The study of public opinion has been a sixty-plus year long search for what we call constraint – the degree to which a belief held by an individual is predictive of other beliefs. A constrained belief system is an internally consistent one; for example, if you believe in lower taxes we would expect you to believe in lower spending as well. This seems like a remarkably obvious concept, but since Converse we've found that frighteningly few Americans organize or constrain their beliefs about politics into anything approaching a coherent worldview. This is why so many voters hold ideas that make absolutely no sense together, even when the conflicts are glaring.

The modern Republican ideology is often criticized for inconsistency on the grounds that it abhors Big Government but promotes government involvement in our private lives through social issues. It is strongly pro individual rights in theory but with dozens of "exceptions" in practice. That said, I see a kind of constraint across prominent political issues in the contemporary GOP: they generally believe that problems have supply side solutions. Poverty exists because the welfare state enables it; without food stamps and TANF, people would be working. Illegal immigration is solved with guns and border fences, not by eliminating the demand (American employers who knowingly employ immigrants of dubious legality). You get the picture.

There are, however, two glaring exceptions to the supply-as-constraint idea. First, the drug war is very much a demand side problem to Republicans. Sure, some efforts are made to stop the importation of drugs at the border, but the vast majority of law enforcement resources (including manpower and time) in the War on Drugs is devoted to rounding up users and small-time dealers (who are merely the retail kiosk of a system that generates supply much farther up the food chain). Second, gun violence is emphatically a demand-side problem. The supply and availability of guns certainly isn't seen as a problem. The problem is what some individuals ("Bad Apples", of course) decide to do with the plethora of firepower to be had.
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I'm sure there are other examples of issues that Republicans define as supply problems as well as others that are considered demand problems. I find it interesting and somewhat revealing that two prominent issues that contradict the overarching supply side understanding of socioeconomic and political issues are the War on Drugs – when seen as a demand problem, the state responds by putting countless poor and/or dark-skinned people in prison – and gun politics as a whole, where a demand-based explanation ensures widespread access to the guns people need to make themselves feel secure and/or powerful.

So I'd argue that the average Gingrich / Perry voter does have a constrained set of political beliefs. The problem is that their underlying motivations – dislike of the poor/dark and gun fetishism – are stronger than any ideology or worldview that might attempt to constrain them.

56 thoughts on “CONSTRAINT”

  • freeportguy says:

    Areas in which Republicans absolutely deem supply as NOT being a problem, (not sure who they blame for the problems): where they ask for less regulations.

    Best examples: Wall Street dealings and Environmental issues. They vehemently refuse to see ANY bad apple in those fields. One gets identified, they call it a lie.

  • Gun fetishism fascinates me. On a personal level, I get it–it's atavistic: the feeling of safety through power. I have a gun–a gun enables me to kill instantly and (practically speaking) irresistibly–I can therefore relax and enjoy without alert nervousness all that I possess and am. I get that. Only the statistics make this out to be an utterly false assumption. If I have a gun, I am in far greater danger. My odds of being murdered or savagely wounded do not decrease–to the contrary. I have traded the utterly improbable chance of being violated by a stranger for the substantially greater likelihood that I will be killed by someone I know. Them's the facts, and all the anecdotal counter-narratives in the world don't outweigh them, not by a damn sight. Yet no one who purchases a gun–or who purchases many guns–cares to know these facts.

    We are a nation of people who believe–wholly and completely–that each of us will be the one who wins the lottery. Believing in the merits of the supply side buys into the notion that the luck of the free market will reward *us*–not others, but *us*. It won't. We don't want the dull old 'sure thing' provided by a state guided by social protection. We want to win big, because we know we will.

    But we won't. We are a nation defined by failure, who do nothing but focus on success–limited by rules, and obsessed by the exceptions.

    And because we fail to win, we are angry. And because no one likes to admit to being the author of his own failure, we look for someone else to blame. Blacks. Jews. Gays. Immigrants of all kinds. We perversely blame those who lose worse than we do–like the asshole who blames the guy next to him at the roulette table for jinxing him with bad luck.

    We are poisoned by a belief in a magic that rewards us merely for the banal fact of our own existence, which we've been taught to think is special.

    I do not think that this mindset is unique to Republicans. Nor to any geographical corner of the nation. Nor to any demographic. I do not know quite where it comes from, though it has many sources, no doubt. And I do not see any way to cure it beyond a crisis that demands shared sacrifice, which we've become very good at avoiding.

