Ed Kilgore over at Political Animal has a great article, None Dare Call it Treason. It is about the new NRA president, James Porter, and his loose talk of tyranny and violent opposition to it. I know the kind of guy. There is an enormous subsection of the male population who have fantasies about taking up arms against the government. And it isn’t limited to conservatives (although it primarily is). I’ve talked to young slacker game addicts who have told me about their desires to make their simulated urban combat real. Of course, most of these people do not go out and join the army. They just live with their fantasies. In fact, I dare say that most of them are cowards. Regardless, I think that is usually what’s going on when some guy says something like, “Obama’s not a valid president, somebody ought to take him out!” (Not that Porter would go so far; he would just say that Obama is a “fake president.”)
Kilgore notes that these kinds of guys normally think of themselves as ultra-patriots. Yet they are “deliberately courting the impression that loyalty to their country is strictly contingent on the maintenance of laws and policies they favor, to be achieved if not by ballots then by bullets.” You know: treason. In fact, I think it is only because of conservative mythology that we as a society put up with this. We apparently have to take it as given that Timothy McVeigh is a patriot, right up to the point that he starts bombing government buildings. If it were reversed—if liberals went around talking armed insurrection—the FBI would be all over them. But we are supposed to assume that conservatives are patriotic, even though right now, conservatives are the only major group in our society that are rightly called revolutionary.
Part of this must be due to the fact that they see themselves fading away. Tom Hamburger wrote a very interesting article at the Washington Post this afternoon, NRA Celebrates Recent Gains on Guns; Faces Long-Term Challenges. It talks about how a lot of gun rights people are concerned that this recent “victory” may be a last hurrah for the NRA. In the 1970s, 50% of all households had guns. It is down to 34% now, and it is sinking. And being against the most benign gun restrictions does not make joining “gun culture” sound appealing to the rest of the nation.
A whole kind of conservatism is fading away: cultural conservatism. And let’s be clear: that is the bedrock of the Republican Party. Much of it is still locked up in the evangelical movement. But a large part of that is gun culture. It is no accident that “God and guns” are linked together. The truth is that most conservative men associate much more with the latter. And as fewer and fewer men care about guns, what will be left of the conservative movement? When someone like James Porter spouts off about tyranny, what he’s really saying is that his way of life is dying. And he’s right.