Now that the whole thing has started to die down a little and the dust has cleared, one thing is for damn sure: there was almost a full-on uprising that took place about 80 miles outside of Las Vegas a couple weeks ago. The #BundyRanch trend on twitter blew up as federal forces descended upon a cattle ranch in Nevada, trying to forcefully move cattle off of land that the federal government claimed it had supremacy over in an effort to try and save an endangered species of desert tortoise. The fact is, the Bundy family laid claim to that land long before the Bureau of Land Management even existed, so this whole thing shouldn’t even really be an issue. Cliven Bundy has been sued by the federal government for not paying grazing taxes that he supposedly owes for grazing on “public” land. The government has basically come in and said that they now own a portion of his land and that he has to pay taxes to them because he lets his cows graze there.
Oh, and I forgot to mention that the BLM killed two of his cows when they were trying to move them to a spot that wasn’t federal land.
But that’s beside the point. The real issue is the larger question, one that seems to be coming up more and more lately with Washington stretching the Constitution farther and farther, moving closer and closer to the point where they’re just going to rip the document in half and forget about it entirely. The main question that this conflict raises is: should the majority of the power rest in the hands of the states or the federal government? This is a tough one, because the Constitution clearly states that the federal government has supremacy within its jurisdiction, which includes all 50 states. The sort of gray area is when the feds enact something that a specific state or group of individuals deems to be unconstitutional or not fair or what have you, and they decide for themselves that they will not partake in whatever the national government has enacted. Jefferson advocated for the use of nullification way back during the War of 1812, and yet now we sit here today and still argue over whether or not people are allowed to nullify federal law if they truly believe that it is unfair and they have justification for it.
The fact is, this right to nullify any law that you deem to be unfair or unconstitutional is something that should be preserved. The minute that we start taking serious action against people who (peacefully) protest what they view as unjust actions or laws taken by government, we start to slip toward a form of government that we do not want to be associated with. I say “we” because I think that everyone in the United States can agree that we would rather not end up being a dictatorship or having a government that abuses the rights of its constituents. This question is one that is going to have to be answered before we start moving forward because if it isn’t, then the conflict at Bundy Ranch will just be the beginning.
Another miscellaneous question that this debacle raised is an important one for the government to answer. When the BLM pounced on Bundy Ranch, there was an immediate and widespread movement that took place within the region and hundreds of people came out and showed their support for Cliven Bundy, many of them coming armed in case there was an actual fight. Some of these people sat peacefully and protested in the designated “First Amendment Areas” – which begs the question, why isn’t any piece of United States soil a “First Amendment Area” – while most of them seemed to be ready for anything. Those people were fully prepared to fire on federal agents if they had to, and that’s a scary proposition for even the most highly trained member of an agency. Hundreds of people with guns shooting at a small amount of federal agents with probably very little tactical training – considering that they work for the Bureau of Land Management and not the FBI – is not a very good recipe for success from the point of view of the feds. They might want to think about that the next time that they want to roll up on a rancher and try to take their land by force.