The Bundys Strike Back: Right-Wing Militants Seize Federal Building in Oregon


Protesters demonstrating against the treatment of the Hammonds. They may be ignorant rubes, but at least here they are being peaceful.

It is with considerable chagrin that I must report that Bundy is making my earlier concerns over the self-radicalization of the Far Right in response to largely imaginary slights appear prophetic:

A group of armed militants have taken over the managerial offices of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon. Led by Ammon Bundy, the jackass son of notorious jackass Cliven Bundy, the militants seized the offices – unoccupied over the holidays – following a protest over the treatment of two local ranchers, Dwight and Steven Hammond.

Dwight and Steven Hammond were sentenced to five years in prison for arson charges stemming from incidents in 2001 and 2006. In the first, the Hammonds set fire to 139 acres of public land. According to eye-witness testimony, the Hammonds were using the burn destroy the remains of several deer they had poached. Later, in 2006, the Hammonds violated a controlled burn ban, setting several backfires that spread onto public property. The Hammonds were convicted by a jury of their peers, and, following a ruling by the 9th Circuit Court, sentenced to serve the mandatory minimum sentence of five years.

This marked the impetus for a peaceful protest that Ammon Bundy and company have decided to link to imaginary grievances perpetrated by the federal government against local ranchers, loggers, and miners. Bundy, who might be properly described (borrowing the oh-so accurate description Sam Harris applied to Ben Carson) as a “dangerously deluded imbecile”, sees the establishment of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge – and presumably, by logical extension, all such refuges – as an unconscionable usurpation of individual liberties. Bundy has issued demands that the lands of the wildlife refuge be turned over to local ranchers, loggers, and miners for private exploitation.


Militant ring-leader Ammon Bundy – lover of flannel work-coats and well-trimmed bears, hater of public land access and responsible stewardship, terrified of elementary civics textbooks.

Bundy’s thinking here is foggy at best, and – by any measure – incredibly myopic. He does not seem to understand the concept of public property, clearly stating that he believes the federal government has established the refuge for its own personal benefit. In fact, the refuge is a public resource. Literally anyone with the means and incentive can travel there and enjoy the natural beauty that government stewards work diligently to preserve. For Bundy, a better use would be to make this land the private property of a small number of ranchers, loggers, and miners who will exploit the land for short-term profit. In doing so, they will inevitably cause irrevocable harm to both the land and the species that inhabit it. No longer open to nature lovers – photographers, birder, water-foul hunters – the land would be stripped of its natural value so a handful of people can make some money. A resource that could, through sustainable management, be enjoyed for centuries by everyone, would be destroyed so a couple generations of a handful of families or private companies can turn a profit.

Clearly, Bundy and his supporters are men and women who consider it a personal affront and untenable assault on their personal freedoms to be told they can’t do whatever they want with property held in trust for the enjoyment of everyone. Petulant, entitled children, they treat civics like a zero-sum game. Either they get to do whatever the hell they want, or pout and wail over the crushing boot of government tyranny.

Truly, conservatives of the Bundy stripe have the most refined knack for plumbing the farthest depths of hypocrisy. They bemoan the existence of entitlement for the poor, decrying efforts to establish basic rights to food and shelter. And yet, is there a shriller, less justifiable cry for personal entitlement than an insistence on a right to unfettered use and exploitation of property held in trust for everyone? My nephews, all four and under, have a better understanding of the concept of sharing and issue fewer and less pathetic claims over their access to what they perceive as theirs.

Make no mistake: this behavior does not have a place in civil society, and neither to the people who perpetrate it. These people have not been the victims of an injustice grave enough to justify armed rebellion. They are swine without the intellectual and emotional fortitude to resolve their grievances through proper channels. This is not a patriotic protest, it is a childish temper tantrum. It is no exaggeration to a call it domestic terrorism*, with the use of arms and threat of violence used to intimidate opponents into acquiescence.

