As Joan Walsh says, "Who could have guessed?" Who could have guessed that the American folk hero, the brave, noble solitary individual standing up to the oppression of big government, Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, believed all of that nonsense? About "the Negro" and happy slaves and picking cotton.
Cliven Bundy, who was lionized by Fox news and Sean Hannity, and whose homespun American patriotism and gumption (since that's all it was ever about, right?) have been lauded by Rand Paul and Rick Perry, turns out to be . . . well, who and what we've seen plastered across our television screens in the last few days, saying what he initially tried to deny he had said, until Media Matters released footage of Bundy saying exactly what the New York Times had reported he had said about "the Negro." And picking cotton and happy slaves.
All of this, and as Joan Walsh points out,
It was only yesterday – literally – that National Journal was telling us that Paul was now the leading Republican tackling issues of poverty and race, after Paul Ryan stumbled, having pretended to care about the poor while his budget slashed programs that help them to give tax cuts to the rich.
As Rachel Maddow adds (video link), "Anyone who chose not to see it coming now has this mess all over themselves." As she also notes, the conservative media and Republican politicians who have glorified Bundy now say they are shocked! shocked! that he maintains such noxious racist theories. And let's pray, the rest of us, that Hannity, Paul, Perry et al. made a folk hero out of Bundy "in bloody ignorance" of where he was coming from and what he and other anti-government types of his ilk really want to promote when they declare themselves free from the jurisdiction of the federal government and its tyranny, and rely on self-declared militias to back them up.
As Maddow notes, everything Bundy ever stood for and everything he ever said to the media from the outset was clearly wrapped up in a philosophy of white supremacy embedded in the Christian identity movement, which in turn harks back to the claim of white Southerners during Reconstruction that there is no authority in the land higher than the local sheriff, the philosophy of posse comitatus. Maddow notes that, though "over the years, members of these groups spawned by the posse comitatus movement . . . [have] tried to separate themselves sometimes from the overt racism and white supremacy that launched their movement in the first place," the "old threads" tying together all of this nonsense about the invalidity of the federal government and the supremacy of local authority are still knotted tightly together.
And they're all about white supremacy.
Prick a movement built on white supremacy and it bleeds ... white supremacy.
Whether it's the Senate minority leader claiming that America should have remained legally segregated, a beloved cultural figure fondly recalling how happy black people were living under lynch law, a presidential candidate calling Barack Obama a "food-stamp president," or a campaign surrogate calling Barack Obama "a subhuman mongrel," the preponderance of evidence shows that modern conservatism just can't quit white supremacy.
Therefore, as Brian Tashman says for Right Wing Watch, who's really surprised? Who didn't know what Bundy stood for and who he was, from the outset of his "rebellion"?
No one should be surprised that a violent, militia-aligned, anti-government extremist turned out to be a racist nostalgic for slavery, and neither should anyone be surprised that Republicans jumped on his cause.
Cliven Bundy was poster-boy of the moment for the loves-guns, hates-government strain of white conservatism. That movement traces back to the terrorist backlash against Reconstruction and it remains inextricably intertwined with white supremacy.
I like Charles Pierce's cynicism about how the establishment-type "moderate" Republicans and their "centrist" enablers, who have freely played with the fire of these destructive, racist ideas for years now as they sought to confine them to the heartland while exploiting the hatred of government on which it all depends, keep trying to tell us it's never about race. When race is all it has ever been about:
If anything were ever About Race, I might say that ol' Cliven was engaging is some racism right here, but since nothing is ever About Race in this country, I must be mistaken, because Cliven is all about freedom and liberty and the ancestral rights his family has to The Land that date back to shortly after the Truman Administration. How do you like your blue-eyed boy now, Mr. Hannity?
I'll keep in mind Cliven Bundy and what it turned out to be all about the next time I hear a defender of "moderate" Republicans or of beltway "centrism" tell me that the philosophy of states' rights is a respectable, constitutional way to handle disputes about the human rights of gay folks (as with the right to civil marriage) at this point in American history. As I listen to those states'-rights-promoting GOP "moderates" and beltway "centrists" for whom race is simply never pertinent, and for whom racial prejudice and the filthy racist history of the nation just don't count, I'll try not to wonder why they seem to know nothing at all about the confrontation that occurred in my own city of Little Rock in 1957, when our state defied the federal government over the question of integrating our schools, and the National Guard had to be called in to force school integration.
Something we ourselves would never have done —we'd never have chosen to integrate our schools or do away with laws restricting the rights and liberties of people of color — without the direct intervention of the federal government. And isn't it strange how little this history seems to matter to those who now declare that race is over and done with as an issue in our country, even as Cliven Bundy pops up on our television screens to make fools of that self-serving "moderate" Republican or "centrist" dodge?
To complement the Jon Stewart clip at the head of the posting, here's Stephen Colbert on Bundy: