Ronan Farrow Daily   |  April 25, 2014

Cliven Bundy’s fall as a conservative hero

After a series of racist remarks, rancher Cliven Bundy has fallen out of favor among many of his former supporters. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Mn., and MSNBC contributor Jonathan Alter join to discuss Bundy’s brief run as a conservative ‘hero.’

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> song. the swift fall of cliven bundy. days ago he was a hero for the anti-government movement. now the controversy surrounding hitting the headlines and trending this morning on twitter nationwide. this after the "new york times" published shocking quotes from bundy. among them black people were happier during the slavery era than now. he went on to refute them on talk radio .

>> are those quotes accurate? because you told me that's not exactly what you said.

>> no, that's not exactly what i said. the men were out working. i didn't say anything about picking cotton. but they were out working. basically they make it a racist-type thing because i'm not racist.

>> uh-huh. but then video emerged of bundy, you guessed it, making the exact comments he denied.

>> i want to tell you one more thing i know. they didn't have nothing to do. they didn't have nothing for their kids to do. they didn't have nothing for their young girls to do. because basically they were on government subsidy . what do they do? abort their young children and put their young men in jail because they never learned how to pick cotton. i've often wondered are they better off as slaves picking cotton, have a family life and doing things or better off under government subsidy ?

>> wait. let bundy explain. he said he was merely wondering if they were happier as slaves. take a listen as things got worse on live tv this morning.

>> you know, maybe i sinned. maybe i need to ask forgiveness . maybe i don't know what i actually said. but when you talk about prejudice, we're talking about not being able to exercise what we think, our feelings. we don't have the freedom to say what we want. negro or black boy or save, i'm not -- if those people cannot take those kind of words and not be offensive, then martin luther king hasn't got his job done yet. i should be able to say those things and it shouldn't offend anybody. i didn't mean to offend them.

>> lawmakers on both sides, even previous bundy defenders like senator rand paul , raced to condemn the remarks. but here's the thing. bundy isn't an aberration. he's the tip of a deep, dark iceberg. just take a look at this. 1,360. that is the number of conspiracy-minded anti-government, quote, patriot groups that existed in the u.s. as of 2012 . a record level. look at the rise since 2009 when president barack obama took office. following the 1995 oklahoma city bombings . let's dive into this with our panel. keith ellison and jonathan alder. jonathan , i'll start with you. as we saw from the law center , there's been a spike in these anti-government, anti-establishment groups. how much do you think that's a byproduct of having a progressive president?

>> i think there's clearly a connection. we last saw the spike in the 1990s when bill clinton was president. we had all these militia groups . one thing that's so interesting is this battle between washington and right wing anti-tax, anti-government groups that claim to be pate attic but are not goes lit wael back to the beginning of the public. 1794 they had a whiskey rebel yon. these farmers in western west virginia didn't want to pay their taxes. they sent out the u.s. army to collect the taxes. so the idea that somewhat what bundy and setting aside the racism for just a minute, their whole objective embraced by rand paul , shawn hannity before they ran for cover was anti- george washington , anti the founders. anticipate the ideas this country was founded on, which is the central government does have the ability to collect taxes .

>> but you highlighted both sides of that coin. in many ways it is a very old tradition that goes pack to the earlier historical roots we have. it is interesting. congressman, i want to ask you about the race component. listen to what cliven bundy said this morning. take a look.

>> i thought about this quite a bit.

>> please. and i thought about what reverend martin luther king said. i thought about rosa park taking her seat at the front of the bus. now reverend martin luther king did not -- did not want her to take her seat in the front of the bus. that wasn't what he was talking about. he did not say go to the front of the bus and that's where your seat was. what reverend king wanted was she could sit anywhere in the bus and that nobody would say anything bit. and you and i could sit anywhere near her in the bus. that's what he wanted. and that's what i wanted.

>> that's one reading of the history. bundy went on to say he doesn't know how to talk these ethnic groups . is it ignorance or a symbol of something more. or he isn't educated on how to talk about these issues or is he just racist?

>> i think cliven bundy lacks the courage of his convictions. he is unreconstructed raceist. now that he is in the limelight he is trying to back pedal. i'm disappointed. i wish he would stand when o when he said black people need to go back to picking cotton and maybe we were happy during slavery. now he is trying to deny it. he's been busted. but the truth is what he believes he has already said. this sort of stream, it's not even -- it's not knew. as a matter of fact, wasn't it just a few weeks ago when the star of "duck dynasty" was saying something similar?

>> very similar sense.