  • Middle Seaman says:

    The constraint approach is new to me. It does sound somewhat justified but I never saw the GOP in that light to start with. It is also important to factor the huge difference between today's GOP and its previous Nixon-like GOP.

    Today's GOP is based on three, not mutually exclusive, tenements. First, total support of the rich and therefore total opposition to any government that stands in the way (e.g. regulation, taxation, natural redistribution of resources such as welfare). Second, encouragement of hate of all sorts (e.g. dark people, immigrants, intellectuals, Yankees). Thirds, anti democratic tendencies such as: voting restriction; lack of adherence to first amendment rights (e.g. criticism of certain ideas); strong support of waring and the military externally and internally; scare tactics using terrorism, "home invasion," "death panels," etc.

    That ideology seems quite consistent.

  • “A constrained belief system is an internally consistent one; for example, if you believe in lower taxes we would expect you to believe in lower spending as well.”

    (insert wailing here)

    When a country which is the monopoly issuer of a floating, fiat currency is a situation of inadequate aggregate demand and high unemployment, it is the perfectly consistent conclusion of coherent economic thought to recommend increased government spending coupled with unchanged or lower taxes.

    That describes the United States at present. (Also Great Britain and Australia, and Japan for the last couple decades; the EU, due to the Euro, is screwed in principle as well as in practice.) Ask Krugman, or any of the MMT folks.

    It only becomes inconsistent if you buy into the deficit scare nonsense tossed out as a bogey-man whenever the concept of actually improving the lives of most people in this country is suggested.

  • “That said, I see a kind of constraint across prominent political issues in the contemporary GOP: they generally believe that problems have supply side solutions.”

    They generally believe that problems have *moral* solutions. Every human situation is a matter of good vs. evil, properly handled by supporting the good guys and scourging the bad guys. (When in doubt as to who the bad guys are, disambiguate by applying xenophobia and anti-intellectualism; if all else fails, remember that the safest time to kick somebody is when they’re already down.)

    The handy thing about moral assessments is that information, understanding and experience are entirely irrelevant. Anyone can play!

  • "Poverty exists because the welfare state enables it; without food stamps and TANF, people would be working."

    It's truly frightening just how often I run up against this mem, especially in internet discussions. It shows incredible ignorance of history.

  • c u n d gulag says:

    Dominionist Christianity is at the very heart of the current American Conservative movement and its world view – which is Manichean, as Coises above says:
    Good v. Evil.
    White v. Black.
    No shading – no nuance.

    When Goldwater lost in'64, the religious Conservative decided to get more active in politics – they started at the local level, and moved up from there. At the root of it all, was what was happening in the South with the issue of Civil Rights – and they were "agin' 'em," – for their Nigra's.
    They believed in "Civil Right"s for themselves, like all Americans. But, being clearly superior to African Americans in their own eyes, and with The Bible not clearly disapproving of slavery/racial subservience, they believed more in "Moral Rights" – and that blacks were inferior, and thus undeserving of the same civil rights that they enjoyed and treasured.

    Nixon didn't do much for them outwardly, but they were there as his ground troops in "The Silent Majority.

    Carter, an Evangelical Christian himself, but not a Dominionist one, wasn't quite their cup of tea – because, while he was a devout Christian, he also believed in the separation of church and state. And they wanted more say-so, more power, in running the government

    Reagan and his political people saw the potential votes in these folks.
    And they, and Reagan's Dominionist Christian backers, took Nixon's old line, and changed the description to the "Moral Majority."
    Reagan launched his 1980 Presidential campaign by declaring "I believe in states' rights," in Philadelphia, Mississippi – known for the murder of three white civil rights workers who had been trying to register African-Americans to vote during the civil rights movement.
    The greatest "dog-whistle" EVAH!!!
    Reagan welcomed these people. Prior to him, these folks had been shut out of national politics as being too radical (they were the religious equivalent of the ever-more radical John Bircher's).

    And, since that time, these Dominionist's have become more and more entrenched, more powerful, in the Conservative movement, and it's political face – the Republican Party.
    In "Baby Doc" Bush, they had the leader they wanted. And he allowed them more and more access to power, filling the federal courts with them, and expanding "Faith-based Initiatives" to more and government agencies.

    It is the Domionionst's Manichean world-view that has caused the Republican Party to become completely intrasigent.
    They are the dominant force in the party – more so than the people who used to be in charge. And what once was the party of anti-Socialism/Communism and big business, now has to kowtow to religious loons, who are their foot-soldiers – their base.
    Without that bases energy in campaigns, and without them coming to the polls, Republicans will lose any chance at majorities at the federal level (even the state level, in many places).

