If the Oregon Militants Were Environmentalists, They'd Already Be in Jail

Ammon Bundy(R), leader of a group of armed anti-government protesters speaks to the media as other members look on at the Mal
Ammon Bundy(R), leader of a group of armed anti-government protesters speaks to the media as other members look on at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon January 4, 2016. The FBI on January 4 sought a peaceful end to the occupation by armed anti-government militia members at a US federal wildlife reserve in rural Oregon, as the standoff entered its third day. The loose-knit band of farmers, ranchers and survivalists -- whose action was sparked by the jailing of two ranchers for arson -- said they would not rule out violence if authorities stormed the site, although federal officials said they hope to avoid bloodshed. AFP PHOTO / ROB KERR / AFP / ROB KERR (Photo credit should read ROB KERR/AFP/Getty Images)

A religious vision compelled Clive Bundy and his followers to seize an Oregon federal wildlife refuge. Their goal is to win the prison release of arsonists and to undo federal law governing the land patrimony of all American citizens.

If these were environmentalists and not ranchers accustomed to free use of public lands, if these were conservationists using a paramilitary action to protest the failure of federal policies to protect national wildlife refuges or parks like the Everglades -- where the federal EPA has aligned with polluters like Big Sugar -- how quickly do you think the FBI and justice department would intervene?

The domestic terrorists in Oregon expect the American people will rally to their side. They will be there for "years and years" until the Insurrection. Part of their strategy is to dove-tail with right-wing extremists using the 2nd Amendment to rile up fearful white America.

The concept unifying the gun toters and the ranchers who do not want to pay fees to graze their cattle on public lands is "over-reach" by the federal government.

Over-reach includes excessive measures to protect the middle class, civil rights, worker safety and public health.

If there is anything to protest, it is the inflammatory rhetoric of GOP presidential candidates who continue to poison the well of relations between taxpayers and the government. Yesterday, trying to sound presidential, Ted Cruz addressed the press in Iowa where he leads the polls: "Every one of us has a constitutional right to protest, to speak our minds, but we don't have a constitutional right to use force of violence or threaten force of violence on others ... There is no right to engage in violence against other Americans, and it is our hope and prayer that that situation resolves itself peaceably sooner rather than later."

In 2014, Cruz had another message: that the standoff of another Bundy revolt was "the tragic culmination of the jackboot of authoritarianism."

Demonizing the federal government taps into populist fears but mainly benefits big campaign contributors who are often polluters of the environment.

When government is the problem and not the solution, and when this message is hammered home so repetitively that all logic and reason is flattened like a penny on a railroad track, it is simply not possible to clarify how government could do a better job.

The wackos -- who are mostly but not exclusively Republican -- do not believe in "the public good". (In fact that would be an excellent question at any of the forthcoming TV campaign "debates": do you believe in the public good?) In 2014, Cruz fanned the flames: "We have seen our liberty under assault from a federal government that seems hell-bent on expanding its authority over every aspect of our lives. Thomas Jefferson famously said the Constitution is meant to serve as chains to bind the mischief of government and we have seen, sadly, our Constitutional liberties eroded under the Obama administration and I think it is in that context that people are viewing this battle with the federal government. We should have a federal government protecting the liberty of the citizens, not using the jackboot of authoritarianism to come against the citizens. And I think this is the unfortunate and tragic culmination of the path that President Obama has set the federal government upon."

Federal ownership of millions of acres of land across the nation, mainly in the American west, is a pure expression of the public good -- and one embraced by Republican decision-makers throughout the 20th century. Yesterday, Marco Rubio -- during a radio interview with an Iowa station -- implied that he agreed with the terrorists but that elections were the way to reverse federal ownership of public lands.

Both Rubio and Cruz are dead-wrong. We need to stand up for BETTER stewardship of America's natural resources and environment, not cave into extremist views and an agenda so confused and conflated that daylight and common sense is blocked. Arrest the terrorists.