While it was gratifying to see the morning paper finally get around to writing about the difficulty federal prosecutors are having getting jurors to convict armed protesters in Oregon and Bunkerville of conspiracy — Now, where have I read that before? — this one description of cattle rancher Cliven Bundy caused a bit of whiplash: “notorious anti-federalist rancher Cliven Bundy…”
This is being said of a man who is invariably photographed with a copy of the U.S. Constitution prominently protruding from a breast pocket.
Strictly speaking — and you may accuse me of being a stickler — anti-Federalists were those who opposed the ratification of that Constitution in 1788. Bundy frequently cites the Constitution as the grounds for his contention that the state rather than the federal government is the proper custodian of public lands, and he and his supporters have on occasion cited the principles of Federalism.
Federalism is a system of governance in which federal powers are enumerated and limited, such as interstate commerce, while the state and local governments and citizens are free to exercise other powers, such as law enforcement and land use.
James Madison wrote in Federalist Paper No. 45: “The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.”
Yes, the anti-Federalists did in fact warn about the potential for the central federal government to grow too big and powerful until it usurps the rights and powers of the states and citizens — hence the Ninth and Tenth Amendments were added to assure ratification.
But Bundy and his ilk surely consider themselves strict constructionists rather than anti-Federalists.
By the way, isn’t a conspiracy charge just a cheap way for prosecutors to pile on and try to double the penalty for a conviction? It is one thing to accuse someone of a crime and assess a penalty upon conviction, but then to double the penalty simply because that person had the audacity to talk to someone about it.