Cliven Bundy and Conservative Cognitive dissonance

by David Veloz

The new cause celebre of the Tea Party movement is a Nevada rancher by the name of Cliven Bundy. Bundy in the last month or so, sent out a call for help against federal officials who, I believe, were attempting to stop the illegal grazing of federally owned lands by Bundy’s cattle. According to the federal government, Mr. Bundy owes the Bureau of Land Management fees for illegal grazing. Bundy not only hasn’t paid the fees, but he is also continuing the illegal grazing of lands. In order to stop Mr. Bundy, the BLM sent out federal agents to apparently seize the cattle and in the process there was a fight between them and Bundy family members.  This encounter apparently enraged the Tea Party and other conservative groups as another example of the Obama administration’s “abuse of power,” and how America is unrecognizable under this un American administration etc, etc.

I’m not surprised that the Tea Party has embraced Cliven Bundy, nor am I surprised that Bundy himself doesn’t recognize the authority of federal government. This type of rhetoric isn’t a new development in conservative politics. What is a new development, however, is the conservative embrace of Constitutional theories that at one point in time laid at the fringes of American conservatism, but today are acceptable. And allows people like Bundy to say he doesn’t recognize the federal government.  In the acceptance of these ideas, a certain cognitive dissonance not only has descended upon the Conservative movement, it has also become rather acceptable. By adhering to these theories, the Tea Party is in favor of weakening the established Constitutional order they seek to protect. They want the government out of their lives, even if it means not understanding that they derive benefits from the very government they say “spends too much.” It’s therefore not at all shocking to see members of the Tea Party demand that the government keep its hands off their medicare! It also allows Cliven Bundy to espouse constitutional rights the very government he doesn’t want has to protect. Tea Party, just like their predecessors, who opposed the New Deal etc., also seeks to establish a government that is absolutely neutered, with no power to exercise over the economy except for the power to enforce contracts. To them the Lochner era is a panacea compared to the sickness of the New Deal/Great Society era, even if the latter is responsible for creating the conditions that made the American middle class the envy of the world.

This cognitive dissonance is what drives the Tea Party to embrace a man like Cliven Bundy, who has benefited from the very government he doesn’t recognize.  Either way Cliven Bundy is not a hero. He isn’t George Washington, or any other founding father, stoking the fire of liberty. Cliven Bundy is nothing but a law breaking rancher who, by either design, or no fault of his own, uses the simplistic rhetoric of the Tea Party to rail against a government that has accrue to him benefits no other American enjoys, just to continue his illegal activities. I guess that in the age of the Tea Party, the rule of law means to follow only those laws we like, and then accuse our opponents of doing the same without any hint of irony.