The Posse Comitatus Act is the United States federal law (18 U.S.C. § 1385, original at 20 Stat. 152) that was passed by the Forty-Fifth Congress on June 18, 1878. This came one year after the end of Reconstruction and was updated in 1981. Its intent (in concert with the Insurrection Act of 1807) was to limit the powers of Federal government in using federal military personnel to enforce the state laws. The U.S. Constitution places primary responsibility for the holding of elections in the hands of the individual states. The maintenance of peace, conduct of orderly elections, and prosecution of unlawful actions are all state responsibilities, pursuant of any state’s role of exercising police power and maintaining law and order, whether part of a wider federation or a unitary state. During the local, state, and federal elections of 1874 and 1876 in the former Confederate states, all levels of government chose not to exercise their police powers to maintain law and order. Many acts of violence, and a suppression of the vote of some political and racial groups, resulted in the election of state legislators and U.S. congressmen who halted and reversed political reform in the American South. In plain language, these elections were steps toward restoration of White Supremacy in the American South. At its explicit introduction to the United States Code, Posse Comitatus was a pretext for bigoted action with a veneer of legal authority.
The Posse Comitatus Act takes its name from a Latin phrase which means power of the county. William Potter Gale was inspired by this law to form a group he called Posse Comitatus in its honor. The Posses, beginning with that formed by Gale, believed that all government power is rooted at the county, not Federal, level. Loosely affiliated bands of armed anti-tax and anti-Federal government vigilantes and survivalists emerged in the 1970s and 1980s. While many were also anti-sematic, virtually every variation of these groups favored White Supremacy. The movement gained significant momentum once Gale was able to join his Christian Identity beliefs [a racist theology identifying Jews as the literal progeny of Satan and blacks as subhuman] with the growing anti-tax movement in the United States.
There are over 3,100 counties or county equivalents in the United States. They are mainly administrative units of states. Two states have abolished counties and Massachusetts is in the process of doing so. No meaningful American political theory considers counties as fundamental political units. True believers in the Posse Comitatus ideology thus fragment the nation by a multiplier of 60 compared to people who merely champion state sovereignty. Followed to its logical end, the Posse Comitatus ideology obliterates not only the nation and the Republic, but every one of the purportedly sovereign states. With no recognition of the glaring absurdity, Cliven Bundy and his bellicose supporters, frequently carry and/or wave the American Flag. The entire ideology of Posse Comitatus is ludicrous and it has not basis in patriotic American principles and purposes. While it has roots in American history, those roots dug deep in secessionist soil and they were fertilized by the thoughts and actions of rebels, bigots, and traitors. In fact, “Pastor” August Kreis of Pennsylvania, a successor to Gale in the Posse movement, explicitly declares: “We are not in this fight to regain a piece of paper that doesn’t even mention God! [i.e., the U.S. Constitution] It’s because of that piece of paper that we’re in the mess we’re in now…Tolerance is the whole problem! We would have his [sic] law…there would be NO tolerance.” The Posse movement is not devoted to the Constitution; it seeks to establish a fragmented, intolerant theocracy which is diametrically opposed to the American Constitutional Republic.
Cliven Bundy has been candid about his ideology. He routinely declares he does not believe in the existence of the United States government. He frequently cites the Sheriff of his county as the only legitimate law enforcement official. Neither of these views is consistent with authentic American patriotism. Mr. Bundy and those who agree with him are seditionists, not patriots. They are also bigots, shirkers, and swindlers. If they transform their flamboyant displays of weaponry into hostile fire, they will prove themselves terrorists as well.
Various Republican politicians and reactionary pundits hailed Cliven Bundy as a patriot and hero. This means they were too slipshod, too incurious, or too indifferent to research the White Supremacist roots of Posse ideology. Pundits are one thing, but elected officials in the United States government who give encouragement and praise to a demagogue who denies the legitimacy of the United States government are guilty of malfeasance of office to say the least. Every elected and appointed federal official swears a solemn oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution against all enemies either foreign or domestic. No official can do that while publicly extolling a thorough-going denier of the Republic and its Constitution.
Reactionary talk radio hosts have objected to Cliven Bundy’s asinine remarks about Negroes being labeled racist. This is not a considered response; it is a reflexive one. Let us consider what Mr. Bundy said and give him the benefit of the doubt about his truthfulness. For some reason, Mr. Bundy decided to share what he knows about Negroes at a press conference. He learned these things as he drove in North Las Vegas and observed people sitting on the porch of what he claimed was subsidized housing. There were several people on the porch and the door to the house was open. In Bundy’s telling these people were Negroes. From this observation, Mr. Bundy concluded that these people don’t have anything to do. They abort their babies; they imprison their young men, and their young girls have nothing to do. All of these inferences arose from an observation of people sitting on a porch. Based on this limited and unrepresentative sample, Mr. Bundy wonders if these people would be better off in slavery picking cotton and living in cabins with a their gardens and chickens. Think about the staggering illogic of this reasoning [if it can be called reasoning].
Bundy leaped to conclusions in a bound that would do Superman proud. He made no survey of the people he wonders about. Other than sitting on the porch, he knows nothing about what they actually do. He does not seem curious about why they were sitting there. He went from observing them in a particular setting and charged them with frequent abortions, routine imprisonment, and being on subsidies. This illogic and hasty generalization is why his remarks are obviously prejudiced. His musing that they might be better off enslaved without qualifying remarks to include anyone in similar circumstances is why his comments are racist. Mr. Bundy’s speculations about the people he saw on the porch clearly stem from his preconceived opinion. He has no evidence beyond what he saw; he has no knowledge of the reasons why they were where he saw them; he gave no thought to more neutral or even positive explanations; he applied no logic to his conclusions. This is a glaring example of prejudicial reasoning. Furthermore, based on his prejudiced conclusions Mr. Bundy opined that the people he observed and others of similar ethnicity might be better off as slaves. One cannot conclude that people would be better off enslaved unless one thinks the people under consideration are intrinsically inferior. That is the hallmark of racism.
By his own comments; by the history of his expressed ideology; by the seditious nature of his actions, Cliven Bundy proves he is not a patriot and that he is a White Supremacist. No thoughtful person who heard what he said can be surprised by his ultimate admissions. Bundy was not being clever; he was being candid. Prominent political and media personalities who flocked to his support were so eager to join in anything that opposed and vilified the Obama Administration; they could not stop to check neither his pronouncements nor his premises. In their haste, they revealed their own prejudice.
It is frequently averred, “Not all Republicans are racist.” This is true, but irrelevant. Virtually all Republicans of prominence are not merely willing, but eager, to accept and support people who are racist so long as those people are demonstrating hostility toward President Obama, his administration, or Democrats generally. In this, 21st century Republicans are heirs of Nixon’s Southern Strategy. They hint and wink and seek plausible deniability when some less crafty individual puts too fine a point on their sentiments. Nonetheless, if every Republican is not racist, the Republican Party is the cultural medium in which a new and strategic racism grows and flourishes in contemporary America.
Rachel Maddow gives an excellent report on the White Supremacist roots and Civil War denier origins of Cliven Bundy’s thinking.
About the Author: Larry Conley
I live in Allegheny County, PA. I am married and a father of twins. I served in the U S Army and saw hostile fire in Vietnam. When I was in the Army I took and oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. I have never rescinded that oath. br> For whatever time remains for me, I will do all in my power to answer the question, "What can I do for my country?" br > View My Profile