It’s Time to Take Up Arms: To attract more rural voters, progressives need to understand their relationship with guns
Guns. You already know the right opinion to have on that topic, right? Well, maybe this is something you’ve not considered before: Guns are the biggest reason a good portion of country folks vote Republican, even when it may be the Democrats who best serve them in the end.
Until urban liberals understand the roots of this seeming contradiction, until they begin to actively grapple with how they’re perceived by rural moderates, this voting pattern will not change—and progressives will always struggle to hold on to power for any extended period of time.
Now, sit down and drink your tea. I’m not trying to change your opinion about guns in your own neighborhood—or about the National Rifle Association. And you can make all the laws you want. But you need to understand these basic facts:
Urban people are correct in believing that a gun is a good way to get mugged. Rural people are correct in believing that a gun is a good way to hunt down some food when they’re out of work and the kids are hungry.
That’s a simplified version of the situation, obviously. Yet feeding one’s family is a primal issue. And for many, guns are about protecting the family, not from the threat of crime, but from starving. (Or from the unspoken fear—passed down in your heritage—of starving.) If you have a hard time understanding such a perspective, think of people in your family who suffered during the Great Depression and how it affected them—and how it may still affect you.
Starving gets in your bones. You pass it down to your kids and often they pass it down to their kids. Rural folks who may have always had “enough” still know deep down that any day, as the old saying goes, the creek can rise.
Now, most rural citizens don’t want 1,400 assault rifles any more than you do. But here’s the thing: Telling someone you’re afraid that one day you may not be able to feed your kids without hunting down their next meal can be embarrassing, especially if you’re admitting that fear to someone who’s never had a similar experience. So instead of ‘fessing up to that fear, some people choose macho posturing and defensiveness.
Until recently, people who produce their own food have been stigmatized. True, in the past few years backyard chickens and urban farms have taken off and are seen as a forward-thinking answer to industrialized agriculture. But, in the end, an urbanite with a pitchfork is a radical and a country person is still a country person.