Bundy and company’s unbelievably retrograde beliefs belong to a time when people burned offerings to Baal and killed animals with rocks. With no place in modern society, they’ve abandoned all recourse to discourse and due process, resorting instead to primal bellowing and brutish chest-beating. They want to eat everyone else’s lunch and shit on the plate, and they call it a dream of freedom. If somebody dares suggest this might be a bad idea and whisper a word in favor of the public good they call him a despot and take up arms in favor of their right to spoil the world.

Thinking of this sort might be described as a speed-bump on the road to progress. However, a more appropriate metaphor might be that of a millstone about the neck of civil society. People who think and act like the armed militants occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters are a constant handicap, tugging society in the direction of some ill-conceived and irrevocably fanciful antediluvian paradise wherein everyone can do whatever they want with no discernible consequences for anyone else. Put more simply, they are men and women who are too stupid and immature to participate in a complex society rooted in the responsible and informed participatory governance of citizens.

Bundy and his ilk are selfish, entitled, puerile adults, devoid of even a rudimentary understanding of basic civics. The tragedy of the commons is clearly a concept well beyond their comprehension, illustrated by their inability to conceive of the ways in which getting what they want might have negative downstream consequences for others. Their simplistic understanding of the processes of self-governance is pitiable, but their behavior stemming from that simple-mindedness is revolting. If Bundy and company think they have suffered a real injustice, they should put their complaint into words and pursue redress through proper channels – including peaceful, unarmed protest. People who need guns to enact change are typically not considered freedom-fighters. They are usually labelled terrorists, and in the case of Bundy and the rest of the militants and right wing nuts who support him, the term almost certainly applies. Without caveat.


* Here is the FBI’s definition of domestic terrorism:

“Domestic terrorism” means activities with the following three characteristics:

  • Involve acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law;
  • Appear intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination. or kidnapping; and
  • Occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S.

Bundy and company are using firearms and the threat of violence to intimidate the federal government into accepting their demands. That is, they are attempting to “influence the policy of a government by intimidation”.

Update: Ammon Bundy was recently on Fox News, where he withered in under questions from Megyn Kelly. This is hardly surprising – the man has always fumbled and sputtered when attempting to fully articulate his motives and reasoning. However, I did find it interesting that he cited Article 1, Section 8, Clause 17 of the U.S. Constitution as justification for his actions. Article 1, Section 8, Clause 17 reads:

To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of Particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings;–

Aside from being borderline incomprehensible, thanks in no small part to the influence of antiquated syntax and vernacular, coupled with the torturous language typical of all legal documents, this section of the U.S. Constitution makes no clear argument that would justify Bundy’s sense of injury. It does specify that the Federal government cannot own or exercise authority over state lands unless they have been purchased by an act of congress with permission of the state legislature. I suspect  this is a situation in which a man heard from a ne’er-do-well cousin or in-law, who in turn heard it from a lawyer they go to church with, that this article spells out the Constitutionality (or lack thereof) of Federal land ownership.

However, according to Supreme Court rulings, justification for Federal land ownership has rested primarily on Article 4, Section 3, Clause 2, which reads:

The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to Prejudice any Claims of the United States, or of any particular State.

This passage reads a lot clearer than Article 1, Section 8, Clause 17. It grants clear power to the Federal Government to regulate and manage the use of land within the United States.


The Religious Right’s Persecution Complex – How Imaginary Grievences Are Radicalizing the Far-Right

Caravaggion's depiction of the crucifixion of Peter.

Caravaggio’s depiction of the crucifixion of Peter.

In accepted social science parlance, terms like social exclusion and marginalization typically refer to situations in which individuals or communities face real barriers from participation in society. That is, they are too poor to participate in the economy or afford the minimum standards for meaningful engagement with society. They are unable to afford the clothes they need to appear “presentable” or, too consumed with the task of making ends meet, incapable of investing enough time and energy in their children to sculpt stable and productive members of society. Alternatively, they might face discrimination based on their ethnic heritage or perceived racial differences. In some cases, they might even be systematically disenfranchised, legally or practically barred from participating in processes of self-governance.

