Now that the Bureau of Land Management has started returning millionaire rancher Cliven Bundy’s cows, some in the media are saying that the so-called “Nevada range war” is over.
But they’re wrong.
As Senator Harry Reid pointed out yesterday, there’s still a long way to go before this thing is settled.
Harry Reid is right.
As long as millionaire Cliven Bundy gets to graze his cattle on public land for free, in contempt of three court orders and in violation of the law, this is not over.
Bundy and the suckers he brought in from the militia movement think they’ve won a huge victory against federal “tyranny,” and will only be more aggressive about breaking the law in the future. As Robert Sands, one of the Oath Keeper militiamen who joined up with the Bundys, told USA Today, “We need to start telling people this could possibly be the spark of the next American Revolution."
That’s right—the next American Revolution!
It’s easy to pass off the Bundy ranch standoff as just another example of anti-government craziness —and it is another example of anti-government craziness—but if you dig a little deeper, you’ll realize it’s a bit more complicated than that. The reason the Bundy ranch standoff became such a big deal in the first place wasn’t because it was the start of a genuine revolt against federal “tyranny,” it was because it was a perfect storm for all the groups that make up the far-right fringe of American politics.
It doesn’t take too much investigating to figure out what this millionaire self-declared “sovereign citizen,” Cliven Bundy, has to gain from his “victory” over the feds. He now gets to keep on doing what he’s been doing for the past two decades: fattening his cattle on land owned by you and me—the taxpayers—and selling them at a huge profit, all of which he gets to keep for himself.
It's made him rich, and it'll make him richer.
It also doesn’t take too much investigating to figure out what the militia movement has to gain from its role in the Bundy ranch standoff. Groups like the Oath Keepers get to say they stood down the big, bad federal government and won, so they can recruit more members and do more fundraising.
The right-wing media, meanwhile, also has a lot to gain from the Bundy ranch standoff. Fear mongering about tyranny—which is what the right-wing media does best—means big ratings and that means millions in advertising revenue. That’s why media multimillionaires like Sean Hannity have been practically begging for the Bundy standoff to turn into the next Waco or Ruby Ridge massacre.
Like Fox News, the Koch brothers also have a lot to gain by supporting millionaire Cliven Bundy’s fight against so-called “tyranny,” which may explain why their Americans for Prosperity has jumped into the act. They have vast investments in the mineral and cattle industries, and would love to get their hands on more federal lands that are rich with natural resources.
For the billionaire Kochs, just like for millionaire Bundy, the Nevada ranch standoff isn’t about liberty at all—it’s all about the money.
That’s why Americans for Prosperity’s Nevada chapter has been pushing the hashtag “Bundy Battle” on Twitter. And that’s why it sent out photos mocking the Bureau of Land Management for trying to round up Cliven Bundy’s cows.
Ultimately, the whole Bundy ranch controversy is really just one big hustle, a hustle that, like all libertarian freakouts, fits in nicely with the interests of the right-wing corporate elite.
And let’s be honest: Cliven Bundy isn’t some populist hero, he’s just a millionaire rancher who doesn’t want to follow rules that cut into his bottom line.
I’m sure some people in the militia movement actually believe the Bundy Ranch standoff was a great moment in American democracy. But they should wake up and realize who really wins when millionaire ranchers and media stars like Bundy and Hannity, and oil and gas billionaires like the Kochs sucker a bunch of well-intentioned average people into joining a fight against the government.
It doesn't strengthen "liberty" or our American republic; it weakens both. As is so often the case these days, the only winners are the rich guys.
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