Blogs & Discussions

Before Bundy Ranch22618140What happens when constitutional vigilantes go mainstream.By Jared A. GoldsteinRancher Cliven Bundy. Cliven Bundy, posing outside his ranch house on April 11, 2014, west of Mesquite, Nev., didn't invent constitutional vigilantism; he's just getting more support than the KKK or Posse Comitatus did.Photo by George Frey/Getty ImagesConstitutional vigilantism of the type on display at Bundy Ranch last week has been a recurrent feature on the margins of American political life. What is new—and dangerous—is that it has suddenly moved from the margins to the mainstream. And it comes with guns.Last week a mob of more than 1,000 armed protesters forced the Bureau of Land Management to back down from enforcing federal grazing fees. The protesters came out in support of local rancher Cliven Bundy, who’s been letting his cattle graze on federal land in Nevada for more than 20 years without a permit. “We’re standing up for the Constitution,” declared Bundy, to the delight of the television cameras. Bundy and his supporters have a simple constitutional worldview: They do not recognize the federal government’s constitutional authority to manage public lands within a state, and they believe the move against Bundy results from a corrupt political system determined to deprive the people of their rights. But instead of trying to convince a court to adopt their constitutional views or work through the political system, Bundy and his supporters have shown that they can enforce their interpretation of the Constitution by waving guns at federal officials.On the surface, the dispute at Bundy Ranch focuses on a fairly esoteric constitutional question: whether the Property Clause of Article IV, which grants Congress “power to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States,” authorizes the federal government to own and manage the public lands within a state. The problem for Bundy and his supporters is that the Supreme Court answered that question in 1897, ruling in Canfield v. United States that the admission of a state does not deprive the federal government of power over public lands. Bundy’s supporters also challenge the federal government’s authority to restrict grazing to protect wildlife, but the court also rejected that argument in 1976, ruling in Kleppe v. New Mexico, that the BLM indeed may regulate grazing on the public lands to protect wild horses and burros. Armed with these and many other legal precedents, the BLM obtained a court order to stop Bundy from letting his cattle graze and ordering him to pay his unpaid bill or face seizure of his cattle.Who decides what the Constitution means? The Supreme Court is often said to have exclusive authority to interpret the Constitution, but that position has never been universally accepted. President Lincoln, responding to the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision in 1857, declared that “If the policy of the Government upon vital questions affecting the whole people is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the instant they are made in ordinary litigation between parties in personal actions the people will have ceased to be their own rulers.”The militia movement has largely faded from view, but the philosophy of armed resistance now finds a welcoming home in the Tea Party movement.Over the last decade, some liberal law professors, led by Stanford’s Larry Kramer and Harvard’s Mark Tushnet, have challenged the notion of judicial supremacy. In its place they advance a theory known as “popular constitutionalism,” in which “We the People,” not the courts, should be understood as the final arbiters of constitutional meaning. Critics of this theory ask how it could be put into practice, and what mechanisms the American people may use to interpret and enforce their Constitution. And along come the protesters at Bundy Ranch to offer the obvious answer. Through force. The protesters are popular constitutionalists with guns, seeking to advance their constitutional interpretations by threatening to shoot any BLM agents attempting to enforce the law as interpreted by the courts.The Bundy Ranch protest certainly fits within a long constitutional history in which radical groups have sought to effectuate their dissident views of the Constitution through violence. The Ku Klux Klan is the prototypical constitutional vigilante group. Operating outside formal legal structures, the Klan always asserted it was acting to restore the true meaning of the Constitution, which, in the words of a 1925 Klan publication, “put into written form the immortal principles of liberty, popular government, and equal justice, which were the fruitage of Anglo-Saxon character.” The Klan understood itself to be the vigilant protector of white Protestant values embodied in the Constitution, when local law enforcement was unwilling to step up.SINGLE PAGE12NEXTThis was posted on Slate- there is more to the article but I don't have the link here
Email me when people comment –

You need to be a member of Patriot Action Network to add comments!

Today's News

Latest Network Activity

george gabriel commented on Craig Andresen's blog post Gun Control and the Liberal/Socialist Collective
"Obumba didn't say it could have been my son, this time! there are over 300 murders in obumbas home state, and he is going to promote gun control. a few days late. But what about the black lives that where lost on the streets of Chicago, don't…"
1 hour ago
Elizabeth Arsenault commented on Rudy's blog post Thursday ~ The Front Page Cover
"Don't get me started on Iran and this nuclear deal.  Obama is not all there in his head.  I can't believe what is happening and then I watch Putin and he confuses me.  He's shifty. He reminds me of one of my step-fathers.  He had two personalities.…"
3 hours ago
Elizabeth Arsenault commented on Rudy's blog post Thursday ~ The Front Page Cover
"Rudy, Brock did help me a lot.  I understand now what is happening. I try to keep up but they speak a different language and sometimes I just get lost in the translation.  lol"
3 hours ago
Elizabeth Arsenault commented on Rudy's blog post Thursday ~ The Front Page Cover
"I understand that now too....  Ugh, that man makes me so angry."
3 hours ago
Elizabeth Arsenault commented on Rudy's blog post Thursday ~ The Front Page Cover
"Thank you Brock. That does help. When Obama was running for President the first time I tried to tell everyone he's not what he says he is and then they turn around and vote for him again.  Crazy.  Obama has proved me right 100% yet the people I know…"
3 hours ago
Roger O'Daniel commented on Roger O'Daniel's blog post Middle-East Conflict News October 8, 2015
"RE: Are you a reporter?I do not receive or accept pay for the information I write and share with others.  I am a resource, not a reporter, but have some writing talent.  I consider my work a ministry to a list of reporters I correspond with and to r…"
3 hours ago
Larry Holland posted a blog post
We have just had a major achievement today. WE RAN KEVIN McCARTHY OUT OF THE RUNNING FOR SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE!  Kudos and Congratulations to all those that saw the importance of calling Congress and telling your Representative you did not want them…
7 hours ago
Rudy commented on Rudy's blog post Thursday ~ The Front Page Cover
"Well said Brock and Elizabeth should read your reponse. Maybe that will help her clear any confusion she has."
8 hours ago

PAN on Facebook