None of this is true for a large portion of the Religious Right, who nonetheless feel persecuted and alienated by everyone else’s efforts to build a better world. To my knowledge, no is preventing them going to church, no one is crucifying them or feeding them to lions, no one is telling them they can’t go certain places on account of their beliefs.Their sense of having been ostracized from society at large is mostly a product of their imagination. But to the extent that their feelings are rooted in anything observable in the real world, it is the decline of their dominant hand in dictating the social agenda. Frankly, they are upset that they no longer get to call the tune to which everyone else must dance. No longer in a position to legally arbitrate moral issues and foist their beliefs on others, they feel their hold on society – poisonous as it is and has always has been – slipping away.

19th century depiction of Christian martyrs in Roman Colosseum.

19th century depiction of Christian martyrs in Roman Colosseum.

As a result, the Religious Right has taken to nurturing a persecution complex. For the most part, the results are innocuous – if obnoxious – complaints registered from the pulpits of Fox News or the endless recesses of social media. They whine and complain, occasionally throwing themselves on the ground to scream and kick in a full blown tantrum. But for the most part, their erroneous feelings of persecution have registered as little more than an incessant source of annoyance for those living under the auspices of more enlightened, forward-looking segments of society.

However, I see in these conditions a strong potential for ugliness. There is a sense in which Dylann Roof and John Russell Houser can be taken as symptoms of White Conservative Christian Persecution Complex, and harbingers of what is to come. Though Houser’s crime is almost certainly attributable to mental illness, he and Roof share a set of motivations rooted in far-right ideology. The same can be said for the recent spate of arson targeting black churches throughout the American south.

Additional ominous rumblings might be seen in the Cliven Bundy standoff, when armed right-wing militants gathered at a Nevada ranch to defend its owners right to exploit public lands with impunity. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but the event speaks volumes concerning the feelings of its participants: a willingness to use violence to remedy a grievance that could be – and should be – resolved through peaceful, legal means.

Now, a handful of crimes and social disturbances – however horrific and baffling – do not a trend make. So let me absolutely clear that I am not trying to sound an alarmist note, offering some dire prognostication for the world over the horizon. Rather, the point I am trying to make is that when people feel disenfranchised, they tend to act out. Never mind that the sense of marginalization experienced by the Religious Right is one they’ve conjured out of thin air. The fact remains that they think it is real, and a community that believes strongly enough that they are losing their grip on society, having lost sight of all avenues for reasonable action, can be expected to produce a handful of members willing to take radical action.

I do not see a future in which the United States has descended in the chaos of racial strife or sectarian conflict. Nevertheless, I have a strong suspicion that as our society becomes more and more equal, more and more diverse, the Religious Right’s feelings of persecution are going to become ever more exaggerated. Keep in mind, the Klu Klux Klan – perhaps the United States’ oldest terrorist organization – is a product of 19th century conservative religious extremism, formed at a time when their ability to inflict their views – and their abject oppression – on others had been revoked. Today, visitors to the KKK’s official website are greeted with this sentiment:

There is a race war against whites. But our people – my white brothers and sisters – will stay committed to a non-violent resolution. That resolution must consist of solidarity in white communities around the world. The hatred for our children and their future is growing and is being fueled every single day. Stay firm in your convictions. Keep loving your heritage and keep witnessing to others that there is a better way than a war torn, violent, wicked, socialist, new world order. That way is the Christian way – law and order – love of family – love of nation. These are the principles of western Christian civilization. There is a war to destroy these things. Pray that our people see the error of their ways and regain a sense of loyalty. Repent America! Be faithful my fellow believers.

Rick Santorum

Rick Santorum

This is pure nonsense, liberally seasoned with racial animus, paranoia, ignorance, and vitriol. There is no war on white people or Christians, only an urgent and entirely justified need to prevent one group from telling other groups how to behave. Yet some people believe there is. Indeed, strike the white-power rubbish from the quote and you have an opinion not far off from those expressed by Republican presidential candidates like Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, who stubbornly lament the decline of Christian liberty, absent even the slimmest shred of evidence for the existence of such a decline. Christians – along with members of all other denominations – are as free to practice their religions as they have ever been. Likewise, conservative commentator Bill O’Reilly has expressed concern over the demographic changes eroding the Republican base, which is a poorly cloaked way of expressing concern over the prospect of living in an increasingly diverse country. Though this perspective is not the same as that outlined by the KKK, it is definitely somewhere in the same neighborhood.

