Bundy redux

As you have no doubt heard, another group is trying to get its way with weapons because it cannot do so by legal or democratic means.

This was to be expected. The April 2014 standoff at Bunkerville has emboldened many dangerous people. The first Bundy standoff ended in a sort of victory for guns. As the Southern Poverty Law Center put it, “No Patriot group in recent memory has stood face-to-face with a large crowd of armed law enforcement officials and forced the officers to back down. It seems likely that that victory has given new impetus to murderous radicals like the Millers.” Jerad and Carol Miller were Bundy supporters who killed three people in Las Vegas, including two police officers.

Now, one and possibly two sons of Cliven Bundy are leading an occupation of a Malheur National Wildlife Refuge building in southeast Oregon. They have some vague and confusing demands. They have self-righteousness.

And, of course, they have guns.

Their demands are irrelevant, given that they are taking non-legal means, given that they are unwilling to accept a no answer. To do it legally and with acceptance of the outcome would mean risking losing, the same thing that everyone from a plumber seeking a permit to a teenager taking a driving test has to do.

“We feel we have exhausted all prudent measures and have been ignored,” said Ammon Bundy. A lot of people feel that way, and then gracefully accept the outcome of their effort and move on or wait for the next legal opportunity. Most people don’t try to force society to give them what they want. But these tiny splinter groups endow themselves with sole virtue and rightness and cut themselves loose from the restraints under which most of us live.

Fortunately, their smugness and disdain for other viewpoints contains the seeds of their own defeat, alienating most of the population. Arrogance seldom sells, so in either court or the court of public opinion, they’ll lose.

The culpability of other groups for these incidents, however, needs greater accountability.

First, there is the Bureau of Land Management. Its neglect of its duty in allowing Cliven Bundy to flout the law for an unconscionable 20 years has never been explained. If Bundy had failed to pay his electric bill, he would have been slapped down fast. Three different presidential administrations let his scofflaw behavior slide. If there were Clinton administration officials who worried that they might inflame the situation, all that can be said is that by failing to act, they did just that. It finally came to a head in an even more polarized era. The BLM inflamed the situation by its negligence, and still does—the original malfeasance, remember, is still ongoing.

Republicans once posed as the party of law and order, but when the first Bundy standoff came around, too many GOP leaders considered it more important to pander to fringe radicals than speak for order and legality. They encouraged this lawlessness.

Democrats at lower levels denounced the Bundyites, but where was the president of the United States? Since April, 2014, he has never spoken out against Bundy’s antics. There has been one 43-word statement by White House press aide Josh Ernest declining comment. Where is the moral leadership? Who speaks for good people?