Paging Elmer Fudd

Guns are a hot-button issue, especially in the rural parts of the 29th.  Will Barack Obama's recent comments about guns lead to coattail issues for Eric Massa?  I'm not an expert on the Southern Tier, but based on my experience in other rural areas, my guess is that Obama's gun comments won't do any lasting damage.

I grew up in a small town on the plains where guns and hunting were just a part of life.  Our family, like most other families, had guns -- in our case, a rifle and a couple of shotguns.  My Dad didn't pass down the hunting tradition to his sons.  He had done some hunting as a boy on the farm where he grew up, and he decided it wasn't for him.  His contribution to our gun education was a few serious talks about gun safety when his sons got old enough to do a little casual hunting.   The biggest thing I ever killed was a prairie dog, and, like my old man, I decided it wasn't for me. 

My experience is that most people take their hunting and gun ownership seriously, because a gun is an interesting and sometimes dangerous tool that must be treated with respect.  But, like every other human pursuit, some make gun ownership and hunting the center of their existence.  When I was growing up, these people had bumper stickers on their pickups making predictions about their cold, dead hands.  In our small town, these people were tolerated.  They certainly weren't celebrated, because, frankly, they were a little scary. 

So, when Obama talks about clinging to guns, I'll wager that every single person back home knows exactly what he means.  In fact, if they're like me, they can put a face on it (I'm thinking of you, 8th-grade civics teacher/NRA member). 

Is that condescending?  I thought to condescend was to imagine something false about the "little people".  The phenomenon that Obama describes is real.  The condescension I see is from media elites whose idea of hunting was shaped by watching Warner Brothers' cartoons on Saturday mornings.

Obama's real position on guns is a little better than average for a Democrat, but, like Hillary Clinton, it isn't appealing to rural populations.  Proposed restrictions on guns and ammo sales at gun shows are a pain in the ass for rural voters, who resent being inconvenienced for what they think is a big city problem.  The NRA and other groups try to spin assault weapon bans as the first step towards government confiscation, but most reasonable hunters I know don't hunt with AK-47s or AR-15s.  That said, anyone who's ever fired a rifle or shotgun knows that the firepower available in "hunting" guns can do sufficient damage in the wrong hands, so the whole assault ban seems kind of silly.

Even though Obama's position on guns isn't what most hunters want to hear, most of them understand that you don't get everything you want from a politician.  They also understand that guns are here to stay, no matter what the fear-mongers say. My 8th-grade civics teacher will not vote for Obama, but that's true about any Democrat on the national stage.  Unlike him, the majority of gun owners will weigh Obama's position on guns along with the rest of his views.

Eric Massa, whose position on gun control is "no additional federal regulation", probably won't be hurt by what Obama said, since their positions are different.  If you want some evidence that Massa's strategy on guns works, consider Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-SD-AL), Earl Pomeroy (D-ND-AL), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Kent Conrad (D-ND) or Byron Dorgan (D-ND).  There are probably more hunters in the Dakotas than in all of New York State, and 5 of 6 of their national representatives are Democrats.


The biggest thing I ever killed was a prairie dog, and, like my old man, I decided it wasn't for me.

That just proves you're an elitist. You probably order orange juice at diners, too.

I don't drink coffee, so I can't be a latte-swilling elitist, but I also can't be a regular guy in a diner. It's like I'm a man without a country. How do I summon the courage to get out of bed in the morning?

Joke about being an elitist, but the more I learn about Obama, the more he reminds me of John Kerry (you remember him - he was the guy who lost the election that Bush couldn't win)

Elmer -- I've always had my doubts about your elitism. You have an internet connection, you write coherently and read about the news regularly. That's pretty damn elitist if you ask me.

I never thought Bush would be easy to beat, and I sure don't think Kerry was a very good candidate. Nor do I think it's a foregone conclusion that Democrats will win the presidency.

The "elitism" charge that gets bandied about is all sizzle and no steak. Our Yale/Harvard educated president, son of a president, grandson of a patrician Senator, a man who made his money through family connections, is considered a salt of the earth down-home man because he bought a ranch, pickup and cowboy hat. Never mind that his corporatist agenda has done more to advance the cause of the elite than any president before him.

A man whose father abandoned the family, who was raised by his grandmother, who became editor of the law review at Harvard without any family connections, who could have had his pick of corporate jobs, but instead worked as a community organizer and part-time professor for a good part of his life, is considered "elitist" because he attempts to talk to people like intelligent grownups. Who are the elite that Obama's trying to help?

My idea of an elitist is someone who not only disagrees with you, but can’t even come close to understanding why anyone would think the way you do. They know they are right, and blame your disagreement on being ignorant, insensitive or religious.

John Kerry mentioned that the troops in Iraq were uneducated or ignorant – elitist comment!

Obama mentions that people “are clinging to their guns or religion” – he leaves a negative feeling about both on the table – elitist comment.

I am anti-abortion, but I can understand how someone could be pro-abortion. My pro-abortion friends not only can’t understand my views, they label them as ignorant, insensitive and/or religion based.

I am against affirmative action, but I can understand how someone could be for it. People on the left generally look at me as insensitive, bigoted or generally evil.

I am anti death penalty. My liberal friends think there is hope for me; my conservative friends understand how I can think that way.

I am against hate crime legislation. I can understand how some people think they are important; liberals think I am either a bigot or just a plain evil person.

So, in my own mind, I feel that an elitist is not only someone who thinks they are right (we all do to a point) but also have contempt for anyone who thinks differently or blames their thinking on lack of education, religion, or just being ignorant.

For the record, my wife drives a Chevy Lumina, and I drive a pickup truck and a Jeep.

I don't know a politician in recent memory who tries harder than Obama to understand people who disagree with him. Lots of hard-core Republicans who dealt with him as a law student and professor noted that they felt that he could disagree with them but understand their point of view. His Audacity of Hope book is all about trying to understand and respect those he disagrees with.

Unfortunately, he used a couple of words - "bitter" and "cling" - to express some pretty commonly-held thoughts, and he's taking some lumps. We'll see how it plays out.

If I were making his point, I'd say this: if you're voting Republican because you agree with them on one or two issues, this election is one where you need to stop and think twice about that vote, and make damn sure that you know that the issue is really that important.

By the way, I agree that there's a holier-than-thou streak in a lot of people on the left. On the right, the "I'm better than you" impulse manifests as calling the other side "un-American", unpatriotic, etc. Neither the condescension nor the namecalling is very pretty.

Elmer, I'm as liberal as they come and I've never accused you of being evil or bigoted. For me -- and for a lot of other liberals, I think -- reproductive rights and affirmative actions are classic examples of issues where I can see the other side's argument even though I don't agree with it. Remember, there's a lot of hostility towards George Bush from liberals that you probably do understand (and even agree with in many ways) that has nothing to do with how we feel about our Republican and conservative friends and acquaintances.

I also agree with Rotten that Obama doesn't demonize those he doesn't agree with. It's all relative, anyway: all of these three candidates do a much better job of understanding how others think than George W. Bush does. But I think Obama is the best of the three in this way.