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The Rise of Conservative Preppers

Posted on Wednesday, March 27, 2024
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by Shane Harris
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21 Comments

AMAC EXCLUSIVE

The Rise of Conservative Preppers

A growing number of conservatives are preparing for the end of the world. With the threat from nuclear war, another global pandemic, a devastating cyber-attack, or a host of other potential disasters seemingly higher than at any point in decades, more and more Americans, particularly on the right, have turned to the “prepper movement” to brace for a doomsday scenario.

History of the Prepper Movement

The idea of “prepping” first entered American culture during the Cold War with the looming specter of nuclear holocaust. Soon after taking office in 1960, President John F. Kennedy began encouraging Americans to build bomb shelters. Books such as Retreater’s Bibliography, written by Don Stephens in 1967, further increased the popularity of making elaborate preparations for long-term survival in the event of societal collapse.

As the prepping movement grew, it began to splinter into traditional preppers and a new group known as “survivalists.” As one popular prepping blog explains, “Preppers tend to focus on accumulating supplies and planning for specific scenarios. They are systematic, packing their homes with essentials like food, water, and medical supplies.”

Survivalists, meanwhile, “emphasize skill development and adaptability. They are the ones who can start a fire without matches, build a shelter from natural materials, and forage for food in the wild.”

The Y2K scare in the late 1990s brought prepping back into the spotlight. Americans concerned that a computer glitch caused by the calendar flipping from December 31, 1999, to January 1, 2000, could cause banks to collapse, nuclear reactors to melt down, planes to fall out of the sky, and a host of other calamities, began publishing Y2K-specific survival guides and building entire bunker complexes.

But as the new millennium passed without incident, prepping became the butt of many jokes, while the preppers themselves were increasingly viewed as out-of-touch conspiracy theorists.

This perception was not aided by the National Geographic show “Doomsday Preppers,” which aired from 2012 to 2014. The reality TV series profiled dozens of individuals and families who took prepping to the extreme. Many preppers believe the series went out of its way to paint their movement in a negative light.

The Mainstreaming of the Prepper Movement

In recent years, however, prepping has become far more mainstream. The panic and empty store shelves that gripped the nation during the COVID-19 pandemic seem to have been a stark reminder for many Americans that systems that once seemed sturdy can break down completely in a matter of days.

In total, researchers estimate the prepping movement has more than doubled in size to about 20 million Americans just since 2017. Prepping conventions have grown in popularity throughout the country, with preppers gathering by the thousands to share skills and purchase survival goods.

As The New York Post recently reported, preppers spent $11 billion on disaster preparedness in 2022, stockpiling everything from ammo to toilet paper. This surge has fueled the growth of companies such as SOS Survival Products, which provides first aid supplies marketed specifically to preppers, and ReadyWise, which advertises dehydrated food with a shelf life of up to 25 years.

Other companies such as Fortitude Ranch are building off-the-grid compounds where members, who pay a monthly fee, can retreat to for up to a year in the event of an emergency – a sort of prepper insurance policy. Fortitude’s latest development in Nevada advertises “gravity-fed, ice-cold water” and “huge solar arrays providing free year-round electricity.”

Prepping social media pages are also exploding in popularity. The “r/prepper” Reddit page has 423,000 members and ranks among the top 1 percent of all pages on the site. The account “housewifeprepper” has 352,000 followers on Instagram, while “survival nature tips” boasts 1.1 million followers. Many videos and posts across social media platforms highlighting popular “prepper tips” have racked up millions of views.

Conservatives Double Down

As it has been since its inception, prepping remains particularly popular among conservatives. One journalist who spoke with 39 preppers back in 2014 reported that 35 of them self-identified as conservative. William Forstchen’s 2009 novel One Second After, which theorizes about the fallout from an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack on the United States has enjoyed a cult following on the right.

For many right-of-center Americans, general distrust in the federal government and pessimism about the rise of the welfare state is more than enough reason to believe in the need to be prepared for anything.

