Nashville — The cultural gap between those who vote in the Republican presidential primaries and those who cover the candidates in those primaries is now a chasm.
One by one, the media covering the Republican presidential candidates attach some quickly assembled defining flaw to each candidate: “Rand Paul has a temper problem with the media”; “Ted Cruz is an unelectable extremist”; “Scott Walker’s lack of a completed college degree is likely to be a major problem.”
A lot of members of the media who are covering the GOP presidential candidates have exceptionally little in common with the voters who will select the Republican nominee. Thus, when the Republican candidates make their pitch to grassroots conservatives, the hot-take instant analysis from the big media voices usually concludes that the pitch was a belly flop. But the GOP candidates aren’t trying to win votes in the New York and D.C. newsrooms, and in a spectacular failure of empathy and understanding, a lot of reporters simply can’t grasp the hopes, fears, and priorities of GOP-leaning voters in places like Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina . . . and Tennessee.
The event offers a buffet table of everything the progressive Left scorns and abhors. Start with kids and teens picking up inoperative pistols and rifles in the “nine acres of guns and gear” in the exhibit hall. They’re surrounded by more than 70,000 attendees, many clad in American-flag gear, Harley Davidson T-shirts, cowboy boots, cowboy hats, and bolo ties. They browse the wares and move on to conference seminars like “Survival Mindset: Are You Prepared?” and “Sheepdogs! The Bulletproof Mind for the Armed Citizen.”
The Leadership Forum began with the national anthem, an invocation from Ollie North that mentioned Jesus Christ, and the Pledge of Allegiance. Before the event, Toby Keith’s “American Soldier” and the Charlie Daniels Band’s “Let Freedom Ring” blared from the loudspeakers above enormous banners declaring, “If they can ban one, they can ban them all.”
It’s a gathering for saints and sinners, with the prayer breakfast inside and a street preacher and two convention attendees arguing about the King James Bible outside. But the convention’s sights also include booth babes and women in tight gold dresses, and at night the attendees move on to the bars, where the wait-staff necklines are low, the shorts are short, and the cowgirl boots are high. Everyone dines on gobs of barbecued pork piled high on plates and washes it down with large sodas and hard whiskey. It’s everything Michael Bloomberg, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and hardline feminists hold in contempt in one place.
In this sort of environment, the average hypersensitive college student would explode from insufficient trigger warnings. (Although in their defense, they are surrounded by literal triggers.)Meanwhile, the press who will be covering Hillary Clinton in the coming cycle enjoyed an off-the-record dinner with her campaign staff at the home of Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta in New York City. The host, formerly the chairman of the Center for American Progress, cooked pasta with walnut sauce. Separately, “On Friday night, Clinton strategist Joel Benenson will hold a similar dinner with reporters, correspondents and even some television anchors at his apartment in New York.”
The candidate who lives and works in Washington and New York will be covered by reporters who live and work in Washington and New York. The culture — the dress, the language, and the viewpoints expressed in the office of the nascent Hillary Clinton campaign in Brooklyn Heights — is going to be similar to the one in the New York Times Building, the NBC News offices, or the CNN New York Bureau a few miles away.
Hillary Clinton did not address the NRA Convention, an unsurprising absence for a woman whose past record is thoroughly pro-gun-control. She supported banning “assault weapons,” supported gun-owner licensing and gun registration, opposed legislation prohibiting the confiscation of firearms during emergencies, and opposed legislation prohibiting lawsuits seeking to hold the firearm industry financially liable for harm caused by criminals who use guns.
For what it’s worth, if Hillary had been willing to speak to the NRA, that might have forced its members to briefly reconsider their deep antipathy to her. It would have been a remarkable bit of genuine diplomacy, and her experience might have forced her to reevaluate her belief that “we’ve got to rein in what has become an almost article of faith that anybody can have a gun anywhere, anytime.”
In past comments, Hillary has painted a dark portrait of America’s gun owners, suggesting they’re so prone to violence, they’re willing to shoot other people for the tiniest slights imaginable: “At the rate we’re going, we’re going to have so many people with guns everywhere, fully licensed, fully validated, in settings where [one] could be in a movie theater, and they don’t like someone chewing gum loudly or talking on their cell phone and decide they have the perfect right to defend themselves against the gum chewer or cell phone user by shooting.”
If you think of a person as having such a violent temper that they would shoot someone over chewing gum, would you trust them with access to a kitchen knife? A chainsaw? A baseball bat? Would you trust them with the right to vote?
Hillary’s dire vision of a society beset by quick-drawing cell-phone-etiquette enforcers hasn’t come to pass. Crime has declined as gun sales have increased. Hillary’s low, paranoid opinion of America’s gun owners indicates she doesn’t really know any of them. She lives in a mobile bubble of luxury and privilege, and peers out in fear at the Americans who gather in Tennessee shooting ranges, hunting grounds, and bars, as if observing a strange alien species.
Unfortunately, a significant number of people who cover presidential races are comfortable in her bubble, too.
— Jim Geraghty writes the Campaign Spot for NationalReview.com.