Back to my web page at

Shotgun News, December 20, 2004, p. 9

The Hatred After the Election

The losers are often disappointed after an election. I've been there: as a candidate for office myself; as a campaign manager; as a voter. Most Kerry supporters are taking their losses like mature adults, but a few are behaving in shocking ways.

The London Daily Mirror is a British tabloid, with rather the same style as the National Enquirer, but with a bit more pretense of journalistic respectability. On the November 4, 2004 cover, they ran a picture of President Bush with the question, "How can 59,054,087 people be so DUMB?" The editorial the following day characterized President Bush's voters--all of them--as, "The self-righteous, gun-totin', military lovin', sister marryin', abortion-hatin', gay-loathin', foreigner-despisin', non-passport ownin' red-necks" and then engaged in discussions of our sexual organs that I do not think Shotgun News would print, even I was prepared to quote it. "Sister marryin'"? Someone confused the movie Deliverance with a documentary, I fear.

The reaction in America was not any calmer. Garrison Keillor, the host of National Public Radio's show Prairie Home Companion spoke in Chicago the day after the election. He described himself as, "a museum-quality Democrat... Last night I spent my time crouched in a fetal position, rolling around and moaning in the dark." Fine. But then he went on to say, "I'm trying to organize support for a constitutional amendment to deny voting rights to born-again Christians... I feel if your citizenship is in Heaven--like a born again Christian's is--you should give up your citizenship. Sorry, but this is my new cause. If born again Christians are allowed to vote in this country, then why not Canadians?" I'm going to assume that Keillor was trying to be funny--but substitute the word "Jew" or "Catholic" or "Muslim" and see if it still sounds funny.

There are other examples of the really frightening rage from the left end of the Democratic Party--nonsense that should scare any of us that formed the successful coalition that re-elected George Bush. It was a broader coalition than the Democrats expected: not just gun owners, anti-abortion activists, supporters of the free market, opponents of gay marriage, but a surprising number of other Americans who you might not expect. Some fairly liberal Americans did not trust John Kerry on national security, and believed that it was better to be alive in a conservative America, than dead in a liberal one--or alive in a nation that might, twenty years from now, feel obligated to make a deal with Islamic extremists. To my surprise, considering the dispute about the Federal Marriage Amendment, gay marriage, and related issues, 23% of homosexuals voted for Bush--often because they put their identity as Americans ahead of their identity as homosexuals. All of these people that voted against stereotype showed pretty remarkable integrity as voters, and I am glad to see it. It gives me hope for America.

The post-election struggle within the Democratic Party has been between one faction, generally the Clinton wing, who argue that Democrats need to move towards the center: about gun control, about gay marriage, about foreign policy, and about the role of religion in American life. For those who really hated President Clinton, you may it hard to imagine that this is the responsible wing of the Democratic Party. It really is. The Howard Dean wing is insisting that John Kerry lost because he didn't run far enough to the left. Whatever Dean's personal views on gun control, you can be pretty sure that if the Deaniacs win the fight within the Democratic Party, they will push for Massachusetts or even New York City style gun control nationally.

Now, the "clever" sorts may think that gun owners should hope for the crazies to win control of the Democratic Party, and thus make themselves--and their crazy ideas--unelectable. Well, that's not a bad idea, if you are absolutely sure that the Democrats can't win. The Deaniac wing is so crazy that right now, it doesn't look like they could win California and Massachusetts, much less the whole country. But if there is anything that we can learn from American history, it is that the mood of the electorate can change with surprising speed.

In 1928, the Republican Party's hold on America was very strong; Americans were wealthy, comfortable, and without a care in the world. In 1932, Democrats not only won the White House but swept control of Congress. Nixon's 1972 victory over George McGovern was absolutely unprecedented--yet by 1975, there was serious talk that the Republican Party was so damaged by the Watergate scandals that it might be a generation before it recovered. On September 10, 2001, George Bush was widely expected to be a one-term President, and the smart money was that Republicans would lose seats in the 2002 Congressional elections.

I can imagine circumstances in which the lunatic wing of the Democratic Party might win. America could be in economic or security circumstances so dire that it discredited the Republican Party--and the lunatics might thus end up in control of both houses of Congress, and the White House. Instead of hoping for the Democrats to take the most irresponsible position, gun owners (and all Americans) need to be encouraging both Republicans and Democrats to take responsible positions--positions that we could live with, if necessary, for four years. That's not just good for our interests; it's good for America.

Clayton E. Cramer is a software engineer and historian. His last book was Concealed Weapon Laws of the Early Republic: Dueling, Southern Violence, and Moral Reform (Praeger Press, 1999). His web site is