    The answer to "what's the matter with Kansas?", is Domimionist Christians and their Manichean world-view.
    And that's why wedge issues, especially racist ones, work with white people who consistently vote against their own best interests, time and time again. When I lived in NC, this is how it was explained to me:
    Before the Civil Rights era, when a white son asked his father why the family is dirt-poor, shoeless, and lives in a shack that sits on barren land, the father could always say, "Well, sure, Son – we may not be well off. But at least we're better off than the f*cking n*ggers."
    And, as I said before, Dominionist Christianity has its roots in the South.

    And so, here in 2012, we find ourselves at a tipping point.

    If Romney wins, and has a majority in both houses of Congress, we will be heading away from the American we know, where church and state are separate, and be moving towards a Dominionist Christian Fascist (Corporate-influenced) future, where government, church, and state, are inseperable.

    And the fact that Romney is a Mormon is immaterial. He'll be like Reagan and Bush II – a genial marionette, totally under the control of his handlers.
    And more and more, his strings will be controlled by Dominionist Christians, and his Corporate handlers won't see any harm in losing the separation between church and state – as long as the religious loons don't affect their bottom lines when they pray as they run the government.

    I could go on and on about this.
    But I won't – I'll spare you.
    This old gas-bag has bored the living sh*t out of enough of you already.

  • Modern conservatism requires one to be able to simultaneously believe in mutually contradictory ideas:

    Corporate taxes are too high – but you can't really tax corporations because they just pass it on to the consumer.

    The US military is the most powerful, unstoppable force on the planet – but if the government ever gets uppity me and my buddies from the shooting range will take them out no problem.

    Iran is a fearsome, unstoppable military juggernaut bent on world domination – but we can take them out with a few well places smart-bombs.

    Liberals are a bunch of leeching welfare-queens – except they're all elitist limousine-liberals.

    Obama is a ruthless Chicago thug – except when he's the most spineless appeaser since Neville Chamberlain.

    You get the idea.

  • The problem with this constraint theory, Ed, is that it assumes logical beings with a desire for truth, or something approaching it.

    The American electorate, by and large, is composed either of people that lack the intelligence to apply well-ordered logic to their belief systems, or desire to exploit the system for personal gain (be that in terms of wealth or in power through the enforcement of one's own particular ideology), truth be damned.

    This is how you end up with people that want Smaller Gub'Mint™, but simultaneously want the government to be deeply involved with our personal lives via marriage and sexuality: They are either too stupid to apply the logic that MORE government involvement is not in fact "smaller government", or they understand the concept but do not care because the acquisition of power through having their religious beliefs enforced by the government is far more important to them than truth.

  • More stupid stereotypes about gun owners. Believe it or not not all of us are overweight survivalist clowns or cop- wannabes. Both the MSM and the NRA project those stereotypes, for different reasons but there are a lot of gunowners of political stripes other than rabid reactionary.

  • @ comrade x and Major Kong: If the rest of us are ignorant about the reasons for gun ownership–if we make sweeping assumptions based only on the people who are 'loud' gun owners–then don't just correct us–educate us!

    Seriously–this is an irony-free statement–if your decision to own a gun is based on intelligence and reflection–on reasons, rather than irrational impulses–and based on the thoughtfulness you both have shown on this site previously, I firmly believe this is so–then tell us what they are. Yes, this may open you up to questioning, or even criticism, and that's a suck reward for your willingness to open up.

    But that's on us, if we prove to be assholes about listening to you. And whether or not we ultimately validate your reasons for gun ownership, it is better for both sides that we know that those reasons exist, and that they are the product of thought.* You take away our ability to be stupid about you when you remind us of your intelligence.

    *And yes, you have every right to respond with "I don't have to justify my choices to you–fuck you for asking, as if *your* inability to understand me is somehow *my* fault!" True, and I would accept that as an answer. But I'm hoping to come away "getting it" a little more.

  • Mostly I own guns because:

    1. I enjoy target shooting.

    2. I was trained in shooting and gun-safety in the military, so I feel qualified to handle them safely.

    3. I collect them as antiques (I have one that goes back to the late 1800s).

    4. Home defense (maybe) although I agree this is a fairly unlikely scenario.

    5. My wife is also competent with firearms, and since we're the only ones in the house, I'm not worried about children accidentally getting into them.

