Even after he suggested that black people were better off under slavery, Cliven Bundy probably could still be elected to the House of Representatives in certain districts, if he were the Republican nominee.
Safe House districts, a generous Senate map that forces Democrats to defend seven seats in states Mitt Romney won, and a president with sagging popularity mean that Republicans would need a meltdown of Bundy proportions to have a bad 2014. And even given their advantages, they have no better than a 50/50 shot of taking the Senate majority, which they would likely lose again in 2016.
Some Republicans understand that their near-bulletproof status in 2014 isn’t helping them. In fact, it’s making them feel comfortable doing very dumb things, like making a hero of Bundy — as the right-wing media did for more than a week, with conservative politicians rushing in to suck up some sweet airtime.
Men in cowboy hats aiming guns at federal officials appeals to a certain demographic — and it’s not a demographic Republicans are struggling with.
“The rush to stand with Mr. Bundy against the Bureau of Land Management is the latest incarnation of conservative antigovernment messaging,” Josh Barro wrote in The New York Times’ Upshot. “And nonwhites are not interested, because a gut-level aversion to the government is almost exclusively a white phenomenon.”
Some conservatives are rushing to condemn Bundy’s outlandishly awful comments, without noting that his basic premise — government assistance is an evil that maims the souls of black folks in particular — underlies conservative philosophy.
That’s why when Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) seemed to express a similar sentiment in coded language, he found himself in the middle of a small uproar that he’ll still be trying to defuse in a meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus scheduled for next week.
Republicans argue that there is no racism in their philosophy. Rather, they’re trying to live up to Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision of judging people not by the “color of their skin, but by the content of their character,” as if Dr. King said nothing else. Chief Justice John Roberts’ assertion that the Voting Rights Act’s enforcement formula is no longer relevant, even though it was renewed in 2006, speaks to a “colorblindness” that denies we live in a world where Cliven Bundys still exist.
Republicans have sold themselves on the logic that the only way to get over racism is to get the government out of the business of ensuring equality of opportunity and everything else — except marriage, reproduction and people saying bad words on the radio.
But they haven’t really sold anyone else.