But recently, new threats may also be driving a new generation of conservatives to the prepping lifestyle. The COVID-19 pandemic underscored the potential risks of globalized supply chains and raised fears of future pandemics that could be far more deadly. Cyber-attacks could also turn society upside down at any time, and the world appears closer to nuclear conflict than at any time since the Cold War.

This has been reflected in advertising in conservative media. Right-wing commentator Sebastian Gorka, for instance, has heavily promoted “My Patriot Supply,” a company that sells emergency food with a long shelf life. “We believe it’s every person’s patriotic duty to achieve TRUE FREEDOM from our world’s increasingly unreliable and fragile systems,” the company’s website reads.

Preppers also place a heavy emphasis on having stockpiles of firearms and ammunition, putting them in ideological alignment with conservatives and Second Amendment advocates. Because preppers want to be prepared for all-out societal collapse, many prefer AR-15-style rifles and other similar firearms that Democrats refer to as “assault weapons” and believe should be banned.

Conservative politicians may also be helping popularize the prepper movement. Kentucky Representative Thomas Massie has built his own self-sustaining off-grid home, powered by batteries from a wrecked Tesla. Roscoe Bartlett, who served 20 years in Congress as a Republican from Maryland, spent years warning about the vulnerability of the U.S. power grid and now lives in a remote cabin in the woods. In February, Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio also warned that a Chinese cyberattack could shut down everything from cell phone towers to the power grid for vast swaths of the country.

Liberals & Young People Join the Movement

While the prepper movement has indeed been one traditionally dominated by older, conservative Americans, liberals, and young people are increasingly getting in on the action.

As Reuters recently reported, “prepper culture” is diversifying “amid fear of disaster and political unrest.” The article describes one recent prepper convention in Colorado where “bearded white men with closely cropped hair and heavily tattooed arms” perused the aisles alongside “hippy moms carrying babies in rainbow-colored slings” and “Latino families looking over greenhouses and water filtration systems.”

A USA Today report published last December also found that “39 percent of millennials and 40 percent of Gen Zers reported having spent money on prepping” over the past year. One prepper whom the paper spoke to said that many liberals, especially young ones, were “shocked into action by the pandemic and the federal government’s response to the George Floyd protests.”

Rising concerns about GMO crops and heavy doses of growth hormones in livestock, along with omnipresent fears of catastrophic climate change, have also led many liberals (and some conservatives as well) to the prepper movement.

A Symptom of Societal Decay?

The trend in most media reports on preppers has been to paint the movement as a negative sign of societal decay. The fact that so many people feel scared and anxious about the future is a reflection of how deeply divided and distrusting we are of one another, or so the logic goes.

But oddly enough, Americans’ growing belief that society is on the verge of collapse may be one of the few things uniting them. Voters in both parties believe the election of the opposing candidate in this fall’s presidential election would be a cataclysmic event for the country. 67 percent of Americans believe the country is either in more trouble than usual or is in the most troubled state they’ve ever seen.

There may, then, be a silver lining to the pessimism that defines the prepper movement. It seems that many Americans of all political persuasions are finally beginning to realize that the government is not the solution to all human problems, and that self-reliance – once considered a core American virtue – is indeed vitally important.

In other words, the devastating collapse of public confidence in America’s institutions may be accompanied by a surge in public confidence in the power of the individual to secure his or her own future. While Americans can never be absolutely certain that society won’t collapse in the event of a disaster, they can be certain in their own agency to do everything within their power to secure a safe and prosperous future for themselves and their family.

That, at least, is something worth preparing for.

Shane Harris is a writer and political consultant from Southwest Ohio. You can follow him on X @ShaneHarris513.

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Sallo
Sallo
17 days ago

Best prep: your salvation. Age and circumstances don’t matter; Eternity does!

Myrna
Myrna
17 days ago

This is another confirmation that the difference between conservatives and liberals is mostly confidence. People who understand how to cope and set out to take care of themselves strive for freedom. The rest demand someone give them what they need.

