Republicans refuse to see elephant in the room
When discussing Cliven Bundy or other fallen political heroes, I think of a small child who is slowly learning what hurts him. He runs up to the stove with an eager curiosity and puts his hand on the hot stovetop, or plays with an aggressive dog he’s unfamiliar with. Both times he’s given a painful response to his curiosity.
The Republican Party has created political heroes time and time again. They make examples of the struggles that they are a part of — in this case, the battle with a federal government that they see as too large — and then recoil away when that person’s barely hidden character flaws come to the surface.
In regard to Bundy, the child is the Tea Party and other conservative supporters who eagerly flock to support a like-minded individual or cause. However, Bundy — like many of these political heroes — is the stovetop, and when he says something offensive the supporters recoil like they’ve been burned.
Bundy is far from the first person to be called a patriot and then pushed away like a leper. Why is it that the right wing allows these people to become cause leaders in the first place?
Bundy came to national prominence in early April when the Bureau of Land Management tried to seize 500 cattle from Bundy because they had crossed into federal lands. It was the latest move in a 20-year-long battle in which Bundy refused to pay BLM for land around his ranch, which itself is too small for the cattle that he has.
The livestock seizure brought in supporters from across the country who saw themselves as supporting Bundy’s battle with a federal organization gone too far. He had politicians and pundits expressing support for his fight.
However, that all started to change with a New York Times piece, and was made worse by an ill-advised press conference.
“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” Bundy said to the New York Times, as he went into his rant. “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.”
Bundy and other people who oppose the federal government — a significant part of the Republican voting base — have their roots in racism to a certain degree.
This resentment of the federal government was in part born out of Civil War-era battle cries for states’ rights, as the South feared the government putting an end to slavery, and later, when the federal government stepped in and forced the South to comply with desegregation and civil rights. Today, that mentality is echoed in the fight against the federal government’s push of the Affordable Care Act.
It isn’t shocking that a rural anti-federal government rancher could hold racist views. However, if it was a possibility, why did Republicans support him in the first place and why were they so eager to turn and run when this came to light?
I would argue ignorance as a possible answer, that these politicians don’t know about the people they turn into leaders.
The potential connection between racism and a hatred of the federal government has been noticed by others. A Reuters article written by Bill Schneider discussed the racial makeup of today’s voting blocks.
“The division in opinion over government helps explain two seemingly contradictory trends in American politics,” Schneider wrote. “On the one hand, there has been a steady decline in racial bigotry. On the other hand, racial division in U.S. politics has grown wider. African-American voters remain overwhelmingly Democratic while whites have become more and more Republican.”
So then, which of the two answers is it? Ignorance? Or appealing to a base that is much more radical than you would like? As much as I would like it to be the former, the longer the cycle continues, the more I have to see it as the latter. Unfortunately, until the Republican Party and candidates are willing to not pander to this group, there will always be room for idiots and racists.
— Eric Klump is a journalism senior. Follow him @ericklump.