Red counties and blue collars: As it turns out, folks in America's heartland still exist

Help me out here, readers.

I have been traveling so much in the past few weeks that lots of things I have read and heard have merged into a kind of fever dream in my 60-something brain. Somewhere out there I saw an advertisement for a last-moment fundraiser by liberal comedians who described their program as "like the Blue Collar Comedy tour," only for "smart, moral people" -- or words to that effect.

Did I just dream that? It's a perfect statement of half of what happened last night and this morning. In the end, Hillary Clinton did not get enough votes from blue-collar Democrats and lots of other people who used to be in the old Democratic Party coalition that included the Midwest and large parts of the Bible Belt.

When I wrote my Election Day post about the religion and culture angles hidden in Tennessee's rural vs. urban divide, I didn't realize that I was, in effect, writing about the whole United States. Click here for a final NPR verdict on the numbers, with rural areas going 62-34 percent for Donald Trump and cities voting for Hillary Rodham Clinton to the tune of 59-35 percent.

City people are happy with America, just like London people were happy with life trends in the European Union. The people in depressed towns and smaller cities? Not so much. The 2016 election map, broken down by counties, is going to be Jesusland: The Sequel.

As the exit poll numbers roll out, we are going to find out all kinds of religion-angle things that we already knew.

We'll learn that record numbers of white evangelicals voted for Trump (Sarah Pulliam Bailey here, in the Washington Post), even though many of them never wanted to -- they were voting against Clinton and the giant cultural and media steamroller behind her. Why did they do it? I predict that elite journalists will still be avoiding First Amendment issues and, when they do discuss them, they will still be putting "religious liberty" inside scare quotes.

We will find out that millions of blue-collar Catholic Democrats in the Rust Belt -- especially under- and unemployed males -- voted against their own party elites and against country-club Republican orthodoxy at the same time. Many of those Catholics had to know, in effect, that they were voting against many of their own bishops on issues linked to immigration and economics.

Simply stated, lots of blue-collar Americans -- and many religious believers in collars of all kinds -- got tired of being bashed by the comics and chattering classes.

So, on about three hours sleep, this is -- for me -- a think-piece kind of morning.

I would like to point GetReligion readers toward two pieces, one new and one (relatively) old.

The first is by media columnist Margaret Sullivan of the Post: "The media didn’t want to believe Trump could win. So they looked the other way." A sample:

Journalists -- college-educated, urban and, for the most part, liberal -- are more likely than ever before to live and work in New York City and Washington, D.C., or on the West Coast. And although we touched down in the big red states for a few days, or interviewed some coal miners or unemployed autoworkers in the Rust Belt, we didn’t take them seriously. Or not seriously enough.
And Trump -- who called journalists scum and corrupt -- alienated us so much that we couldn’t see what was before our eyes. We just kept checking our favorite prognosticating sites and feeling reassured, even though everyone knows that poll results are not votes.
After all, you never know who’ll show up to vote, especially when votes are being suppressed as never before. And even the most Clinton-leaning prognosticators allowed for some chance of a Trump win. But no one seemed to believe it in their bones. We would have President Clinton, went the journalistic conventional wisdom, and although she would be flawed, she would be a known quantity. There was a kind of comfort there.

However, the think piece I keep coming back to is this Ross Douthat piece in The New York Times: "Clinton’s Samantha Bee Problem." This is where the mockery theme is laid out in great detail -- with a focus on the entertainment side of the equation. Remember when blue-zip-code insiders were mad at Jimmy Fallon for being too soft on Trump? Here's Douthat:

... The Democratic Party’s problem in the age of Trump isn’t really Jimmy Fallon. Its problem is Samantha Bee. Not Bee alone, of course, but the entire phenomenon that she embodies: the rapid colonization of new cultural territory by an ascendant social liberalism.
The culture industry has always tilted leftward, but the swing toward social liberalism among younger Americans and the simultaneous surge of activist energy on the left have created a new dynamic, in which areas once considered relatively apolitical now have (or are being pushed to have) an overtly left-wing party line.

Note: "Social liberalism." That includes the world of morality, culture and religion. It's the entertainment side of the Kellerism doctrines that have done so much to reshape American journalism on social issues.

More Douthat. You see, you'll be able to sense the mourning today on Sports Center at ESPN, as well as on the editorial pages of great Gray Lady:

It isn’t just late-night TV. Cultural arenas and institutions that were always liberal are being prodded or dragged further to the left. Awards shows are being pushed to shed their genteel limousine liberalism and embrace the race-gender-sexual identity agenda in full. Colleges and universities are increasingly acting as indoctrinators for that same agenda, shifting their already-lefty consensus under activist pressure.
Meanwhile, institutions that were seen as outside or sideways to political debate have been enlisted in the culture war. The tabloid industry gave us the apotheosis of Caitlyn Jenner, and ESPN gave her its Arthur Ashe Award. The N.B.A., N.C.A.A. and the A.C.C. -- nobody’s idea of progressive forces, usually -- are acting as enforcers on behalf of gay and transgender rights. Jock culture remains relatively reactionary, but even the N.F.L. is having its Black Lives Matters moment, thanks to Colin Kaepernick.
For the left, these are clear signs of cultural gains, cultural victory. But the scale and swiftness of those victories have created two distinctive political problems for the Democratic Party.
First, within the liberal tent, they have dramatically raised expectations for just how far left our politics can move, while insulating many liberals from the harsh realities of political disagreement in a sprawling, 300-plus million person republic. Among millennials, especially, there’s a growing constituency for whom right-wing ideas are so alien or triggering, left-wing orthodoxy so pervasive and unquestioned, that supporting a candidate like Hillary Clinton looks like a needless form of compromise.

And also:

At the same time, outside the liberal tent, the feeling of being suffocated by the left’s cultural dominance is turning voting Republican into an act of cultural rebellion — which may be one reason the Obama years, so good for liberalism in the culture, have seen sharp G.O.P. gains at every level of the country’s government.
This spirit of political-cultural rebellion is obviously crucial to Trump’s act. As James Parker wrote in The Atlantic, he’s occupying “a space in American politics that is uniquely transgressive, volatile, carnivalesque, and (from a certain angle) punk rock.” (The alt-right-ish columnist Steve Sailer made the punk rock analogy as well.) Like the Sex Pistols, Parker suggests, Trump is out to “upend the culture” — but in this case it’s the culture of institutionalized political correctness and John Oliver explaining the news to you, forever.

That's all for now. It's time to go back to reading.

Please let us know what you see in the press about the religion angles in the news on this truly bizarre day in American life and history.

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