    Note – I'm quite liberal otherwise and I'm NOT in the NRA and have no plans to join because I rather disagree with their politics.

  • c u n d gulag says:

    J. Dyden,
    I'm with you.

    Tell me more.

    I've never objected to rifles used for hunting, and for home defense.

    It's handguns I don't get. I grew-up in NYC, and moved upstate when I was 13. No one in NYC who I knew had a rifle or handgun, and only a few families upstate hunted and had rifles.
    Maybe not a good sample-size, based on location, and my age, which is 54.

    It seems to me this gun-mania, for lack of a better term, is of recent vintage.

    And this may show how effective the NRA has been in propagandizing the absolute need for handguns with large clips, while they were lobbying for gun manufacturers.

  • c u n d gulag says:

    Major Kong,
    Good reasons.
    And I can certainly see why someone who's used to guns and likes them might collect antiques.

    It's the people with 7, 8, 9, 10+, new handguns, with large clips, I just don't get.
    That's enough fire-power to knock off a MLB team raiding your home – but how many MLB teams are likely to do that?
    Do some people worry that an NFL team breaking into their home?

    And I don't think I've ever read of any gang that large trying to rob someone's home.
    So, what's behind that type of gun aquisition?

  • Not sure. I own a few semi-automatics, but for home defense I prefer a revolver.

    1. They're reliable. Pull the trigger and it goes "bang". If it doesn't, pull the trigger again.

    2. They're simple. If somebody's trying to kick my door at 3:00 AM I don't want to be fumbling for a safety or jacking a slide.

    3. I figure six shots is more than enough for any situation I'm likely to encounter.

  • Note – if someone were to break into my house I'm going to lock the bedroom door, call the cops, and wait for the professionals to come deal with it.

    I really don't want to kill somebody over my television. I also don't want to go bumping around in the dark looking for one (or more) potentially-armed burglars.

    The weapon would be strictly a last line of defense.

  • @ Major Kong+ Comrade X et al:

    I believe in German Shepherds for home defense!!!!

    I am completely safe from neighbors, UPS drivers and even Mormons!!!!

  • I'll jump in here, since I'm another one of the "armed liberal" contingent.

    I have a concealed carry permit, and carry a handgun. I view it in much the same way as I view having a fire extinguisher in my truck–I have no desire to be a firefighter, nor do I want to be in a situation where I have to use that piece of equipment, nor do I drive a vehicle that's exceptionally prone to explosions. That said, every once in a while things go very wrong all at once, and while that's not particularly likely and I hope it never happens, it is a possibility, and if it occurs I'd like to have a chance to resolve the situation myself.

    The handgun I carry is a semi-automatic, the reason being that they are generally thinner (since they don't have the bulge of a cylinder) and are thus easier to conceal, and if you get the right kind of semi-auto they're about as reliable as a revolver.

    Other reasons I own firearms:
    1. Recreation. This is the primary reason I have guns, or at least the number and type of guns that I own; shooting is an enjoyable hobby, and as long as you're not a dumbass it's as safe as any other.

    2. Hunting. Though I haven't been yet, I plan to go this year, as wild game is about as "free range" as it gets. I'd rather know that the animal I'm eating had a decent life and was killed humanely, as opposed to wondering what the conditions were like on whatever factory farm my packaged meat came from.

    3. The constitutional resistance thing. Needing to engage in guerrilla warfare is an extremely unlikely scenario during my lifetime, but like most rights, it should be protected even if it's not immediately needed.

    Negating concerns:
    1. I don't have kids, nor do I want them. If I did, I might still have guns but I'd be much less likely to carry and much more concerned with storage. I do have a large gun safe in the unlikely event that someone with a kid comes to visit, but mostly it's not a concern for me.

    2. I practice regularly. Obviously it's difficult to say how I might perform in a life-or-death situation, but I'm a good enough shot under normal circumstances that I feel confident in my ability to at least not make things any worse.

    3. I don't put myself in stupid situations. I'm large, male, young, fairly fit, mostly nonviolent, level-headed, and generally not an asshole. If I happen to find myself in a situation where I need a gun, it'll be because all other measures have failed, not because a suspiciously brown kid was walking through my neighborhood.

    And Sluggo, I live in Utah. All you really need to do with the Mormons is offer them a beer.

  • Andrew Laurence says:

    @Nick: Well said, but I'm pretty sure that even if you're not a dumbass, and it appears that you are indeed not one, guns are more dangerous than, say, stamp collecting. :-)

  • Corporate taxes are too high – but you can't really tax corporations because they just pass it on to the consumer.

