Cliven Bundy, the Southern Nevada rancher who rose to fame while waging war against the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) over grazing rights, has officially left the Republican Party.
As the Associated Press has reported, Bundy and his wife, Carol, signed their registration papers and announced the switch at an Independent American Party gathering in Las Vegas Friday night. The event was organized to honor the 67-year-old conservative folk hero for his “courage in standing up for state sovereignty.”
In early April, Bundy burst into the national spotlight when the federal government began impounding his 900 head of cattle following a 20-year battle over cattle-grazing on federal land near Bunkerville, 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas. Hundreds of supporters, including armed militia with semi-automatic weapons, gathered to protest against the roundup. Numerous protesters, including one of Bundy’s 14 children, were arrested.
The BLM claims Bundy owes $1.1 million in unpaid grazing fees and penalties.
Initially, Republicans hailed Bundy for his steadfast position against the government. Kentucky Senator, and Tea Party darling, Rand Paul and Nevada Senator Dean Heller lauded Bundy for his efforts. They later recanted their public support following his oafish comments made toward black people in the New York Times:
“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.”
Nevertheless, many of Bundy’s supporters continued to defend him and his property. Even after the government backed down from its cattle roundup due to safety concerns of BLM employees and protestors, many remained camped out on the ranch. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) has called Bundy’s supporters “domestic terrorists.”
In numerous public appearances, Bundy has defiantly said he does not recognize the federal government.