If it wasn’t clear from the pronouncements that Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy made in TV interviews this past week – most notably his assertion that “I don’t recognize the United States government as even existing” – the confrontation in the Nevada desert that has drawn a horde of antigovernment ‘Patriot’ movement supporters and militiamen out of the woodwork is a classic example of the conflict between so-called Patriots and the real world in which bureaucracies like the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) operate.
That’s especially clear after a review of remarks Bundy made previously in the media, including threats to start a “range war” and “do whatever it takes” to keep his cattle grazing freely on public land. The most notable of these was an appearance at a cattle owners convention in South Carolina in 2012 at which he trumpeted his refusal to recognize the legitimacy of the government; speaking at the same gathering was noted Patriot movement leader Richard Mack.
Bundy has been outspoken in promoting his antigovernment beliefs, including during an interview with far-right radio host Pete Santilli earlier this week. Santilli has a colorful and sordid record of saying extreme things on the air, most infamously his wish that someone would shoot Hillary Clinton in the vagina. In recent weeks he has explicitly aligned himself with the Patriot movement.
Much of the interview revolved around Bundy’s belief that the U.S. government can’t possibly own the open public lands of the interior West:
Who owns this land? Who has title to this land? Is it the state of Nevada? Or is it the federal government? And if it’s the federal government, then I want to understand, I know I’ve asked this question: How does the federal government own 90 percent of the state of Nevada? How does that happen?” […]
The other question I bring forth, according to our Constitution, how could this possibly be? We claim the Constitution is the law of the land, and so how could this happen here in America? How could this happen that the United States could own this vast amount of land – not only in Nevada, but in the Western United States? So this is an issue that I bring forth.
Bundy claimed that he, not the government, was “the manager of this land, at least because of my rights.” If anyone is trespassing, he said, it is the BLM.
The upshot of the interview was striking: Santilli wound up calling on militia members to make their way to the scene of the confrontation in Clark County. Bundy himself said that “now it’s time to get on our boots and I guess make our stand.” Santilli urged “anyone in the general vicinity” to make their way to the protest site so they could “stand in the face of tyranny”. He also vowed to call Sheriff Mack and ask him to speak to the Clark County sheriff so he would do the “constitutional” thing.
“We need a show of force,” Santilli said, comparing the confrontation to standoffs with federal authorities that occurred in the 1990s and are credited with inflaming the militia movement – namely, at Waco, Texas, and Ruby Ridge, Idaho.
Santilli then called for militias from around the West to come out and defend the Bundys, saying there needed to be “a constitutional defense against a tyrannical government,” by which he meant “an organized militia” and “a Second Amendment.”
Bundy agreed. “You know, the things like militias, you know, I haven’t called no militia out or anything like that, but hey, it looks like that’s about where we’re at,” he told Santilli. “We’ve got a strong army here we have to fight, they are bound and bent and not gonna back off, we don’t have our state officials not stepping up and saying no. So until the state officials step up and say no, or the county sheriff says no, it’s going to keep escalating to the point where we’re going to have to take our land back and take our rights back.”
“And maybe it’s the time we’re at in life,” Bundy said. “It just seems like we’ve worked our way all the way to this point, now are we gonna back off, or take it to – somebody’s going to have to back off. If they’re not, We The People are gonna put our boots down and we’re going to walk over these people.”
Bundy vowed not to back down: “They’re up against a man who will do whatever it takes,” he told Santilli.
Santilli agreed: “This is what our Founding Fathers, Mr. Bundy, would want us to do – to protect ourselves from a tyrannical government. This is not a conspiracy theory, is it?”