    The US military is the most powerful, unstoppable force on the planet – but if the government ever gets uppity me and my buddies from the shooting range will take them out no problem.

    Liberals are a bunch of leeching welfare-queens – except they're all elitist limousine-liberals.

    Obama is a ruthless Chicago thug – except when he's the most spineless appeaser since Neville Chamberlain.

    Major Kong, I don't think you know many conservatives. I know a lot of them, and no one, not a single one, talks like this or would say any of those sentences in the same breath.

    The last time I heard anyone mention welfare queens was when Ronald Reagan was running for President in the 70's.

    Do you seriously believe what you wrote, that these beliefs are actually tenets of modern conservatism? Because I never got that memo.

  • My introduction to guns involved one of the neighbour kids shooting another kid in the chest w a 30-30.
    In 6th grade, a kid I used to play pong and Legos w said, "Let's take the school hostage. It'll be fun." then handed me a deer rifle (this was the early 80s).

    Not impressed.

    There was also a bedroom full of unsecured rifles of all descriptions in that house.

    That said, as a guy I vaguely get the Shiva thing w guns. That god like rush that comes w shooting a bird or a rabbit.

    I have no issue with responsible owners owning weapons. What pisses me off is you're absolutist attitude. It's now to the point where gun owner rights trump individual personal and property rights.

    Eg. Kansas and Wisconsin. If I'm a business owner I'm not allowed to say no firearms period on *my* property, be it buildings or parking lots in Kansas. What happened to *my* individual property right? Same w Wisconsin's (what could possibly go wrong) law that allows concealed carry into bars. Again what happened to my right to say what happens on *my* property? Did the guy who penned that one watch too many 50s cowboy movies? Last time I checked there's far greater implicit and explicit Constitutional support for individual property rights than gun ownership.

    Now coming back to Ed's topic. Concealed Carry is an excellent example of this. More so than in any other years have we been hearing about the 10th and "States' Rights". The majority of this from the South, yet the pollies from these states are also pushing for transference (or whatever the legal term is) of Concealed Carry. Thus making it ok that if you have a permit in your State, you can now take your weapon across state borders. Thus, at any given moment guns will be criss crossing the country without any legal controls. So it's pure evil when the Fed Govt is enacting national legislation for healthcare, but it's alright to remove individual States' and communities' Rights to determine that they don't approve of guns. Or more importantly allow a State w the lowest standards for gun ownership dictate to a State w more stringent standards what the standard is. Imagine the outrage that would come if they applied this rule using the most stringent State's gun laws.

  • Why Dennis, so good of you to stop by:

    "Do you seriously believe what you wrote, that these beliefs are actually tenets of modern conservatism? Because I never got that memo."

    You obviously haven't been watching the Republican debates, Faux News, Boehner and his offsider, Limbaugh, etc. Better yet, there're more than a few classics by Romney where he says Obama is too hard, then calls him weak in the following sentence on the same topic. So maybe you should get out more.

  • Better yet, there're more than a few classics by Romney where he says Obama is too hard, then calls him weak in the following sentence on the same topic.

    Link, please.

  • J. Dryden:
    "Only the statistics make this out to be an utterly false assumption. If I have a gun, I am in far greater danger. My odds of being murdered or savagely wounded do not decrease–to the contrary. I have traded the utterly improbable chance of being violated by a stranger for the substantially greater likelihood that I will be killed by someone I know. Them's the facts,"

    May I ask, what source are you referring to? I presume it is Kellerman's research? This is the source of the often cited, "You are 42 more times likely to be killed than not if you have a gun in the house," line. If that is the source, you should note that that study is, putting it mildly, disputed. It has flaws almost too numerous to list. And no, the flaws weren't "discovered" by the NRA, but by other qualified researchers in the field.

  • @Dennis

    Either you're not a real conservative or you've never read the comments over at RedState, Free Republic or Fox Nation (just to name a few).

    Please don't waste my time.

  • MK,

    Seriously? I'm guessing you're not a fan of Jonah Goldberg's book on liberal fascism, (actually, I know you're not), but imagine for a second if his defense of his central thesis was to point to comments at Sadly No and Daily Kos.

