Boy, Cliven Bundy was on such a roll. Because the Bureau of Land Management so overreacted, coming in like storm troopers with drawn guns, an embarrassed federal government backed down, even though Bundy was not exactly on the legal high ground. He had lost twice in federal court over his claim he didn’t have to pay the fees for grazing his cattle on federal land in Nevada.
And he drew praise and support from a slew of prominent Republicans and conservatives, including Sens. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, who used him to advance their own “federal government is too big and intrusive” argument, even though his only moral high ground was, “I don’t recognize the federal government,” which seems to go against the Constitution he claims to revere.
Then he opened his mouth one too many times.
He said in an interview, of “the Negro” (never mind the choice of “black” or “African American”), “They 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? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”
The first sound to be heard was that of jaws dropping over the idea that such mindless, stupid racism was still possible in this country. The next was that of universal condemnation, followed by the thunder of suddenly not-so-enthusiastic supporters running away as quickly as they could.
Bundy fancies himself a patriot, so he might want to brush up on Patrick Henry. In a single sentence, he summed up the essence of this country: “Give me liberty, or give me death.” Freedom is the prime value because with it, all things are possible, and without it, none are. We have the freedom in this country to challenge the federal government’s size and say stupid things, and we have the freedom to call out people for saying stupid things.
But we have the freedom, and tens of thousands of true patriots have died to give it to us. Better off as slaves? Your 15 minutes of fame are up, Mr. Bundy.