I don’t know about you, but though I’m a conservative (or at least conservatarian), I’d love to actually have an election where it was difficult to choose between the two major parties. Since the Second Amendment is by far the most important factor in my vote, however, it’s been really easy to decide where my vote is gonna go. But based on the absolute ass-kicking delivered to the Democrats last Tuesday in my home state of Virginia, you’d think they’d get the message that maybe its time to move on from their goals of disarming American citizens. Based on the reaction so far,though the Democrats are in deep denial or simply unwilling to waver on their commitment to denying Americans their Second Amendment rights, and disparaging those who exercise them.
Witness the reaction to Republican Winsome Sears winning election as Lt. Governor in Virginia. Sears is the first Black woman to win statewide election in Virginia, but Democrats by and large have preferred to focus on the campaign ad with her proudly holding an AR-15. In fact, Saturday Night Live’s Michael Che declared that the picture was actually good news for Democrats, because “nothing will get Republicans to support gun control faster than this picture.”
Che should come hang out with me in central Virginia sometime. I guarantee that conservative white folks are far more comfortable with Winsome Sears (or himself) owning an AR-15 than his white liberal neighbors in New York City. The “tolerant Left” is never more bigoted than when it comes to conservatives of color, which is evident when it comes to the Left’s collective disdain over Sears’ embrace of the Second Amendment.
Combine the “everyone who disagrees with me is racist” argument with a “and hell yes we’re coming for your guns” and it’s no wonder that Democrats couldn’t even muster 20% of the vote in more than a dozen rural Virginia counties. Heck, my own county, which went for Barack Obama twice before flipping to Trump in 2016, saw Democrats get less than 40% of the vote, which is a big deal. And I know firsthand how important gun control was for many of these voters, who knew that Terry McAuliffe was going to try to ram through his gun and magazine ban if elected. These folks have as much disdain for most Republicans as they do Democrats, but there was no way they were going to sit out this election.
While there are some Democrats sounding the alarm bell, none of them are highlighting the need for the party to ghost the gun control lobby.
“We’ve got a branding problem as Democrats in way too many parts of our country,” said Ms. Bustos, who is retiring from a downstate and heavily rural Illinois seat that Mr. Trump carried twice. She called it “political malpractice” and “disrespectful to think it’s OK to run up the score in big cities and just neglect the smaller towns.”
There is no easy solution.
Many of the ideas and issues that animate the Democratic base can be off-putting in small towns or untethered to rural life. Voters in Bath County, many of whom are avid hunters and conservative evangelicals, have long opposed liberal stances on gun rights and abortions. Some Democrats urge the party to just show up more. Some believe liberal ideas can gain traction, such as universal health care and free community college. Others urge a refocus on kitchen-table economics like jobs programs and rural broadband to improve connectivity. But it is not clear how open voters are to even listening.
Representative Dean Phillips, a Democrat who flipped a Republican-held seat outside Minneapolis in 2018, said that when it comes to issues that concern rural America, his party is afflicted with a “disease of disinterest.”
For years the Democrats’ rural outreach in many parts of the country was about as important to them as the Black, urban vote was to the GOP. But we’re in the midst of a bit of a political realignment at the moment, and it’s unclear just how seismic some of these shifts will become. It’s not just that Democrats were demolished in rural areas of Virginia. They lost ground everywhere, even if they still racked up easy wins in places like Fairfax and Arlington counties. As it turns out, even in what was supposed to be a safe state for Democrats, the strategy of treating the Second Amendment as a second-class right (along with telling parents they shouldn’t have a say in their child’s education and trying to run against Donald Trump instead of the Republican candidate for governor) doomed the party to defeat.
Winning Fairfax County by 30+ points doesn’t mean much if you lose the state by 3, and I do think it would be wise of the Democrats to rethink their governing philosophy when it comes to the right to keep and bear arms. However, given the sincerely held anti-gun beliefs of many politicians and the deep pockets of Democratic donors and gun control activists like Michael Bloomberg, I just don’t expect the party to change course anytime soon.