Reaction to racist rant shows GOP in thrall to extremists
Bigoted views of folk hero Cliven Bundy proves embarrassing for Republicans
Rancher Cliven Bundy: has refused for 20 years to pay for grazing on federal land. Photograph: David Becker/Getty Images
When a cranky anarchist in a cowboy hat starts a sentence saying “I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro”, you can be dang sure it’s going downhill from there.
The unsettling thing about Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s ugly rant on the Virgin River on Saturday, the New York Times ’ Adam Nagourney told me, was that there was no negative reaction from the semi-circle of gun-toting and conspiracy-minded supporters who had gathered round to hear it. The oblivious 67-year-old Bundy, who has refused for 20 years to pay for his cattle to graze on our land, offered a nostalgic ode to slavery.
Recalling that he saw African-Americans sitting on the porch of a public-housing project in north Las Vegas who seemed to have “nothing to do”, Bundy declaimed: “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?”
The man hailed as a “saviour” and “folk hero” by Fox News doubled down on Thursday, declaring: “Cliven Bundy’s a-wondering” if the black community was happier during slave days when “they was in the South in front of their homes with their chickens and their gardens and their children around them and their men having something to do”.
By Friday, he was saying that all Americans are slaves to the government and comparing himself to Martin Luther King jnr and Rosa Parks. Just another dark-ages bigot who goes nuts at the idea that whites are losing clout in an America run by a New Age black president. What’s the use of being white, after all, if you can’t be king of the hill – even if the hill really belongs to the government?
Conservatives saw no hypocrisy in rallying around Bundy for breaking the law, refusing to pay between $1 and $2 a month per cow to graze on federal land, while they refuse to consider amnesty for illegal immigrants committing Acts of Love.
Rand Paul, the libertarian senator from Kentucky who wants to be the Republican presidential nominee, took almost a day to distance himself from the self-immolating Bundy. Paul was so worried about alienating the segment of the party that will decide the nomination, he couldn’t even respond quickly to say the most simple thing on earth: Racism is bad.
As BuzzFeed reported, Chris McDaniel, a GOP state senator mounting a strong challenge to Thad Cochran in the Mississippi Republican primary, has written blog posts blaming the “welfare dependent citizens of New Orleans” for not finding higher ground during Katrina, charging that “Mexicans” entering the country are hurting “our culture” and calling racial profiling of Muslims a “victory for common sense”.