Please raise your hand if you are getting more and more tired of political labels, especially when they are linked to issues of religion, culture and morality. Can I get a witness?
During the recent elections in that crazy alternative universe called Louisiana, Republicans struggled to pin a liberal label, of some kind, on the Democrat who was willing to be the latest sacrificial victim in the race for governor. Everyone knows that Louisiana is a deep red, culturally conservative state, so the Democrat was given little chance to win.
It helped, of course, that the heavily favored Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter has, in the past, done his share of stupid self-destructive stuff. Cue up that campaign ad at the top of this post.
Completing a long-shot bid that ran counter to the conservative tide sweeping the Southern states, Democratic state Rep. John Bel Edwards was elected governor of Louisiana on Saturday, defeating his Republican rival, U.S. Sen. David Vitter. ...
A jubilant crowd of Edwards supporters greeted news of the Democrat’s win at the venerable Monteleone Hotel in New Orleans’s French Quarter as a brass band led an impromptu “second line” celebration through the packed ballroom.
Addressing the crowd, Edwards said, “I did not create this breeze of hope that’s blowing across our state, but I did catch it.” He reached out to supporters of his Republican opponent, pledging to be a governor “for all the people of Louisiana,” and congratulated voters for not giving in to the “deep cynicism about our politics and our future.”
So what was the key in this victory? That would seem to be the most important element to get into the lede, methinks. Of course, I say that while making the following confession (one familiar to veteran GetReligion readers): I am an old-school Southern Democrat myself, conservative on moral and social issues while leaning left on most everything else.
So, was the Edwards victory really a win for the left in terms of the modern Democratic party? Well, yes, in that the Republicans lost.
But what did this win tell the Democratic establishment? If it wants to return to power in the South, to even a small degree, what kind of candidates do the Democrats need to find? Apparently, the answer is: Precisely the kind of men and women they have been driving out of the party.
What does this have to do with religion, morality and culture? That's where the journalism questions begin, in the stories about the Edwards win. Here's what the Post ran pretty far down in the story:
From the start of his run, Edwards knew any chance of victory hinged on distinguishing himself from the prevailing image of Democrats among voters. In meetings with small groups in rural parishes, he touted his opposition to abortion and strong support for gun ownership. He had fellow members of West Point class speak about his character and values.
So how did Edwards manage to run to the moral and cultural right of this tainted Republican? Might that be an element of this story that belonged in the lede, if the goal was to let readers know what actually happened in this race?
The New York Times also put the unique qualifications that Edwards offered Democrats -- in this day and age -- quite a ways from the lede.
Mr. Edwards, a Catholic with a Boy Scout earnestness who comes from a family of sheriffs, won by a larger margin, 56 to 44 percent, than any Louisiana Democrat running for governor since Edwin Edwards reclaimed the office after a four-year absence by beating David Duke in 1991. ...
He is a social conservative, but an old-school Democrat on bread-and-butter issues who champions public schools and is less enamored ofcharter schools and vouchers. The most immediate consequence of his election might be the state’s acceptance of Medicaid expansion, which Mr. Edwards pledged to carry out right away.
But the Times team did assure its readers that, for Edwards:
Social issues, in any case, will be far down his to-do list. All of the attention for now will be on the state’s dire fiscal situation, with a structural budget deficit, little left to cut and minimal appetite among businesses for chipping in more revenue.
That may be true. However, the key to this story was that the Democrats managed to end up with a logical candidate in a red state. Might this be the larger lesson, if the goal is to remain some balance that would allow the party to be more competitive in the, well, Bible Belt? After all, concerning Edwards:
His résumé seems almost laboratory-made for a red-state Democrat, starting with a family that has been in law enforcement for generations, an education at West Point and eight years as an Army Ranger. ...
In addition to his military background, Mr. Edwards emphasized his Catholic conservatism on social issues. The Edwards campaign put up an early ad in which his wife, Donna, a public-school teacher, recounted how he had refused to consider an abortion upon learning that the first of their three children was going to be born with spina bifida. (The child, a daughter, is now engaged to be married.) The strong anti-abortion stance neutralized a line of attack that had been effectively used in this state against Senator Mary L. Landrieu, who was soundly beaten in a re-election attempt last year.
So back to the beginning: Was this a win for the left? Yes, in that the Republicans self-destructed. Was it a win for conservative Democrats in the South? That's a more complex and interesting story, one that apparently doesn't interest editors at the Post and Times.