The Right’s Blindness To Race

Beutler was not shocked by Bundy’s racist remarks:

It’s hard to put this delicately, but a tax-protesting, government-rejecting, gun-toting white rancher from the Old West is fairly liable to say and believe some pretty uncouth things, including about race. I didn’t know Bundy was a racist until Thursday, but I was utterly unsurprised by the revelation. I doubt many liberals were terribly shocked either.

His explanation for why “many, many conservatives—even conservatives with presidential ambition—were caught completely flatfooted”:

When certain conservatives object to liberal characterizations of the American right, and when they bristle at suggestions that conservative policies draw some of their political vitality from unreconstructed racists, or resentful white voters, or anything other than ideologically pure freedom fighters, they aren’t playacting. At some point, to those conservatives, willful blindness to the political power of white conservative populism became unwillful. As far as they were concerned, anyone arguing that welfare-state opposition (or tenth-amendment fetishism or any other conservative hobbyhorses) derived any political support from racist whites was trafficking in racial McCarthyism. Perhaps at some point they had assumed a defensive crouch to protect themselves and their tribe from an uncomfortable reality, but eventually they grew comfortable in it.

Relatedly, Barro finds that Bundy’s big-government grievances resonate most strongly among whites:

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. A 2011 National Journal poll found that 42 percent of white respondents agreed with the statement, “Government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem.” Just 17 percent of blacks, 16 percent of Asians and 25 percent of Hispanics agreed.

And Weigel explains why Bundy’s downfall matters:

Bundy had the potential to become a galvanizing figure for a cause that’s hard to get people excited about. For a very long time, conservatives have been campaigning to take back federal lands, give them to the states, and let businesses or farms—or whatever—develop them. Having spent many hours inside the air-conditioned ballrooms of conservative conferences like AFP’s “Defending the American Dream Summit,” I’ve seen presentations about the government’s choke-hold on usable land. Other reporters, who’ve tracked legislation in Western states, have watched Arizona and Utah pass bills demanding the feds turn over tens of millions of acres to the states.

The problem, as Jessica Goad and Tom Kenworthy noted, was that Western voters didn’t care.* By at least a 2–1 margin in a recent Colorado College State of the Rockies survey, they did not think “having too much public land” was a problem. Enter Cliven Bundy. His years-long battle with the feds came to a head last month, and conservatives from Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar to Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul to likely next governor of Texas Greg Abbott rallied to him.