    I'm challenging to back your blanket assertion and you point to Redstate, Free Republic and Fox Nation commenters for a definition of conservatism? C'mon, I'd like to think you're better than that. I'd like to think you're better than the commenters at RedState, FR and FoxNation, but your comment is no better than theirs, is it? It's certainly no different, because your aim was in no way meant to educate or enlighten.

    Or did you really mean what your wrote, but you don't care to explain, is that it?

  • “This week, President Obama will release a budget that won’t take any meaningful steps toward solving our entitlement crisis. The president has failed to offer a single serious idea to save Social Security and is the only president in modern history to cut Medicare benefits for seniors.”
    – Mitt Romney

    So which is it?

    Dennis try: "romney contradicts himself" in your search string.

    @Jason: In Australia only six groups of people have guns. Cops, military, specialist security, farmers, members of shooting clubs and criminals. About the only people who have hand guns are police, military personnel and the specialist security (eg. Brinks guards).

    Gun violence is therefore the exception. On a "day to day" basis the only people who find themselves facing a gun are either cops or criminals. We've had "spate" of gang land shootings as of late. Ohhh!! Ahhh! So effectively, if you're not a cop. Then you must be a criminal.

  • Thanks for clearing that up for me MK.

    It's funny how the cut each other loose as soon as it's convenient for them.

  • @Dennis RE: "Major Kong, I don't think you know many conservatives. I know a lot of them, and no one, not a single one, talks like this or would say any of those sentences in the same breath. "

    Living in Georgia, I have the distinct privilege of having primary access to WSB 750AM/95.5FM loud and clear right near the antenna. A newstalk radio station that makes no bones about its Conservative bent, its weekday broadcasts consist of Niel Boortz, Sean Hannity, and Eric Ericson (of RedState fame) when they're not doing news and traffic. Suffice to say, Hannity falls right into that afternoon slot for the drive home, so I get an earful of him each and every weekday — I've no taste for most contemporary music and having a good laugh or five helps ease the enraging stupidity of Atlanta area traffic.

    Were it not illegal to drink and drive at the same time, and had I more taste than I do for alcohol in the first place, I could practically make a drinking game out of the number of times Hannity or his mouthpiece-of-the-hour guest use either the exact phrase or one similar to "The Chicago Way™" when referencing the President or his cabinet doing anything other than groveling at the feet of congressional Republicans. Yet Hannity also makes a habit of frequently mentioning how Obama keeps "Apologizing For America" and other such acts of kowtowing to every foreign official he deals with — that is, when he's not on another one of his hourly recitations of "Started his campaign in his house, sat on boards with him, etc." to keep bringing up Bill Ayers like a freaking Hail Mary.

    Long and Short of it: Yes, unless you are going to be disingenuous enough to disavow very well-known mainstream Conservative public figures as "not really Conservatives", they DO in fact speak like that and utter phrases that, while not EXACTLY what the Kong provided as examples, come DAMN close.

  • ConcernedCitizen says:

    I'm stationed on board an aircraft carrier right now, and until a few weeks ago I worked in the ship's weapons department with all the Aviation Ordnancemen (AO's) and Gunner's Mates (GM's) – in other words, the people who joined the military to play with guns. Many of them hail from rural areas and already have guns, of course, but I guess it makes sense to work with what you know.

    After spending months around these people and occasionally engaging them in earnest conversation, I understand why the NRA is such a powerful organization. Wayne LaPierre has these people thoroughly convinced that liberals – and Obama in particular – want to take their guns away. "Obama's advancing a secret agenda against gun owners via the ATF, Obama's going to subordinate the 2nd amendment to UN gun regulations, Obama's going to appoint Justices that favor widespread handgun bans like in Chicago and Washington, D.C." The paranoia goes on and on. And no, I am not exaggerating. This is not a caricature.

    I can't pretend to understand the coveting of firearms. I get the atavism part and hey, shooting *can* be pretty fun. But for a wide swathe of the American public there's definitely more to it. It's part of their identity; "gun toting" is on their list of self-descriptives, right in between "truck driving" and "God fearing." It also has something to do with dichotomous thinking: the us versus them, kill or be killed zero sum mentality that appeals to much of the Republican constituency. Dichotomous thinking is, I think, one of the most critical problems in our national discourse, and I have a new personal phrase to describe it: Gun Mind.

  • @Concerned: the military highlights this kind of thinking. "Taxes and Government spending are too high!" Uh, Dude, you do realise that by being in the military, you're paycheck comes from the taxpayers/Govt? My brother and brother-in-law try to side step this, but still fail to realise the reality that the military is not separate from Govt.

