Dave Weigel has a typically vivid piece about what the Knob Creek machine gun shoot was like this year, capturing the mix of gunnies, gawkers, conspiracy nuts, and folks looking for cheap ammo. Arguably, the profile of the audience at Knob Creek is newsworthy because a good chunk of the people here form the Republican base. The most revealing part of Weigel’s article comes at the beginning, when one of the organizers says “we” almost won the last election. (The speaker should have been reminded that McCain supported closing the “gun show loophole.”) Attendees at Knob Creek were overwhelmingly McCain voters and Bush/Cheney stickers could still be seen on the backs of trucks
There’s plenty of crazy stuff at the show, but you have to go looking for it. One shouldn’t think the pictures on the article are typical (as Weigel notes)—most of the stuff being sold is spare parts, manuals on various weapons, and books on military history. Politics itself is not a big part of it—this event is directed at people knowledgeable about technical aspects of firearms and looking for parts. If you aren’t, a lot of the stuff being sold is frankly uninteresting. However, people who think things like bayonet plugs and flash suppressors constitute an “assault weapon” would be freaked out here. It is a leftist’s worst nightmare.
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There was a definite difference between this year and years past. Under the Bush presidency, while you could find the occasional “militiaman’s handbook” or some other tract printed off the internet, most “political” stuff was flags, t-shirts, or other items for sale related in some way to the war in Iraq or the larger War on Terror. I never saw a Turner Diaries book floating around but plenty of Operation Iraqi Freedom memorabilia and Israeli flags. Conversations revealed a certain amount of paranoia about Muslims, but the enemy, in whatever form, was foreign, not domestic.
This year, the threat is here at home. There was a much greater emphasis in the displays on resisting domestic tyranny and big government than on successful completion of President Obama’s Overseas Contingency Operations. Birchers, and Truthers, and Obama-is-a-secret-Muslim conspirators are easy to mock. That said, as some of t-shirts worn proclaimed, people at Knob Creek are bitter and clinging to their guns and religion. Nor are they necessarily wrong to do so.
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Books like What’s the Matter With Kansas or Deer Hunting With Jesus point out that economic policies pushed by conservatives actively hurt the economic interests of voters such as conservative Knob Creek attendees. They miss the point. Policies pushed by Democrats such as racial preferences, mass immigration, and welfare programs for the connected, rich, and politically correct poor also squeeze rural, working class social conservatives. Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you. The Republican Party may take advantage of these voters, rolling out the Sarah Palins at election time and pretending to care about gay marriage, but they’ll treat their base the same way Democrats treat urban blacks, with a benign contempt that accidentally provides them with something they actually want once in a while.
The Democratic Party will support even worse economic policies that specifically target these voters. No group is more despised in film, story, and song than the rural, white, Southern, Christian gun owner. Trapped between the Scylla of the party of McCain, which will screw them in a few ways, and the Charybdis of the Party of Obama, which will utterly annihilate them, the attendees at Knob Creek must be the most disenfranchised people in the country—and the only people in America you’re allowed to openly hate.
The difference between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party is that the Republican Party has a base more committed than the leadership, whereas the Democratic Party has a radical leadership and a moderate base. If the GOP accomplished the trick of avoiding the rabbit holes of “Obama is a Muslim” but actually responded to the real and legitimate grievances of people who might be scared or bitter for good reasons, the champions of the “rural” power will be no more delighted than leftists are when they meet antiwar conservatives.
What’s remarkable about the Knob Creek Machine Gun Shoot is not paranoia, or fear, or scary guns, or the occasional “World War II re-enactor” guy who you think is training a little too hard for World War III. What’s remarkable is that the best thing that well armed, paranoid, and frightened people can think of to do about how they feel is vote for John McCain—and liberals consider even that a threat.
Leftists fear “rednecks with guns” residing in the backwoods of Kentucky. The rednecks are afraid of the most powerful government in the world. You tell me who’s being paranoid.
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