All of us have social-media buttons that our friends know how to push to get us to click this or that link, to forward this or that item, to pull out of our email haze and to PAY ATTENTION.
For me, one of the most magic phrases in the world is "Not The Onion." This is especially true when the item is sent by GetReligion co-founder Doug LeBlanc, whose sense of humor has a similar laugh-to-keep-from-crying twist as my own.
But in this case, when I saw the headline, I had my doubts.
This was supposed to be a short story from The Politico. But the whole tone of the thing was just so dry and understated and, well, surreal. How could this not be from The Onion or even the Babylon Bee?
Are you ready? Here is what has to be the first nomination for the Not The Onion headline of 2017:
Democrats hold lessons on how to talk to real people
Alas, there is no second line to this masterpiece of a headline. After all, it would be hard to top the excellence of that first line.
I also liked the fact that the story was so short and that it ignored so many obvious "real people" topics. Yes, like religion and culture. It was like no one in the room had ever even heard of books such as "What's the Matter with Kansas?" or "Hillbilly Elegy."
Once again, life is all about politics and money and that is that. Here is the brilliantly boring opening of the piece:
Senate Democrats geared up for battle with President Donald Trump by preparing to talk to people who voted for him -- and by hearing from one of his arch-nemeses.
Gathering in Sheperdstown, W.Va., Democrats were scheduled to hear from liberal political operative David Brock on Thursday, Center for American Progress CEO Neera Tanden and Priorities USA CEO Guy Cecil in a session called “Hold Trump Accountable.” Earlier in the day, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) moderated a “discussion with Trump voters," according to a draft schedule obtained by POLITICO.
Manchin and nine other Senate Democrats are up for reelection next year in states that Trump won. Much of the event appears geared at figuring out how to turn people who supported Trump into Democratic voters in 2018.
So what topics were on the program?
Now this is where it's hard to tell if this satire is being engineered by the Democrats in the Senate or the journalists in the Politico newsroom. According to the story, the topics included, "speaking to those who feel invisible in rural America," “Listening to those feel unheard” and “Rising America -- They feel unheard too."
Now, after several decade of staring at the "pew gap" -- the fact that the more people attend worship services, the more likely they are to vote for morally conservative candidates -- you know that there had to be something on the program about Democrats addressing to the religion component of life in the American heartland and elsewhere.
I mean, did Latino evangelicals push Trump over the top in Florida? How crucial were social issues for pro-life Democrats in Catholic labor union families in the Rust Belt? How crucial was evangelical outreach to the first Bill Clinton campaign? Was there any discussion of religious liberty compromises?
Instead, we get pitch-perfect prose such as this:
Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) will talk about “Triangulating Trump,” emphasizing that they can go around Republicans by trying to work with Trump on infrastructure, outsourcing and trade.
Oh! Oh! Oh! The Politico saved the best for last. This is perfection:
On Wednesday evening, Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) led a wine and cheese reception, then got a history show about Harper’s Ferry called “September Suspense: Lincoln’s Union in Peril.”
Democrats did not allow reporters to attend.
Remember, this is Not The Onion. Honest. You could not make this one up.