalwart, rugged individualism! Plus, what could be a better “conservative values” visual than shots of a stalwart iconic Western cowboy (Cliven) riding around on his horse waving a huge American flag?
Until, that is, Jon Stewart pointed out that Cliven Bundy is one of those old posse comitatus guys, a political line that runs straight from federal government deniers, states righters, Night Riding Jim Crowers , straight back to the Unreconstructed South. So what, Jon wondered, Is Cliven doing flapping an American flag around? That’s the flag of the . . . federal government.
Finally, as it always happens, the warm glow of all the media love loosened Cliven’s tongue and he spilled the out the really good beans, the central heart of the matter and started talking about . . . The Neeeee-gro.
Now, in this day and age of grievance politics, when you hear those words – “The Negro” – you just know that things are likely gonna go south real soon. And sure enough, they did. Ol’ Cliven started a-wonderin’ if The Neeegro wasn’t better off as slaves. And, picking up on the conservatives’ meme that equated slavery with food stamps, commenced a-wondering if The Neeegro wasn’t “slaves to charities and government subsidized homes? And are they slaves when their daughters are having abortions and their sons are in the prisons. This thought goes back a long time,” said Cliven Bundy, who had been sucking on the government teat himself for 20 years-worth of taxpayer subsidized welfare in the form of unpaid grazing fees.
Well, the whooshing intake of breath from all the conservative Pols and Pundits who had first rushed to old Cliven’s side darned near blew down half of Nevada. And the trampling of conservative Pols and Pundits’ feet scampering to get some plausible-deniable distance between themselves and old Cliven broke the Bonneville Flats’ speed record and left a track out of Nevada deeper than the Grand Canyon.
And poor old Cliven was left alone with his little band of now foolish-looking armed-and-dangerous, shoot-women-first Green Mountain Boys, though this being Nevada in a drought year, they were more dusty brown than green.
And Cliven’s cows are back mooching off federal land, for now, while the rest of the country is wondering, “How do you spell “C-O-G-N-I-T-I-V-E D-I-S-S-O-N-A-N-C-E? “