The occupation is also garnering little sympathy among Republicans on the White House campaign trail as Sens. Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Rand Paul as well as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie all condemned the action.
Cruz called on the protesters to “stand down,” because the right to constitutional right to protest doesn’t extend to the “right to use force and violence and to threaten force and violence against others.”
Christie told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt: “The most important thing is you have to make clear to folks that the law will be enforced, that laws matter, and that the law will be enforced.”
Rubio, for his part, sought to balance common GOP attacks on the reach of the federal government with his disagreement with the actions in Oregon. He told an Iowa radio station that while there’s too much federal control of lands in western states, people have “got to follow the law.”
“There are states for example like Nevada that are dominated by the federal government in terms of land-holding and we should fix it, but no one should be doing it in a way that’s outside the law. We are a nation of laws, we should follow those laws, and they should be respected,” Rubio said.
Rand Paul, who met with Cliven Bundy last year, struck a similar tone Monday.
“I’m sympathetic to the idea that the large collection of federal lands ought to be turned back to the states and the people, but I think the best way to bring about change is through politics,” Paul said in an interview with The Washington Post. “I don’t support any violence or suggestion of violence toward changing policy.”
Cruz once appeared to be sympathetic to Bundy, whose cachet among conservative politicians fell when he made racially inflammatory comments after his 2014 standoff with Interior over grazing rights.
Cruz said in 2014 that while the details of the grazing-fee standoff “may be complicated,” it resonated because for five years, “we have seen our liberty under assault from a federal government that seems hell-bent on expanding its authority over every aspect of our lives.”
He decried the federal government’s use of the “jackboot of authoritarianism to come against the citizens.”
But one liberal-leaning analyst said that while conservative politicians are criticizing the actions of the protesters, they can’t simply untether themselves from such activists, even if they reject their tactics.
“How often have we heard somebody like Ted Cruz talk about how the federal government is tyrannical?,” said Eric Ethington, the communications director for Political Research Associates, a left-leaning Boston-area group that monitors right-wing movements.
“If you are going to play to that crowd’s sympathies by using their rhetoric, then you don’t get to walk away from the situation and their actions,” said Ethington, who said the takeover in Oregon is rooted in the broader antigovernment “patriot” movement.