Mike Huckabee

Mike Huckabee

As a nation, the United States has been making gradual, faltering steps toward progress. The legalization of same-sex marriage, steps toward the legalization and decriminalization of marijuana, demographic changes making it more and more difficult for hard-line conservatives to win the Oval Office, broader and broader acceptance of different forms of consensual love and gender expression, and gradual trends toward the increasing secularization of society are all good things. Problematic, is that there is a non-negligible segment of society that thinks these things are not only bad, but a direct threat to their way of life. And as a result, we can expect more and more members of that community’s most disadvantaged and ideologically intransigent fringe to act out more and more frequently. Much of this acting out will probably take the form of white-trash assholes hurling insults and racial epithets at children’s birthday parties, or causing a ruckus on some state capitol grounds. Yet some fraction of it is bound to be violent, and this violence cannot be entirely divorced from attitudes common on the Religious Right.

The point here is not to single out conservatism as a particularly fertile ground for the growth of ideological extremism. To that end, I have taken pains to limit the target of my discussion to those who fall under the heading of Religious Right, courteously minimizing the signal fact that many of beliefs that fall squarely under that heading have become mainstream in the Republican party, driving their political primaries to a realm of ever increasing ideological extremity. Nevertheless, there have been plenty of acts of violence committed by people who adhere to extreme leftist ideologies – think of the FARC militants in Columbia or the Red Army Faction in Germany. Radicals on both sides of the political spectrum seem to be motivated by a similar authoritarian streak. Presently, one of the more salient differences lies in the fact that the U.S. Religious Right expresses feelings of victimization and political defeat that lend themselves to unsavory behavior far more frequently than the far-left. Yet one could easily imagine how worsening income inequality, coupled with the increasing disenfranchisement stemming from the Citizens United vs. FEC and McCutcheon vs. FEC Supreme Court decisions, might stimulate far-left zealots to egregious action. But here we have yet another difference: the problems associated with income inequality and the decline of voter’s ability to influence policy are real and the problems bemoaned by the Religious Right are not.


Heroic patriot Cliven Bundy takes brave stance on slavery

Cliven Bundy is a man of honor and dignity – a True Patriot and a paragon of Rugged Individualism whose ancestors civilized the American frontier. Courageously, he has disobeyed state and federal law for decades, defying court orders directing him to remove his cattle from public lands or start paying management fees.

I addressed the details of Bundy’s heroic stance against the sustainable use of public goods earlier. Now, this representative of freedom and liberty – the standard-bearer in the fight against Big Government – has taken a brave stance on racism and slavery.  According to the Washington Post, he is on record as an active practitioner of the former, firmly in favor of the latter:

“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” he said. Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, “and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids — and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch — they didn’t have nothing to do. They didn’t have nothing for their kids to do. They didn’t have nothing for their young girls to do.

“And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?” he asked. “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”

There isn’t a lot of subtlety there. No hidden meaning. Cliven Bundy thinks black people were better off in chains. He sees the disproportionate rate of incarceration among African Americans as a direct result of their failure to learn “how to pick cotton”, rather than a product of complex socioeconomic factors, including (but not limited to) institutionalized racism.

This is hardly a startling revelation. That doesn’t make it less despicable. Merely unsurprising. This is a man who denies the existence of the federal government while simultaneously claiming to uphold the laws of the state of Nevada – all without familiarizing himself with the constitutions or laws of either. The opinions of Bundy (and many of his supporters) concerning basic civics, U.S. history, and government are rooted in blatant ignorance. Is anyone truly surprised to find that his beliefs concerning race, equality, and civil rights are any different?