    Then again it is concerning that the Govt-military link is consciously missing from their thought structure. Perhaps as part of Basic, the DIs drill in the concept that the military is part of and beholden to the Federal Govt. just as they drill how to use a weapon.

    It's just a matter of time before a military junta happens.

  • A lot of talk about home invasion and guerilla warfare. "It's unlikely, but…"

    Unlikely? Yes. Yes, it is. Unlikely. Perhaps you can use your gun to protect your lottery winnings.

  • Dennis try: "romney contradicts himself" in your search string.

    Does this mean that if I find examples of Obama contradicting himself, that it would prove Major Kong's thesis for liberalism as well, that Modern liberalism requires one to be able to simultaneously believe in mutually contradictory ideas?

    Is it necessarily a belief in mutually contradictory ideas to assert that a leader of a country used local thug tactics to rise to power, then later in his career after having attained that power to project and apologetic and weak image when abroad if it suits his needs? Even if Obama were the first world leader to be accused of both of these things, as you and MK seem to be suggesting, does that somehow define conservatism as being contradictory?

  • The Mad Dreamer says:

    Dennis, your reading comprehension license is hereby revoked. You may apply for a new one in one year after you have completed first grade.

  • @xynzee:
    It's a dicey proposition to compare countries. Australia has never, to my knowledge, had anything resembling the gun culture as the United States. Also, though I haven't done it recently, I did find numbers that showed that if you removed all gun homicides from the ledger, the U.S. would still have a significantly higher rate of violent crime than most European countries. So even if the guns play a role, it is only part of an enormously complex set of issues.

    The other problem with the simple, "gun = violence" notion is that over the last 20 or so years, concealed carry in the U.S. has exploded. At least one in 50 Americans has a permit and gun sales certainly haven't slowed. And during that span, gun violence has fallen at a ridiculous rate.

    I hasten to add, the evidence does NOT support a causal relationship, nor do I even believe at a gut level that more carry or gun ownership is responsible for the enormous drop in crime. It does however make it difficult to equate more guns with violence. You are left arguing that gun violence would have dropped even more without all the new carriers (and there is no evidence for that either).

  • Also, for what it's worth….

    I went the first 35+ years of my life without owning a gun. I own and carry one now, not because I live in constant fear of attack, but in case that very unlikely scenario occurs. I frequently go to places where I can't carry, and I am not at all uncomfortable or fearful. On the other hand, once in my life I've had to be a passenger in a car without a seat belt. I dug gouges in the dashboard with my fingernails.

    Make no mistake, there is a lot of ugliness in gun "culture". I went to one gun show a long time ago and it was the last one I'll attend. After seeing X number of booths selling The Elders of the Protocols of Zion, NAZI memorabilia, etc., I realized that this was not my party.

    I frequent a few gun forums, and try to explain that liberals aren't anti-American and that the vast majority of people in favor of gun control are so not because they want to take all of your guns or usher in the U.N., it's because they see the horrifying things that guns are used for and they are afraid. Fear is a hell of a motivator. I'm not successful very often.

  • Hey people, you know what constitutes real power? The power to ignore insufferable douchebags. We all know Dennis is an insufferable douchebag. When we hear the term "insufferable douchebag", people like Dennis immediately come to mind. And, moreover, Dennis proves time, and time again, that he's an insufferable douchebag. So, please, can we just ignore him?

    Here's a couple analogies for dealing with insufferable douchebags like Dennis: pimples, fishermen, scabs. Dennis is like all these things.

    Dennis like a pimple. He pops up, pus-filled, inflamed and ugly. If you squeeze it, fuck with it, or otherwise screw with it, it gets infected and lingers like a festering boil. Leave the pimple alone, and it gets reabsorbed and goes away.

    Dennis is like a fisherman. He comes here, and trolls around looking for a rise. If the fish are biting, the fisherman stays. If fish don't rise to a fisherman's bait, he tries new bait. And if that bail fails, he departs for more productive waters.

    Dennis is like a scab. He sits here like a crusty, ugly lump of congealed blood and plasma. If a scab is picked at, it wells up more blood and plasma, rebuilding itself and lingering. If a scab is left alone, it falls off and goes away.

    So, when faced with insufferable douchebags like Dennis, can we please just recognize them for what they are and ignore them?

  • @Jason: I thank you for your input. I agree that it is hard to compare nations on simplistic terms. I.E. guns.

