A week or two ago I caught wind of a quote that was making the rounds, a completely unfounded, naïve dismissal of middle america: “They get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or antitrade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”
Those of you who have been following the war over the Democratic nomination don’t need to be informed that this quote came from Barack Obama.
Mr. Obama has of course since admitted that he “chose [words] badly.” And lord knows I’ve been known to shoot my mouth off without thinking, so I sympathize with the dude if it’s as simple as that.
I’ve been to middle America. And I’ve seen some insane shit there. Kids with guns. Pregnant 16 year olds with a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other. Religious zealots screaming savage profanities at homosexuals. All the hippies and liberals have heard plenty of stories about how fucked up the rednecks are. But I’ve been there, and while lord knows I’ve never been known for tact, I would never make such a broad generalization. Even if I was rapping with a bunch of San Francisco libs as Mr. Obama was.
You know what’s worse than not understanding the people you’re employed to serve? Thinking you understand them and being totally dead fucking wrong.
Mr. Obama is a great speaker, and has earned many loyal followers by saying a lot of things that many people were wishing all along a politician would someday “have the balls” to say. Stupid young metropolitan liberals everywhere share Obama’s view that the “red states” are full of nothing but bible-hugging, gun-toting, miserable paranoid people. But thankfully these people aren’t running the country, because they do not know or understand the people trying to make a living in it.
Maybe Obama does. And he just misspoke. Or maybe he was just trying to earn the money (I mean support) of the nutballs that showed up to the fund-raising rally in San Francisco. Maybe he just got carried away. I’m sure it’s tempting to know that if you stand up there and just go “YO FUCK BUSH,” a million bloodshot eyes will open wide, half a million cottonmouths will erupt screams of solidarity, and those hippies would fucking make it rain.
I mean, don’t get me wrong, fuck Bush. But pandering is pandering.
And so that’s what it comes down to. Is he pandering? Or is he ignorant?
As Arthur C. Brooks pointed out in the Wall Street Journal on Saturday in an op-ed entitled “Trigger Happy,” gun owners “have the same level of formal education as nongun owners, on average. Furthermore, they earn 32% more per year than nonowners. Americans with guns are neither a small nor downtrodden group.
Nor are they “bitter.” In 2006, 36% of gun owners said they were “very happy,” while 9% were “not too happy.” Meanwhile, only 30% of people without guns were very happy, and 16% were not too happy.
In 1996, gun owners spent about 15% less of their time than nonowners feeling “outraged at something somebody had done.” It’s easy enough in certain precincts to caricature armed Americans as an angry and miserable fringe group. But it just isn’t true.”
Let’s hope he’s just pandering to the hippies.