Gun-Toting, Disaster-Fearing, Survival-Minded Liberals
Preppers in the Trump era
Two days after Donald Trump was elected president, a gun-toting Democrat named Colin Waugh set up a Facebook group called The Liberal Prepper. Preppers are people who try to be prepared for sudden, disruptive emergencies; the ones who attract the most media interest have tended to be doomsday-obsessed militia types. If that's your stereotype of the subculture, "Liberal Prepper" will sound like an oxymoron.
In fact, as QZ's new profile of Waugh's group makes clear, preppers have never been an exclusively right-wing crowd. Events like Hurricane Katrina and the 2008 financial crisis have inspired people across the political spectrum to prepare for the possibility of disaster, and those nonpartisan preppers sometimes haunt the same forums as the far-right neo-survivalists. But the Liberal Prepper group, which now has more than 2,500 members and seems to have attracted about as many fascinated reporters, is something different: Its founding fears are rooted in the fact that Donald Trump is president. As a result, its members sometimes bear more than a passing resemblance to those folks on the right who started stocking ammo and canning food because Barack Obama was in the White House. From the article:
Despite their shared politics, members' individual reasons for prepping vary. Some fear a Trump-triggered nuclear war; others are worried about economic collapse. Nicole Pilt is a Liberal Prepper who says that the nationalist rhetoric now coursing through Western society fuelled her desire to prep. She says she's "worried about the plethora of natural and social disasters that are occurring." Many of the Preppers' reasons for joining are underlined by a distrust of government—a new sentiment for many Democrats—and the resulting fear for one's safety.
To read the whole thing, go here. I enjoyed this tidbit: "Prior to accepting members, the group's administrators typically vet requestors for alt-right iconography." (New frontiers in security checks!) And then there's the mindfulness instructor from Kentucky who "bought some silver and gold on other preppers' advice. It's a financial security measure, he says, in case the global stock market crashes, paper money becomes worthless, and mass panic ensues." Does Facebook have a Liberals for Hard Money group too?
Bonus link: Back in 2013, when the words "Trump presidency" were an absurdist joke instead of a historical period, I wrote a Reason piece pointing out that
the prepper community includes a lot of political and cultural variety. If there is right-wing survivalist DNA here, there is also the DNA of the Whole Earth Catalog and several generations of bohemian back-to-the-landers, plus a fair number of families whose inspiration isn't much larger than the Boy Scout motto, "Be Prepared." Tour the online prepper communities, and you may run into people who have embraced the long-lived conspiracy yarn in which the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is plotting to put us in concentration camps. You may also encounter FEMA itself, which currently has an advertisement on the front page of the American Preppers Network. The ad asks, "Do you meet President Obama's minimum Prepper Standards?"