My family went fishing recently with an Angry White Man in Colorado. Funny thing: Gary Hubbell didn't have horns or a tail. What he mainly possessed were opinions - that, and a skill for fly-fishing.
When it was time for lunch on the Crystal River near Redstone, my wife told one of my sons to get out of the water and wash his hands before he could have a sandwich. Wilson, who is 10, had just found a mysterious bone covered with green algae on the riverbank. Hubbell identified it as an elk jawbone, but said that hand-washing while fishing was the sort of unnecessary activity that begets in kids peanut allergies and asthma.
That's a view I would have expected to come from a man I first heard about when somebody sent me one of those e-mails that begins, "You MUST read this." Attached was something Hubbell had written that became an overnight Internet sensation, fodder for a cyberspace version of Whisper Down the Lane, and the subject of many chats on nationally syndicated talk shows such as those of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck.
Not bad play for a guy who writes a monthly column for the tiny Aspen Times, which Feb. 9 published an op-ed titled "In election 2008, don't forget Angry White Man." Hubbell's blunt description of what he considered the country's most underserved, unpandered-to constituency - the iconic Angry White Man - created quite a fuss.
"Each candidate is carefully pandering to a smorgasbord of special-interest groups, ranging from gay, lesbian and transgender people to children of illegal immigrants to working mothers to evangelical Christians," Hubbell wrote.
"There is one group no one has recognized, and it is the group that will decide the election: the Angry White Man. The Angry White Man comes from all economic backgrounds, from dirt-poor to filthy rich. He represents all geographic areas in America, from urban sophisticate to rural redneck, Deep South to mountain West, Left Coast to Eastern Seaboard."
Hubbell went on to describe that constituency: a gun-owning he-man with no problem reconciling twin loves of football and family on Sunday afternoons. A deer hunter and an avid golfer. A do-it-yourselfer who hates handouts and the culture that coddles them.
The Angry White Man can't stand the Rev. Al Sharpton or anyone who embodies the "liberal victim groups" the Angry White Man has come to despise. But most of all, Hubbell wrote, the Angry White Man loathes Hillary Rodham Clinton, whose "voice reminds him of a shovel scraping a rock."
I interviewed Hubbell on the radio about three weeks after he wrote his piece. By then, he was as popular online as the storied man with a hook in place of one arm who terrorizes lovers' lanes. In Philadelphia, many of my callers - not all of them white or men - responded with "Heck, yeah."
"We've had comments from angry brown men, a Filipino American, Chippewa Indians, black men, and lots of 'angry white women,'" Hubbell told me that day. "So I really did strike a chord, and I guess it is that people feel like they're not being listened to by our government. People want some fiscal sanity. They don't want people to just stand there with their hands out and be given something for doing nothing. There are a lot of people who feel like they're pulling the freight for the rest of the country, and they're sick of it."
That was when I asked Hubbell what he did when he was not so angry. He told me he was an expert fishing-and-hunting guide, which is how I came to book him for a day of family fly-fishing. Colorado is a swing state, and I wanted to meet the leader of a key constituency.
In person, Hubbell said he didn't intend the Angry White Man to be a self-portrait. He's a 45-year-old married father of two, a man most in his element when standing in three or four feet of sparkling river water with a fly rod in his hand, giving instructions on the delicate manner with which to cast.
Maybe Hubbell is more accurately described as the Angry Everyman. The business card he handed me offers his services including: "ranch real estate broker," "photo, film and video scout," purveyor of "trail horses, hay for sale," and "professional writer and photographer."
A former Democrat now registered as an Independent, Hubbell said the Republican Party comes up short on the environmental issues. He said he has no problem with drilling and blowing stuff up, but the GOP never seems to want to put things back together.
Don't look for Gary Hubbell's demographic group to show up in any of the candidates' polling internals the way they analyze Catholics, or Hispanics, or older white women. No 30-second commercial will target this constituency. It's doubtful that Chris Matthews will be featuring the Gary Hubbells on "Hardball." The presidential campaign is much too P.C. to discuss a voting bloc with a name like the Angry White Man.
But that doesn't mean this is an unimportant voter group. And so, how are they leaning?
According to at least one likely voter - Hubbell - it's Sen. John McCain. "Do I support McCain?" he writes in an e-mail. "I suppose so ... tepidly. He was all wrong on immigration, but he's right on national defense. Environmentally, he's got to be more proactive than Bush was. No one could be worse than Bush."
Hubbell said he could not see himself voting for Sen. Barack Obama in November - a notion he says has nothing to do with race, but much to do with perceived liberal ideology. "I think people are supporting him out of emotion rather than a rational analysis of his policies," he writes. "If you want more taxes on people who really make this country run - working Americans - to support yet another generation of sit-on-your-(butt)-and-collect-a-check slackers, then Obama's your man!"
In the end, he sees the November election as "a contest between rational thought and hope for change." This outdoorsman, whose thoughts entered many an inbox several months ago, sees Obama as too much of an unknown, a risk, and so he intends to hike on the path most-traveled.