Sallo
Sallo
17 days ago

Best prep: get your salvation settled with Jesus. Circumstances don’t matter; Eternity does!

Patriot Bill
Patriot Bill
17 days ago

Self reliance breeds a healthy society

Nonie
Nonie
17 days ago

I’d like to say the next big event will be the Rapture of the Church! In which case everyone needs to put their trust in the life/death/resurrection of Jesus Christ, as He offers forgiveness and eternal life. Our earth has an expiration date and you have today to escape the coming tribulation. Now to the topic of prepping. I prepped in 2000 with my husband (lovingly) laughing at me. I am doing so now bc I can see things that will cause supply chain problems and shortages. My grandkids say ‘Nonie, you’re saving all this food for neighbors who refused to come to Jesus.’ That’s correct, I leave it behind! I live not in fear but faith! I am decerning but not a date setter. If the Lord tarries, I have what I need for family and friends. The Lord will provide. I am not a super-duper prepper as I can only make fires with matches! But I have the Word of God and faith His plan is being fulfilled!

Joe
Joe
17 days ago

Just read this on the AMAC APP. Excellent read, especially in the wake of the Baltimore bridge collapse. Get ready for empty shelves and skyrocketing prices…again!!!!

uncleferd
uncleferd
17 days ago

With the plasticized, pre-packed neurosis of “No Think Liberalism” having taken hold and, now, profoundly affecting our governance, culture, politics and national security, there is very little reason to feel at ease.
Simply put, liberalism has caused an unprecedented empowerment of the stupidest types of people that any of us ever knew back in high school.
To be optimistic in this state of pseudo-reality that we’re in is to depart from the reality of this failure that is rapidly becoming our future.

Thinking
Thinking
17 days ago

This just shows that many people don’t believe in the government providing everything. These people take their future in their own hands. Which in the end will lead to unity again in this country. O started this divide and conquer mentality and ole Joe keeps pushing it every day. Yesterday he pulled a Trump though. He said the Palestinian Protesters were right. Didn’t Trump say that about confrontation between skin heads and blacks that there are good people on both sides. There always are, only ole Joe can’t tolerate anyone who does not follow him blindly. And he plays both sides in the Middle East war. Leaning every day more to Hamas however. Let us hope that all these preppers survive and United rebuild America.

John TeGrotenhuis
John TeGrotenhuis
16 days ago

I really wish people would stop saying pandemic, as if it just happened out of the blue. Try “LOCKDOWNS” instead!

Jeri
Jeri
16 days ago

If you believe there won’t be civil unrest after the 2024 election, no matter which side wins… If you believe there won’t be civil unrest as the illegals in NYC go into direct competition with the black culture over the free food debt cards…. If you believe there won’t be civil unrest in America as FJB and the progressives continue to go after guns…if you believe there won’t be civil unrest no matter which way the Trump trials are called… I could list a dozen more issues…You have some personal issues and beliefs you best sort and deal with.

Robert Zuccaro
Robert Zuccaro
17 days ago

Why spend all that money to build a bomb shelter when all you have to do to survive a nuclear blast is the government-recommended “duck & cover”? When “duck & cover” is utilized in conjunction with your umpteenth Government-recommended COVID booster, you’re all set for the apocalypse!

Stephen Russell
Stephen Russell
17 days ago

WE needed this years ago during Trumps first term

Drue
Drue
14 days ago

I am NOT depending on the federal government to help my family out in the event of an EMP or electrical grid collapse. The best place to find help is looking into the mirror. As the old Boy scout motto goes: Be Prepared! Ask yourself this question: Could your family survive at home for at least 2 weeks without outside food, water or electrical power? If not, you had better get your ass in gear and start preparing (Prepping) for that possibility. Our next war will not be fought on a conventional battlefield, but in our own back yards. It may not come to that, but better prepared than be caught with your pants down.

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