(I'm referring to it as 'Bundyville' because the inhabitants of the town of Bunkerville are kind of fed up with the whole situation.)
If it weren't for the guns and stated willingness to use them, I'd find the whole Cliven Bundy situation to be a parody of a Tea Party rally sans corporate sponsorship worthy of a Coen brothers script...the story of a relatively mundane grazing rights dispute involving off-center and unusual characters for whom the ending is not necessarily a happy one. Think Fargo with cattle and militiamen.
The temptation is there to laugh at these jokers camping out in Bundyville and the people who want to be at Ground Zero for the start of the Wingnut American Revolution. Or whatever their cause is:
Welfare negroes, the United Nations, sexually devious lawyers, satan, a Chinese solar farm, microchips0, secret-agent NPS, a Muslim-Kenyan president, hippies, illegals. Take your pick.Pretty much any movement of note - left- or right-flavored - will attract people who are out on what is generally considered to be the ideological fringe, whether they're retirees wearing tricorn hats, militia enthusiasts, or Venusians...and we mock and marginalize them because, well, they are for the most part mock-worthy. In doing so, however, we make it easy to dismiss whatever these out-there people are saying that might actually make a little sense.1
At the very least, I appreciate the fringe because that's where the most of the passion and willingness to shake up the status quo comes from. The malcontents may not run things, but they can on occasion change the conversation.
In a slight-but-important way, I can understand what's going on under all of what the Bundyvillians are doing; this protest/stand off has qualities reminiscent of the Populist movement of the 1890's, where groups of farmers united against what they considered to be monied interests in what for that time sounded like a rural Occupy movement.
Not that I can put the racism, religious delusion, paranoia, and militant similarities of the Populist Movement or Bundyville aside:
The Populists had a tendency toward paranoia and overblown rhetoric. They considered Wall Street an enemy. Many Populists were hostile toward foreigners and saw sinister plots against liberty and opportunity. The party's 1892 platform described "a vast conspiracy against mankind has been organized on two continents and is rapidly taking possession of the world." After their crusade failed, the embittered Georgia Populist Tom Watson denounced Jews, Catholics, and African Americans with the same heated rhetoric he once reserved for "plutocrats."What I find important about protest movements like the Tea Party2, Occupy, and whatever you want to call what's happening in Bundyville is that there's a strong populist, stick-it-to-The-Man spirit that should be giving the members of the bourgeoisie serious pause.
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We are probably due for having - if we're not already in a weak one now - a populist movement rise up here in the U.S.; they have been occurring roughly every 30-40 years - 1880's, 1930's, 1960's, and now starting in the 00's. We get around five years or less of a progressive leap forward and then 20-30 years of conservative claw back on those gains. The timings are approximate; the period of U.S. prosperity from the late 1940's through the 1960's could be considered a residual effect of World War II, although it was also a time of anti-communist paranoia and severe racial tensions.
I would argue that we would have had a stronger progressive leap forward after the Great Recession if it weren't for the populist movement necessary to support it wouldn't have been quickly co-opted by the right-wing establishment. I mean, these leaps end rather quickly, but in Obamacare and the wishy-washy re-regulation of the financial industry, we didn't get the better solutions. That claw back came almost immediately this time, resulting in the implementation of poorer, more conservatively-oriented policy by a supposedly center-left administration.
You can see the similarities in what was said about the end of the era of the New Deal:
"A Democratic president’s economic agenda is a failure, lost to business class acquiescence, the embrace of austerity, and an overall lack of vision."Consider this: the "central problem [of] the economic question" wasn't addressed in the early years of the Obama administration or by the Tea Party faux-populists. Which is why we saw Occupy and are likely to see more Bundyvilles and calls for an active and focused leftist populist movement. They're outgrowths of the same dissatisfaction with the political and economic status quo, only with each having different targets for their ire.
This was the conclusion of The New Republic, summarizing Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the New Deal in May 1940. Though there were “extraordinary accomplishments” to acknowledge, the magazine understood that the New Deal was a “failure in the central problem.” That central problem was the economic question, and there, the Roosevelt administration had “fail[ed] to discover or apply a genuine remedy for the stagnation of our economy and for unemployment.” Beyond the failure of vision, it “heeded business advice, at least in part, by trying to cut recovery expenditures” and engage in other forms of austerity.
The question for me is, what flavor of populist movement will we as a country have? Some variation on the New Deal or Great Society or a regression towards the anti-government, anti-regulatory stance held by the Bundyvillians? Or will it be some combination of the two?
...............footnotes, etc...............0Why do microchips always seem to make an appearance? Is it the Biblical Mark of The Beast thing?
1I don't have a solution for that.
2the very early days, before it was co-opted by the establishment Right.