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April 24, 2014 1:43 PM Digging In With Cliven Bundy

By Ed Kilgore

For the most part, conservatives have dealt with cowboy libertarian folk hero Cliven Bundy’s racist outburst yesterday ignoring it or (in the case of pols) “hating the sin” while figuring out if it’s okay to still love the sinner.

But aside from the usual “so’s your old man” stuff about Robert Byrd or other long-dead Democrats making racist comments, a few conservatives are trying to snatch Bundy’s fighting-the-feds chestnuts from the racial fires. Charlie Pierce has an amusing description:

For the appetizer, here’s gun-totin’ dame Dana Loesch. Dana was one of the first enlistees in the 101st Vicarious Twitter Commando Brigade, and she stalwartly stood a post along Freeloader Ridge, which is a place of the mind to which meeker souls dare not go.
First, to take the quote at face value it’s odd and sounds offensive. You’re talking about government overreach and you go into this story? Secondly, I hope no one is surprised that an old man rancher isn’t media trained to express himself perfectly. He seems to be decrying what big government has done to the black family - which big government has negatively affected not just the black family, but all families regardless of ethnicity - so perhaps he included that in his remarks against big government? I’m just trying to figure out how he even got to the point of discussing it and yes, it’s justified to have a healthy suspicion of the New York Times….
But the entree today is Kevin Williamson, who writes for the longtime white-supremacist National Review. He has found a stage, hired a cast, and mounted his own road show production of Bad Historical Analogy Theater.
“Mr. Bundy’s racial rhetoric is lamentable and backward,” Williamson said in an email. “It is also separate from the fundamental question here, which is the federal government’s acting as an absentee landlord for nine-tenths of the state of Nevada…I very strongly suspect that most of the men who died at the Alamo held a great many views that I would find repugnant; we remember them for other reasons.”

The Williamson defense is a predictable if not very compelling effort to treat Bundy’s racism as incidental, made hilarious by the choice of an antebellum southern example. But it’s Loesche’s take that shows conservatives digging themselves into a deeper hole. If media training is the main thing that separates Bundy from, say, Paul Ryan in his rap about the enslaving nature of dependence on Big Government, that probably reflects pretty poorly on Ryan and others who claim they want to liberate po’ folks from any help from their government. As Pierce notes, Bundy was pretty clear in his views. Are others we suspect of blowing racial dog whistles the ones who are misspeaking? It’s a question worth asking.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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