The GOP's Real Minority Problem

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A blogger at the New York Times claims that Cliven Bundy, a rancher who has been refusing to pay grazing fees to the federal government for his use of public land has "accidentally explained what's wrong with the Republican Party". I couldn't agree more, but hardly for the condescending reason given in the blog post.

Bundy, who had been paying his fees until the government wanted to restrct his use of the land to protect an endangered species, is in arrears. When the Bureau of Land Management came in to collect, in the form of confiscating part of his herd, Bundy led, apparently successfully, an armed standoff with the BLM. He has also, in the meantime, basked in the publicity, volunteering an inconsistent hash of opinions on all manner of subjects, including speculating that blacks were better off under slavery than the dole. Both journalists seem quite happy to equate Bundy with Republicans in general, and to label both "anti-government", hence part of the basis for the conclusion by the Times blogger that Bundy has accidentally spoken a profound truth regarding the lack of traction the GOP has with non-white voters:

Mr. Bundy, weirdly, is onto something here. The rush to stand with Mr. Bundy against the Bureau of Land Management is the latest incarnation of conservative antigovernment messaging. And nonwhites are not interested, because a gut-level aversion to the government is almost exclusively a white phenomenon.
I think that the government's ownership of all this land is improper and that the BLM ought to be abolished, but the solution to that problem is not an anarchic revolt. There are ways to change the law, and they involve persuading others that the change ought to be made. I also agree wholeheartedly with the local, interviewed for the news article, that, "You just can't let this go by, or everybody is going to be like, 'If Bundy can break the law, why can't I?'"

To the degree that the Republican Party attempts to take advantage of anti-government rhetoric (as opposed to arguing that we should reduce government to its proper scope), it deserves the lack of popularity it gets.

But the blogger seems too eager to act as if race determines political sympathy. If "minorities" aren't hopping onto the GOP bandwagon, shouldn't one ask why? Might cultural factors enter this equation? Might the relevance of the message to those hearing it factor in, in some way? It could help to recall that, as Ayn Rand once pointed out, "The smallest minority on earth is the individual."

On top of that, the blogger is blinded by the following false dichotomy: that our choice is improper government -- or no government at all. (The whole notion of the government "overreaching" in this matter is a manifestation: Either the government ought to be in the business of owning this land (in which case, it can set whatever terms it wants on its use) or it shouldn't. This is not the same thing as assuming that the only way to remove such government intrusions is to rid ourselves of government.

It's relevant to the electoral fortunes of anyone opposed to improper government that, as the blogger points out, Asians opposed Mitt Romney by a three-to-one margin, or that:
... 55 percent of Asian-Americans and fully 75 percent of Hispanic-Americans say they prefer a bigger government providing more services over a smaller one providing fewer services, compared with just 41 percent of the general population." [links in original]
But it is bigoted -- and something that ought to be ignored -- to add that these fortunes will suffer simply because, "... America is not the overwhelmingly white country it once was."

In terms of its actions, the GOP is all but indistinguishable from the Democrats. Furthermore, unless the GOP challenges the assumption that our choice is government meddling vs. anarchy -- by upholding the idea that a proper government is one that defends individual rights -- it will never look like a substantive or attractive alternative to the Democrats. This means it must do a better job of explaining how the kind of meddling favored by the Democrats harms everyone, while also repudiating anarchy.

If the GOP would only start doing those things I doubt it would matter that America is no longer "overwhelmingly white". The party would start attracting individuals -- who would realize their freedom is at stake -- if not in droves, at least in significant numbers.

-- CAV


Anonymous said...

"I also agree wholeheartedly with the local, interviewed for the news article, that, "You just can't let this go by, or everybody is going to be like, 'If Bundy can break the law, why can't I?'"

I disagree with this thinking and offer a relevant quote from Ayn Rand herself:
"When men are caught in the trap of non-objective law, when their work, future and livelihood are at the mercy of a bureaucrat’s whim, when they have no way of knowing what unknown “influence” will crack down on them for which unspecified offense, fear becomes their basic motive, if they remain in the industry at all—and compromise, conformity, staleness, dullness, the dismal grayness of the middle-of-the-road are all that can be expected of them. Independent thinking does not submit to bureaucratic edicts, originality does not follow “public policies,” integrity does not petition for a license, heroism is not fostered by fear, creative genius is not summoned forth at the point of a gun."

If you haven't done so, please read up on the history of the BLM and its predecessors, the history of the grazing rights at issue, the history of the Bundy family, etc. Bundy has not been terribly effective at making a philosophical/moral case for his right to graze his cattle on that land, but that doesn't mean that such a case cannot be made.

What Cliven Bundy did - despite his philosophical and rhetorical shortcomings, was to refuse to continue to sanction his victimization by the BLM. Men who have been forced into positions such as Bundy need legal and philosophical defenders. Unfortunately those defenders have been largely absent in this case.

As for Bundy's purported racism, I see more in-eloquence than racism. It is not surprising that the media pushed the racism angle going so far as to very selectively edit the interview in order to remove footage that showed Bundy in a more sympathetic light. The fact that this issue came to a head during the reign of Obama necessitated the public destruction of his reputation by the progressive media.

Anonymous said...

I think I accidentally dropped a line from my previous comment that should have followed the quote my Ayn Rand.

Expecting Bundy - or anyone - to follow such law is to ask him to sacrifice himself in order to maintain peace and social order in an unjust society.

Gus Van Horn said...


I have time only for the briefest of replies. I'll address three points.

(1) A regular reader emailed me at length on the source of the outrage at the Feds, which is a legitimate gripe and which I should have learned about and mentioned here: As I understand it, the BLM is guilty of a unilateral breach of contract with ranchers like Bundy.

(2) I suspected that Bundy's comments about blacks were ineloquent, and possibly along the lines of arguments I have seen -- many of which I agree with -- regarding the deterioration of black culture under the welfare state -- and that the leftist media were more than happy to use the fact that he said anything about black culture out of context to make him look like a racist hick. Thanks for bringing that issue up.

(3) That said, I disagree that armed conflict was the way to go -- or at least without an accompanying strategy of going to court to challenge the breach of contract/new BLM "rules". (Yes, I am new to this story. Maybe Bundy has done this or something equivalent, but from what the Times reported, it looks like simple blind rebellion. That reaction is understandable, but wrong, and our country needs much better.)

All these points hastily addressed, my primary focus was on the idiotic conclusion about minority voters the left, believing its own propaganda (and hoping enough conservatives do, too) are drawing (or at least disseminating) based on this incident.


Anonymous said...

Hi Gus,

Although it is not in line with your primary point about the GOP minority problem, it appears that the Obama administration and the Holder DOJ (should the J be in quotes?) have been Bundyizing others in the economy as well.

c. andrew

Gus Van Horn said...


Thanks for the link (and the emails, which I will more-than-skim when I can.

FWIW, I saw this morning that Larry Elder, writing about the LA Clippers' owner, interestingly also draws an analogy to Bundy.