On one hand, it’s tempting to gloat about something like this. It offers confirmation to those (like myself) who see Bundy as a bitter old curmudgeon with a childish sense of entitlement, couched in inexplicable feelings of persecution and a fundamental inability to consider differing perspectives. Unfortunately, people gripped by such a miserable disposition don’t keep it bottled up. Instead, they project it into a miasma of paranoia and resentment that corrupts discourse. Bundy’s atavistic outlook, marked by cavalier racism and aggressive ignorance, is neither unique nor isolated. There are others like him. In a world marked by considerable progress on a range of social issues and nearly ubiquitous access to free information, this is lamentable.

I’d like to think that Bundy and those who share his worldview are gradually going extinct. The fact of the matter, however, is that there will probably always be people like Bundy – men and women whose psychological development was arrested around the time they developed a panicked, grasping concept of ownership, screeched the word “mine”, and began greedily hording toys at the expense of their peers; petulant children in adult bodies. They will continue to pollute the arena of ideological exchange and social progress with their nonsensical ideologies and justify their behavior through vague appeals to “tradition”. This is a justification based on the competing – yet equally baffling -notions: (a) that everyone is heir to the same body of tradition and (b) that some people are heirs to an objectively superior set of traditions to which everyone else should adhere, both of which seem to be based on  the idea that people who lived in the past somehow had the best ideas concerning how best to live in the present. Cliven Bundy and his ilk aren’t going away any time soon. They will continue to clamor for attention and pursue their short-sighted, crudely formed interests and voice their ill-informed, dubiously justified opinions. The best response is to make sure their racket is rendered inaudible by the sound of more measured voices rooted in reason and compassion.

There is now a petition on asking that the federal government enforce the law in this situation. Sign it here.


Cliven Bundy, the Nevada ‘Ranch War’, and a victory for militant jackasses everywhere

Last week, long standing tensions between a Nevada rancher and the Bureau of Land Management began to escalate toward a good old fashioned ‘Merican dust-up. Like Gary Cooper facing down the gang of outlaws in High Noon, rancher Cliven Bundy stood alone to defend life and liberty and against the forces of evil and exploitation.

First, a little history.

Cliven Bundy is the rancher at the epicentre of the fracas. According to Cliven Bundy, in the latter half of the 19th century a group of Latter Day Saints (Bundy’s progenitors included) settled parts of the inter-mountain west. It would seem this was done under the divine instruction and direct supervision of God, the infinite and almighty Creator of the Universe and ghost writer of the United States Constitution. Thanks to divine dispensation, Bundy’s ancestors have been grazing cattle on a sizable swath of the Nevada desert since the 1870s, peaceably and industriously carving an honest way of life out of the unforgiving high desert landscape.


Cliven Bundy – Jim Urquhart/Reuters

Things changed when the Bureau of Land Management, a generally beneficial government agency that Bundy and his supporters apparently believe to be a tyrannical cabal of radical communists, decided to collect the land use fees Bundy had courageously neglected to pay for two decades. A quick internet search reveals that the mission of this shadowy government agency is to:

“manage and conserve the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations under our mandate of multiple-use and sustained yield.”

Nefarious. I quake in fear for the future of American liberty. Under the blasphemous pretense that natural resources are somehow perishable and ecosystems fragile, the BLM works to erode the freedoms of hard-working Americans by forcing “sustainable” management strategies down the public’s throat. These corrupt liberal parasites believe that some lands represent a type of public good. Implicit in this is the suggestion that wanton, short-sighted exploitation of landscapes, ecosystems, and the resources they encompass is somehow unethical.

Since 1993, Bundy has refused to pay the BLM for the right to graze his 900 cattle on 600,000 acres of public property. That is, he has refused to pay for access to lands held in the public trust and managed by the federal government. Here, it is worth taking a moment to consider the purpose of land management with respect to grazing rights. In the 19th century, the U.S. government actively encouraged Euro-American settlement of the Western Frontier. According to the Homestead Act of 1862, individuals who filed an application, noticeably “improved” a portion of land over a five year period of occupation, and filed for a deed could become the proud owners of a given allotment of acreage. Implicit in the act itself is the notion that the federal government owns the land. Things were dandy until it became apparent that unregulated land use (such as grazing) damages the landscape, harming plants, soils, streams, springs, and animals. This provided the impetus for the enactment of the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934, which led to subsequent improvements in range land productivity and watershed quality. With the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, the Endangered Species Act of 1973, and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, the BLM’s mission expanded to include the protection of resources additional to the common interests of cattle ranchers. Since then, the BLM has worked to preserve things like riparian ecosystems and protect sensitive species of plants and animals. 

