Friday, April 18, 2014

Timothy Egan suggests Western (or is it rural?) exceptionalism in reaction to Cliven Bundy

Timothy Egan's column, "Deadbeat on the Range," queries whether Tea Party and other right-wing types would respond to an urban scofflaw in the same way they have rallied around Cliven Bundy, the Nevada Rancher who is $1 million behind in payments on the land he leases from the federal government for grazing.  In doing so, Egan suggests a divide between East coasters and Westerners, and perhaps a rural-urban divide, too:    
Imagine a vendor on the National Mall, selling burgers and dogs, who hasn’t paid his rent in 20 years. He refuses to recognize his landlord, the National Park Service, as a legitimate authority. Every court has ruled against him, and fines have piled up. What’s more, the effluents from his food cart are having a detrimental effect on the spring grass in the capital. 
Would an armed posse come to his defense, aiming their guns at the park police? Would the lawbreaker get prime airtime on Fox News, breathless updates in the Drudge Report, a sympathetic ear from Tea Party Republicans? No, of course not. 
So what’s the difference between the fictional loser and Cliven Bundy, the rancher in Nevada who owes the government about $1 million and has been grazing his cattle on public land for more than 20 years? Near as I can tell, one wears a cowboy hat. Easterners, especially clueless ones in politics and the press, have always had a soft spot for a defiant white dude in a Stetson.
P.S.  Here is a straight news story that the NYTimes ran a few days after Egan's column, and here is an NPR story querying whether Bundy is a racist.

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