Friday, May 02, 2014

Doing what's right

Consider the case of Cliven Bundy, the rancher who is defying the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) over grazing rights on federal land. The Left was always against him because he is fighting the government. The Right has largely abandoned him for two reasons - he is a crackpot and he has some offensive theories about race. While I expect no less from the Left, the Right should rethink their support.

Some wise heads in the Right say that we should pass on Bundy. He doesn't even recognize the authority of the federal government. We should choose someone less radical. The problem there is that people who become symbols are usually cranks and crackpots of some sort.

In Bundy's case, the issue is the federal government in general and the BLM in particular picking winners and losers. 20 years ago they decided that federal land in that county could be better used than by ranching. An endangered tortoise was found on that land and Bundy was ordered to reduce his herd size considerably. In effect, the BLM decided to make him a loser. Bundy was not alone. At the time there were a dozen or more ranchers in that county. Now Bundy is the only one left and he is only still in business because he defied the BLM.

But it didn't have to be that way. 30 miles away the BLM picked a winner, a large wind farm. That area has the same endangered tortoises but for them, the BLM has a solution - move them somewhere else, possibly the land Bundy is grazing.

So Bundy may be a crank but he has a point about the power of the government to ruin people's lives.

The other point here is that racists have rights too. I can understand the reluctance of conservatives to associate with someone who says that "the negro" was better off as a slave. The Left has been characterizing the Right as a group of racists for decades. Bundy gives them a chance to claim guilt by association.

Abandoning Bundy because of his racial beliefs is part of a general movement within the Left and it should scare everyone. Rights are supposed to apply equally to everyone. That is why the statue of Justice is blindfolded. But the Left does not see it that way. 12 years ago Charles Krauthammer pointed out that conservatives think that liberals are stupid and liberals think that conservatives are evil. More recently, the Left has been acting on this by denying rights to people who think the wrong way. If you are a racist then you should lose your cattle herd or your basketball team. If you supported an anti-gay marriage initiative then you are not fit to run a major Internet company. While these are big examples, little ones exist and have become pervasive. There is a controversy within Science Fiction because a conservative writer was nominated for a Hugo award (one of the highest awards). Other writers have complained that most publishers will not consider an author who is not a committed Marxist (seriously). Nationwide, kids who even think of guns are punished.

The idea here is to establish a left-leaning societal norm where no one is allowed to have a conflicting opinion. Conservatives have long know that we have to keep our mouths shut in polite company. Now this is beginning to have teeth where people with the wrong views are punished.

Liberal should be wary of this. Societal norms can shift quickly. in 2008, Candidate Obama figured he would get more votes if he was against gay marriage. By 2012 society had shifted and he calculated that being for it would give him more support. Things could shift again.

Once you start denying rights based on opinion you run the risk of losing those rights yourself. They cease to be "rights" and become privileges that can be revoked.

The Left sees themselves as being on the "right side of history" and expects that things will never change so they are perfectly happy removing the concept of inalienable rights and substituting privileges granted by the government. The Right needs to fight against this, even if it means siding with racists. 

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