The Magazine

Combustion Engine Voters

In a state where they love cars, Al Gore is an acquired taste

Sep 18, 2000, Vol. 6, No. 01 • By HENRY PAYNE
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Indeed, Cabela's attracted 20,000 shoppers on opening day, with cashiers ringing up brisk sales of firearms and hunting gear, and the upper level cafe filled with folks sampling bison, ostrich, and smoked caribou. Guys like Bill Timler, who works for a fabricating firm, couldn't be happier. "This is good for the community," he said. "It will attract people, money, and business."

Chris Pletz is another direct beneficiary. His new job at Cabela's pays considerably more than he earned as a laborer for a mold injection company, and he now has top-tier insurance coverage and holiday bonuses. It is no accident that Cabela's has located here. Monroe County's residents love to hunt and fish. And they don't like liberal Democrats who want to restrict their access to guns and public lands.

It's a tough sell, then, to convince Monroe residents that they are victims of capitalist greed, somehow in need of Big Government protection. "Government doesn't need to be involved in everything," said Leesha Glenn, a working mother of three. To be sure, Gore's attacks on "the wealthy" and his promise to cow HMO bureaucrats drew applause here. (One woman told us, "We should get our health care for free, like Germany.") But question voters about Gore's specific policy prescriptions -- his support for gun control and unrestricted abortion, and his radical environmental agenda -- and their enthusiasm gives way to suspicion.

"Gore would be at odds with people here on most things," says Randy Richardville, himself a sign of the times as Monroe's first Republican state legislator in 35 years. Where voting Democratic once was virtually hereditary, party loyalty now is weak. "When I was growing up," says Brad Gerber, newly employed by Cabela's, "Democrats were for the working guy. Not any more. Now guys like Gore seem to be easily influenced by interest groups and political correctness."

Asked how he would campaign here if he were running against Al Gore, Richardville had no hesitation: "I'd go door to door and read folks his views about the automobile."