    My subjective opinion based on gut feeling of life in Australia is that Australia decidedly lacks the same sense of desperation one finds in the US. Yes, Australia does have its pockets of poverty, particularly amongst the Aboriginal communities. However, what one would consider poverty in Australia, certainly wouldn't match conditions in the US let alone African nations.

    I've often concluded that one has to seriously work to find themselves without government assistance. The majority of people living on the streets are either mentally ill, or have serious drug habits. Even then there are far more services that will assist them than one finds in the US. I believe that one does not require a fixed address to have a MediCare card, allowing someone to access healthcare.

    Because of this kind of community support, the level of stressed desperation is considerably less. Meaning, I feel that I do not have to watch my back like I would in the US. Because, basic needs can be met, crime is perpetrated more to gain material stuff e.g. an iPod or a car. Thus whilst motivated, it's not a live or die situation.

  • Also too, I'm a liberal gun owner. I like guns. Mostly because a) ungulates are exceptionally delicious, and b) I read way too much dystopian science fiction.

  • @Jason: You added your second part whilst I was putting mine.

    As I said, I and many other non-gun types are not opposed to responsible ownership. It's the nutters you've mentioned.

    I have relos and friends who own and some carry. Which is fine by me. I've even done some rabbit and bird shooting. Probably could be interested in hunting, and target shooting. To a degree I "get it". Heck, I even enjoy a bit of a Rambo movie.

    It's the Sharon Angles and Ted Nugents who make outlandish rhetorical statements, like "2nd Amendment remedies" or "I'll either be dead or in Jail" and then try to walk it back that makes myself and many others nervous. Nugent's comments are particularly indefensible given his position in American culture and the historical context of Giffords' shooting.

    It's that lack of connection between the follow your local laws, be responsible and the authorities will leave you alone vs. Make bold paranoid threatening statements about overturning the social order if one doesn't get their way in an election, so now the authorities want to know everything there is about you self-fulfilling prophecy to one's paranoia that irks me.

    Thanks again for your input, and sharing your position.

  • @xynzee:

    You nailed it regarding what I think is a big chunk of our crime problem. Whenever I am challenged about what I would do to reduce gun violence, better social safety nets are often at the top of my list. Add in ending the war on drugs, trying to resurrect the middle class, fixing the inequitable funding methods of our public schools, and on and on.

    I have no patience for wingnuts like Nugent. People like him, as well as the NRA do at least as much harm to the image of gun owners as they do good. The NRA is little more than a right wing proxy and lobby for gun manufacturers. Their fear-mongering is disgusting and inexcusable.

  • @Jason: Which gun show was that? The ones here don't allow that kind of stuff in unless it has demonstrable and legitimate historical value (i.e. actual Luftwaffe gear brought home by vets is okay with paperwork demonstrating its authenticity, new-manufacture Nazi flags or printings of Nazi propaganda are not). There are likely some neo-Nazi types there, but it seems most are just history nerds, at worst WWII obsessives.

    And yes, I'm far more annoyed by the idiots on my side of this (or any, for that matter) issue than the idiots on the other side.

  • I am a libertarian-conservative or the other way around…

    I believe that you, as an employer, should be able to set the rules for guns or not on your property. I don't have a right to work for you. The State or the Federales should keep their noses out of it.

    I believe that States can agree or not on concealed carry reciprocity. I hate the concept of the Feds forcing NJ or Mass to recognize a CCP from GA.

    In fact, back in the day, driver's licenses were not universally reciprocated based on driver age requirements. This caused some heartburn usually for Southrons (younger licensing ages) driving up North.

    Similarly, I reject the notion of the proposed Federal ban on texting while driving.

    "Ain't yo dog, ain't yo chicken."


  • @Nick-
    This was a looong time ago, like 15 or 20 years. It was in my hometown of Bakersfield, CA (which is an extraordinarily conservative city). I haven't been to one since, and the various gun people I talk to have told me that most of the shows they go to now are similarly bonkers.

  • @Jason, Mjr, Nick, JD and bb: did that just happen? A reasonable discussion on guns?

    Far out!

    And thanks bb for "reciprocity".

  • @Xynzee:
    Crazy, isn't it? No joke, in my last post I had a little smart-ass line about us managing to do that and deleted it. There was no, "COP KILLING BABY SEEKING ASSAULT BULLETS IN OUR SCHOOLS," nor was there, "NEW WORLD ORDER U.N. WANT TO TAKE MY GUNS FEMA CAMPS BLAARRRRRGGHH."

    Congratulations to us.

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