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Cliven Bundy, Racist? Who Could've Guessed?

Right-wing folk hero Cliven Bundy weighs in on slavery. Cue the Great Right-Wing Walkback of 2014.

By Nathan Pippenger

In my Monday post on Justice Ginsburg, I closed by asking people who oppose her retirement to imagine the successor who might be named by, say, President Paul. That may have been a bit premature, now that I see this morning’s news about Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who—by refusing to pay grazing fees and greeting the feds with an armed militia, has (naturally) become a conservative folk hero. Today, the New York Times quotes him with the following reflections on race in America. Cue the Great Right-Wing Walkback of 2014:

I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro […] They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.

Now, remember: Cliven Bundy’s supporters are upholding him as a patriot who’s just trying to defend his freedom. It’s telling that these defenders of liberty are so adept at not just rationalizing, but openly defending, chattel slavery—at least when it comes to African-Americans.

It’s also another revealing tidbit into the world of Rand Paul,* who just can’t seem to avoid these people. It was only last year that the Senator was dodging questions about a staffer with a past as a far-right, white-supremacist, neo-Confederate radio host. At this rate, by 2016 Paul will have attached himself to at least two more Champions Of Freedom who turn out to be surprise racists. So I should amend my earlier post: Rand Paul will almost certainly never be president.

Update [12:55 ET]: Senator Paul released a statement today calling Bundy’s remarks “offensive” and saying “I wholeheartedly disagree with him.”

Nathan Pippenger is a contributing editor at Democracy. Follow him on Twitter at @NathanPip.

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