There have been a lot of hot takes on the results of last week’s election, but there does seem to be a consensus growing among Hillary Clinton supporters: Blame the bumpkins. Rural America turned out heavily for Donald Trump, therefore rural America must be far more hate-filled than the Left realized, right?
That’s what they’re telling themselves, anyway. I’ve been listening to a lot of progressive talk radio and reading progressive websites since the election, and the idea that rural America is crawling with racist and sexist fascists (self-hating sexists if we’re talking about women who voted for Trump) is being casually tossed around as if it’s some accepted fact. That’s a huge mistake, both in terms of accuracy and good political strategy.
All of a sudden, rural areas that voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 have become hotbeds of deplorable Americans, slack-jawed drooling yokels who secretly hate minorities, women and anybody who can’t tell a John Deere from an International Harvester? I’ve been told that Farmville, Va., is in the heart of “plantation country,” so therefore can’t represent diversity and tolerance. As it happens, Prince Edward County (where Farmville is the county seat) went for Clinton by nearly 6 points. Clinton lost votes compared to Obama in 2008 and 2012, but according to so many Clinton supporters, the only reason she lost is because of the awful nature of the rural electorate.I’ve lived in suburbs, cities and (since 2013) rural America, and I believe the folks making these arguments are lying to themselves.
I’ve lived in suburbs, cities and (since 2013) rural America, and I believe the folks making these arguments are lying to themselves. They are so busy slicing and dicing us up into various demographic groups and data points that they’re losing sight of the fact that in rural America, people pride themselves on being individuals. You can’t easily categorize people just because they live in a small town or on a farm. Well, that’s not quite true. Almost everyone owns guns—the white cattle rancher whose family has owned the land for generations, the lesbian couple with the organic farm, the black hunter and his kids, the mom with her concealed-carry license discreetly carrying in the local supermarket or farm supply store. That may be one of the biggest commonalities in what I like to call the Near Frontier: No matter who you are or what your background, chances are you support the right to keep and bear arms.
It’s been my experience that most folks who live in rural areas are pretty “live and let live.” We don’t want to bother other people, and we don’t want to be bothered in return. Yet the Left told us in no uncertain terms that they wanted to bother us this year. This was the year when gun control was going to be incredibly popular, according to political pundits and conventional wisdom. That didn’t happen. Bloomberg-backed ballot initiatives underperformed Clinton by several points in Maine and Nevada, and got nowhere near the 90 percent support claimed by Bloomberg in the deluge of ads run to prop up support for his gun control measures. NRA-backed candidates won races across the country, from the election of Donald Trump, to U.S. Senate races, to state legislatures from coast to coast.
The “paper tiger” turned out to have a mighty roar and some pretty sharp claws on Election Day.Back in July, Dan Gross of the Brady Campaign told Time magazine, “Finally this issue has become the defining issue that it’s always deserved to be. The gun lobby is much more of a paper tiger than people have long assumed. This is an issue where voters are prepared to hold our elected leaders accountable.”
The “paper tiger” turned out to have a mighty roar and some pretty sharp claws on Election Day. Anti-gun elected leaders like Iowa state Sen. Steve Sodders were voted out of office, while the anointed anti-gun candidate for president went down to defeat—in large part because of the turnout of gun owners and NRA members across the country.
Dan Gross also told Time magazine that this year was the best political environment for the gun control movement in decades. Anti-gun activists should take a hard look at the election results and devote their time and energy to figuring out why so many Americans rejected their ideology. Instead, I’d bet that they’re already convening focus groups and conducting polling on ways to tweak their talking points.
Let them tweak. NRA members and other law-abiding gun owners have been consistent in our position for decades: The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.