Ted Cruz is fine with anti-government insurrection when no one’s actually doing it

Ted Cruz, a self-described constitutional conservative and gun rights advocate, has apparently found an case in which the Constitution doesn’t protect a militia’s right to bear arms. Calling on the Oregon militiamen who took over a federal building in protest of land regulations to “stand down peaceably,” Cruz said that the Constitution doesn’t protect your right to be a domestic terrorist, You may feel that the government is acting beyond its authority, but you can’t threaten or use violence to get your way.

As Cruz said, quoted by NBC News:

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 and violence and to threaten force and violence on others. And so it is our hope that the protesters there will stand down peaceably, that there will not be a violent confrontation.

That’s all well and good, but such clarity on which kinds of political advocacy are protected under the Constitution is new for Cruz, who used to feel a bit differently about the Constitution’s — specifically the 2nd Amendment’s — protections of a bit more than the right to peaceful protest. As he wrote in a fundraising email last April:

The 2nd Amendment to the Constitution isn’t for just protecting hunting rights, and it’s not only to safeguard your right to target practice. It is a Constitutional right to protect your children, your family, your home, our lives, and to serve as the ultimate check against governmental tyranny — for the protection of liberty.


If that sounds like an endorsement of armed protest against perceived government overreach, that’s because it is. His email drew criticism from across the political spectrum at the time, with Lindsey Graham (NRA rating: A) going as far as to compare Cruz to Jefferson Davis and the Confederacy.

And what does the Bundy clan claim as the reason for their sedition/treason/terrorism/whatever we want to call their comically shortsighted and futile attempt to affect political change through the use of force? That they’re checking government tyranny and protecting their liberty. From NBC News:

Ted Cruz at a treason rally, via Creative Commons

Ted Cruz at a treason rally, via Creative Commons

“Once they can use these lands as free men, then we will have accomplished what we came to accomplish,” he said.

The “they” in this case are Dwight Hammond and his son, Steven, who are facing jail for setting arson fires that spread to government lands — and who say they didn’t ask for the Bundy clan’s help.

Ammon Bundy, 40, insisted they were acting with the blessing of other angry ranchers in Burns, Oregon, who believe the Hammonds are being railroaded by the feds.

“We’ve been able to see that these ranchers have been in this situation that’s really a form of tyranny,” he said.

The Bundy clan’s armed resistance to perceived government tyranny is exactly the kind of action that Ted Cruz has, in the past, said that the 2nd Amendment was designed to protect. Cruz may disagree with the Bundys as to whether this particular government action constitutes a rebellion-worthy offense, but he’s committed himself to the idea that the Founders thought citizens should have guns for times when they felt that the government was beyond saving through traditional democratic means.

Like when the president is acting like King George III. Or when their actions constitute “tyranny.” Or when they’re acting like a “corrupt dictator.” If those conditions are satisfied, Cruz has argued, then armed insurrection is both justified and necessary.

But now that someone is, you know, actually using guns to check perceived government tyranny and protect their liberty, Cruz doesn’t want any part of it. Because while talking about coming out guns a-blazing against a tyrannical federal government evokes the image of Washington crossing the Delaware to put his boot in King George’s ass, the people who are actually serious about doing it aren’t nearly as politically valuable. They’re supremely entitled. They’re hopelessly outgunned. They’re doggedly racist. They’re the punchline in a joke about Idaho.

Cruz (among many, many others) has for years been more than happy to use words like “constitutional,” “tyranny” and “liberty” to sidle right up next to these survivalist ranchers and portray himself as a cowboy-booted crusader who will ride into Washington and challenge President Obama to a standoff at high noon. And in doing so, he’s given political legitimacy to these self-described “patriots” who feel that they are squarely on the right side of the Constitution when they threaten to shoot federal officers for enforcing regulations of federal land. But when push comes to shove and these nuts engage in the very kind of insurrection against the federal government that Cruz has all but called for, he’s nowhere to be found.

In Washington, they call that smart politics. But out west, where Cruz is from, they call that yellow.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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11 Responses to “Ted Cruz is fine with anti-government insurrection when no one’s actually doing it”

  1. LG says:

    Funny thing is the Rebellions were carried out because Alexander Hamilton who unfortunately has his likeness defiling our money pushed through an action that did the exact same thing we broke off from england for: a Taxation bill that did not have proper local representation.

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  3. nicho says:

    Actually, despite claims to the contrary, the Second Amendment was never meant to provide a means for armed insurrection against the government. Just the opposite. The idea of “well regulated” militias was to protect the government against gangs like the Bundy Bumblers. In fact, while the founders were still running things, there were two armed rebellions, and both were put down by government troops. The founders said the rebellions constituted treason. As usual, the gun nuts are full of shit.

  4. BeccaM says:

    Looks like the Feds are going to do as many have suggested: Cut off utilities and phone service, and block the roads in and out. So no more beer-and-Funyons for these amateur insurrectionists.

    A federal government official told the Guardian that authorities were planning on Monday to cut the power at the refuge.

    “It’s in the middle of nowhere,” said the official, who is based in Washington, DC, and has knowledge of the planned response to the militia. “And it’s flat-ass cold up there.”
    “After they shut off the power, they’ll kill the phone service,” the government official added. “Then they’ll block all the roads so that all those guys have a long, lonely winter to think about what they’ve


  5. BeccaM says:

    Cruz and his rabble-rousing ilk are surprised when, after all their borderline insurrectionist rhetoric about “watering the Tree of Liberty,” some of their followers decide it’s time to break out the blood-firehoses.

  6. Kenster999 says:

    Says Ted: “The 2nd Amendment to the Constitution isn’t for just protecting hunting rights, and it’s not only to safeguard your right to target practice.”

    Hmm, I’d be interested to hear where a strict constructionist sees those rights listed in the 2nd Amendment. I only see comments about keeping a free State, whereas he’s talking about hobbies.

  7. Ol' Hippy says:

    The question us whether this act of anarchy is justified or not. Cruz can’t have it both ways, if this action IS justified or an act of anarchy, not both. Even someone as smart as Cruz can end up trapping themselves with rhetorical speeches. I think these yahoos are doing a crime and need to be stopped. I also think since they don’t pose an immediate threat to others it can be solved peacefully. If only law enforcement could keep cool as this in other situations, a lot less folks would have to die.

  8. The_Fixer says:

    Cruz and his ilk own this situation, and they can’t be allowed to back away from it.

    He’s been preaching this unreasonableness to the choir now for quite some time, he can’t suddenly turn reasonable. He has to be reminded of this throughout this campaign. If there’s one thing the nutcases hate, it’s a hypocrite. Show him for what he is.

  9. Doug105 says:


  10. gratuitous says:

    Perhaps Sen. Cruz can’t really define a situation where armed insurrection is called for, but he’d know one if he saw it? It seems the Malheur County situation should be tailor-made for Sen. Cruz’s most inflammatory, apocalyptic rhetoric; but yeah, he’s lost his nerve in the face of a real-life scenario.

  11. Silver_Witch says:

    Exactly herein lays the problem with standing with this crowd-most of them are quite mad and believe they are entitled. And when they don’t vet their way they bring out the guns. Scary!

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