>> this is a real live stream within conservative circles today. trying to insight tensions between working class people of different colors is a part of what they're all about. whenever the cover gets pulled all the way off, they run for cover . but right before that, they are embracing it fully. and i guess i'm a little surprised at some of my colleagues in congress who were so excited to embrace this guy.

>> what political lessons do you think senators like rand paul and dean heller who were so quick to jump on the band wagon . what can they learn from this swift backlash.

>> maybe look before you leap . don't jump on the bandwagon. tell the the truth about what cliven bundy was all about from the beginning rather than trying to latch on to a popular, populist, fake populist trend. the reality is that clive bundy, as free as he was to share his views on the virtues of picking cotton, it's hard to believe that he was keeping these views hidden all along. they're just absolutely shocked that now he is saying these things. i'm not imputing my colleagues knew he was quite as extreme as he revealed. but he all kind of know the dog whistle before we hear the real one. and we should call it out.

>> should they have done more background checking on this individual?

>> well, they just need to understand that the core of these resistors is a racist, basic there a racist idea. that somehow other people are sitting on their porches and not working.

>> that's right.

>> so the dog whistle , sometimes called code words . if you say as paul ryan has, for instance, the problem is the safety net has turned into a hammock. quote, unquote, paul ryan . what is he saying? what is he saying? what he is saying is that lazy, presumably minorities, are taking -- are takers from the federal government . just like the 47% comments you heard from mitt romney . # are romney and ryan racist? no. but there was a subtext there that can be interpreted as making a racial appeal. what somebody as crudely racist as bundy does is strips the veneer and they are using code words to say the same thing, to make the same points.

>> there's irony imbedded in all the comments. bundy is making them in front of a federally funded overpass that i'm sure he uses to transport things. as you pointed out, congressman, he is making them under the protections of the first amendment. let's get to the underlying debate he triggered and the individuals on the hill launched on to. the underlying fight is whether there should be state control. he isn't wrong in pointing out there is a lot of government interference. take a look at this map, which shows the amount of land the federal government owns in the west. is there any substance to the argument bundy and all the politicians behind him were making?

>> no. i think if they want to introduce a piece of legislation that would make up a new composition as to the apportionment between federal, state, and privately held land, let them introduce a bill and let us debate it. but to say he's just not going to pay is something we simply cannot abide if we have a civilized society. the fact is these people question the government's role to pursue the interests of the american people . just like the whiskey rebel yon. we have been enforcing federal law for quite a long time. and i think we can't tolerate doing otherwise.

>> jonathan , getting pack to the history of this, the thing that's fascinate to go me is, it goes so deep into the roots all the way back to paul revere 's ride, revolutionary war . we are a nation of insurgents. do you think this is something american identity will never escape. beneath the surface there will be this dark anti-establishment?

>> well, there's been a constant tension, as you say, in american history going back between central authority, the federalists they were first called and the jeffersonian party. the way they set up under the articles of confederation didn't work. so it was written to give certain powers. but what's fascinate to go me about this bundy story is it brings together not just that anti-establishment we are talking about but also the racial scars of american history . so think about when this has been an issue most in the last 50 years. 1957 . president eisenhower had to send troops to little rock , arkansas to enforce the government's efforts to desegregate schools there. and 1963 , jfk had to send federal marbles to alabama, george wallace stood on the school house tkaofrplt he was no different than bundy. he was saying you don't have any right to enforce the law. my question is what's more patriotic, belief in the law and constitution as it has been clearly articulated. is that the patriotic position of the u.s. government in this case? or are the patriots the ones who wrap themselves and say we don't have to obey the law. by the way, we're farming on federal land we're not paying for. you taxpayers are supporting my business.

>> these minority groups needed most the protection of the federal government . it to thi sentiment of losing some protections for minorities. it's built into it. congressman, the last question to you. as an individual of color on the hill, do you think there should be more condemnation of that part of the movement, of the obliteration of federal protections when it comes to minorities?

>> well, i'm not sure exactly what you're asking me. what i can tell you.

>> the individuals who jumped on this band wagon and are espousing that ideology.

>> we absolutely have to stand up and confront racism, division in our country and stand up for the right of the federal government to protect minorities. this is something we have to repeat over and over again. i want to say as we are talking about this unrepented racist rancher moocher we're not talking about the 2.8 million people who are left behind on unemployment insurance , 12 million left behind without immigration bill . i just want to point that out. i want to tell you that sometimes i think this kind of thing takes up more time than it really deserves.

>> that is an excellent sentiment that much of the country is waiting to hear from a lot of our leadership. thank you congressman and jonathan