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  • Not looking good    April 25 
Republicans have a Cliven Bundy problem

Many conservatives, including The Week's Matt Lewis, warned against making a folk hero out of Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher who has been illegally grazing his cattle on federal land and who engaged in an armed standoff with federal agents. Now that Bundy has been caught pining for the good old days of slavery — when "the negro" at least had chickens, gardens, and "something to do" — his sympathizers are beating a hasty retreat, including Sean Hannity of Fox News, writers at National Review, and Sen. Dean Heller (R) of Nevada.

Clearly, Cliven Bundy is not long for the spotlight. But it might not be so easy for conservatives to wash their hands of him. If you subtract the vile slavery talk, Bundy's worldview arguably shares fundamental traits with the Republican Party platform, epitomized by Rep. Paul Ryan's budget, which unapologetically seeks to gut the welfare state. Here's MSNBC's Adam Serwer on that point:

It's perfectly consistent to believe the federal government owns too much land and also believe Bundy's remarks are offensive. Nevertheless, Bundy's central point — that black poverty is less a legacy of 200 years of slavery and institutionalized racism than the welfare state — is a notion conservative speakers have espoused and conservative audiences have applauded for years. [MSNBC]

And as Josh Barro at The New York Times argues, it's precisely this anti-government position that has led the Republican Party into a demographic death spiral. So while conservatives can exorcize Bundy with as much speed as they can muster, his ghost may well linger.

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