Living on the wedge

wedge 01Hearty congratulations to supporters of President-elect Barack Obama (including the mainstream media, heh!) and supporters of all winners in the many democratic contests people across our country weighed in on. And condolences to those who didn't fare so well. We will be looking at any and all stories that cover religious angles and please do send us the best and the worst. We're already seeing that the media narrative about evangelicals was off. They went three to one for Sen. John McCain. And Catholics who attend mass a lot supported McCain. But Obama got majorities of most religious groups -- and 70 percent of the non-religious -- to win and reshape electoral politics. The God Gap is still there, Mark Silk reports, but it's just more Democratically inclined, a trend that began two years ago.

Anyway, if 2004 is any indication, pundits and media types will craft narratives about religious voters that may or may not have relationships to facts. So we'll be watching and let you know if and when they go astray.

One story that already has some religious angles involves the marriage ballot initiatives that passed or are passing in Florida, Arizona and California. Although Arizona declined to pass a similar measure a few years ago and Florida voters have to pass constitutional amendments with supermajorities, the results were somewhat expected. But the California intiative is passing, with 95 percent of precincts reporting as I write this, despite months of media reports saying it was doomed.

Exit polls tend to skew Democratic for a variety of reasons (selection bias, Democrats more likely to respond to exit poll requests, etc.) but in California, they showed that a slim majority of white people opposed the amendment while black people supported it 70-30 and Latinos supported it slightly.

The Wall Street Journal, in an early report, picks up some of the religious angles:

Approval of Proposition 8 would be a stunning upset in a $70-million campaign that just weeks ago looked to be running in favor of preserving gay marriage rights. . . .

The passage of Prop 8, as it is known, would be a major victory for religious conservatives seeking to ban gay marriage in other states, and a crippling setback for the gay rights movement nationwide. . . .

Prop 8 supporters were relying Republican voters in rural areas, but also urban African-American voters like Christopher Miracle of Oakland, a 19-year student at nearby California State University Hayward. Mr. Miracle voted for Barack Obama, but voted to support Prop 8. "Look at the bible." he said. "It's not a man and a man."

It's a good and straightforward story that hits the religion news and balances lots of quotes from supporters and opponents of Proposition 8.

The Los Angeles Times, in a brief blog item, also found a religion hook:

People who said they attended religious services weekly were overwhelmingly voting for the measure, while those who said that they occasionally or never went to religious services were voting no.

Meanwhile, a New York Times story told us that Obama opposes same-sex marriage politically because of his religious views. However, he actually opposed Proposition 8. Either way, many of his supporters also supported the traditional marriage push. Florida, which went for Obama, also enshrined traditional marriage in its constitution.

The media narrative has long been that Republicans have won elections by appealing to social conservatives who oppose "wedge issues" such as gay marriage and abortion. Now that Republicans have run two straight campaigns that barely mention social conservatism (and have lost bad) and ballot initiatives banning gay marriage have won in blue states, will that change the narrative?

One religion story about this proposition that has been undercovered outside of the Salt Lake City press is the anti-Mormon rhetoric employed by some anti-Proposition 8 forces. Take, for instance, this ad that anti-Prop 8 groups ran leading up to election day: Though a wide variety of religious groups worked formally and informally in support of Proposition 8 the support of Mormons was highlighted by opponents. I don't know if that's because Mormons were deemed a politically and socially acceptable religious group to publicly target or what. One group started a Web site asking people to provide identifying information about Mormons who supported the initiative. And anti-Prop 8 forces produced that ad, which is reminiscent of anti-Catholic agitprop from a century ago.

Speaking of, the Catholic Conference of Bishops has already responded to the ad, calling it "a blatant display of religious bigotry and intolerance." Salt Lake city station KSL ran a piece on the "particularly vicious attack ad" here. Have any groups defended the ad? I'm unsure.

But, a la Gorski's piece from a few days ago, it seems that this type of rhetoric is a major story. While the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' support for Proposition 8 was well covered -- as was that of the Catholic Church -- the anti-Mormon backlash has not received enough coverage. I would love to see a story with some analysis of the campaign video and its effect and how Mormons and non-Mormons feel about it.

Now, as always, please place nakedly political comments in yesterday's open thread or take them to a site that encourages political discussions. For this post, please comment on the mainstream media coverage of religious news as it relates to marriage ballot initiatives.

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