Presumably, Bundy and his family had been paying lease fees to the BLM since 1934. He inexplicably (in terms that conform to any known criteria of logic, reason, or historical precedent, anyway) ceased payments in 1993. Since then, he has been grazing his cattle on public lands for free. The ecosystem in which Bundy’s cattle graze is not well adapted to their generalist grazing strategy. Consequently, cattle grazing results in some amount of passive (but non-negligible) damage to the environment. Ranchers like Bundy pay the BLM for access to public lands as a way to offset the environmental cost of grazing. So for over twenty years, Bundy has been engaged in the destruction of public property – a resource held in trust for the enjoyment and use of all Americans and the creatures with which we share the land, present and future – without paying into the trust that supports sustainable management. Put more simply, Bundy hasn’t paid his rent in 20 years. Last week, his overly lenient landlords began eviction proceedings.

Depending on who you ask, Bundy owes between $300,000 (if you ask economist Cliven Bundy, PhD) and $1,100,000 (if you ask the BLM) in back rent. In order to recoup a little of their costs, the BLM hired wranglers to round up some of Bundy’s cattle. Here, Bundy drew a line in the sand. For years, Bundy and his family have struggled under the yoke of tyranny, asked to pay $1.35 per cow per month to graze on public lands. That’s right. Bundy was asked to pay that fee. Being the civil rights hero that he his, Cliven Bundy said no. Yet the government continued to ask. Bastards.

Having seen the kernel of truth at the heart of the ancient proverb, “shit in your left hand and hope into your right and see what fills up faster”, the BLM, apparently comprised entirely of timid apologists, decided to take action. This lead to some serious public outrage, inspiring a bunch of militant, right-wing nut jobs to grab their AR-15s and their fourth grade understandings of U.S. history and head for Bunkerville, Nevada.
John Locher/Las Vegas Review-Journal/AP

Under mounting public pressure (read: mounting pressure from ring-wing militants) and the growing threat of needless violence, the BLM backed down, capitulating to a man who says his personal interests take precedent over the interests of anyone and everything that might have some stake in the condition of that land, now or in the future. Contrary to standard U.S. policy, they also gave in to the demands of terrorists. That’s right. I said terrorists. Men and women who used the threat of violence and the fear it evokes to get their way. Terrorists. Ignorant yokels whose inscrutable sense of resentment and persecution has turned them into an active menace to the smooth and peaceful operation of a government agency whose work can – at the very worst – be considered innocuous.

In the final analysis, this will probably turn out to be a very small story. A footnote to a footnote in United States history. But it is a microcosm of the ignorance, paranoia, and selfishness festering in the minds of many Americans. As such, it should serve as a forceful lesson. A mob estimated to number somewhere around a thousand forced the U.S. government to allow a man to continue to break the law. That’s not to say the government should have continued to press the matter. Surely that would have lead to some backwoods jackass with an itchy trigger finger sparking a violent, bloody confrontation. I don’t think this affair would have been worth losing lives over. However, the fact that people are hailing Bundy as a hero is remarkable in all the worst ways. It is a position rooted in abject ignorance and the sort of livid, animal paranoia bred by a total blindness to differing opinions and the various methods by which information can be critically evaluated. It is the product of swaggering confidence, unmoored of sensibility, circumspection, incredulity, and civility.

By and large, dissenting opinions are good for democracy. I can live in a country where people disagree on how much influence government should have on the market, or whether or not a certain interpretation of the law is in line with the strictures of the U.S. constitutions. Civil, intelligent people can and do disagree. But the process of constructive debate and bipartisan compromise breaks down when a significant chunk of the population holds opinions justified only by their imaginations. The militants who gathered over the past few days in Nevada were there to defend a nation and a constitution they’d conjured out of thin air. And they were willing to hurt people to do so.

Additional reading and sources: