First, let’s be clear that this is about perceptions. The BLM vs. Cliven Bundy story isn’t about who’s in the right or who’s in control; it’s about who appears to be in the right and about who appears to be in control.
A little background first. Cliven Bundy is a rancher who lives outside of Mesquite, Nevada. His family has been ranching on that land since before Nevada became a State. The Bureau of Land Management, BLM, claims control of the land the Bundys graze their cattle on. Bundy’s position, in a nutshell, is “I was here first”. But like I said, the right or wrong of the arguments isn’t anywhere near as important as public perception.
The BLM has been arguing with Bundy over grazing fees for two decades now. Note that I said arguing and not doing X, Y, or Z. So right away, who looks to be in the weaker position? Not Cliven Bundy. Now, over 20 years later, the BLM is attempting to flex its atrophied muscles to intimidate the Bundys into paying the fees. Remember that this is about perception. That last sentence can be called hyperbole, but that is the perception and the BLM should have realized it before this fiasco began. Instead of sensibly, and quietly, folding, they raised when the other guy was showing a pair of kings. Bundy called them and raised them several thousand protesters, the Internet, and Militia. It’s that last part that really stings now that the BLM has pulled back. It appears that the Obama administration retreated in the face of armed opposition. That’s never a position a government wants to find itself in because appearances matter.
Now turn your attention further east. In the State of Connecticut, Governor Dannel Malloy rammed through an “assault weapon” ban following the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary. His incorrect perception was that there would be widespread public support for his law and that gun owners would be cowed into compliance. But that didn’t happen. Instead, gun owners in his State ignored him and his law. The response from Hartford has been indignant sputtering and empty threats. So rather than appearing strong, Malloy’s government appears to be quite the opposite. And as is the case with the BLM, it appears that he’s backing down in the face of armed opposition.
This same tale is playing out in neighboring New York as well. There, Governor Andrew Cuomo also rammed through a draconian gun ban with the expectation that the rabble would quietly obey. As I write this, the deadline for registering or surrendering an “assault weapon” has passed. But in New York, the problem is much bigger than it is in Connecticut. A million NY gun owners may have chosen defiance over compliance. While the pundit class saw a political victory for the Governor, gun owners in NY perceived weakness. In the face of growing opposition from citizens and local law enforcement, Coumo should have backed down. Why support a law that you can’t enforce? Instead, he doubled down and forced his SAFE Act through. And now he’s stuck defending a position he should have abandoned. The perception is that he’s weak. He’s about to have a million felons on his hands and he doesn’t have a plan to deal with them.
Anti-gun politicians like Dannel Malloy, Andrew Cuomo, and Barack Obama have overplayed their hands. They believed their own narrow minded “moms” and ignored conditions on the ground. They foolishly staked out indefensible positions; whether on legislation or grazing fees and land control. They’ve converted a letter writing opposition into armed opposition. And rather than responding forcefully to that armed opposition, as any prince worth his salt should, they blinked.
The anti-gun Left hoped for revolutionary change in America. They hoped to end the American tradition of an armed citizenry. They hoped to overcome it with a powerful and dynamic State enforcing its will on knuckle-dragging gun owners. They hold similar dreams to remake American traditions of land and business ownership. And they thought that their revolutionary dreams were finally about to come true. What they missed was the importance of perception. The public never viewed them as strong enough to accomplish those goals. So their attempts to do so appear to be driven by a weak desire to save face, not by the kind of political power they imagined themselves to possess.
They’re getting a revolution all right; but not the one they hoped for.