Are Southern voters really different? Washington Post political desk avoids religion, again

We are, of course, talking about the most important news story in the history of the universe. That is, until the next political proxy war takes place between Citizen Donald Trump and powers that be in elite American culture.

So Republican Karen Handel defeated House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi -- as well as 30-year-old documentary filmmaker Jon Ossoff -- for a traditionally Republican seat in the greater Atlanta area.

If the GOP had lost, the news media powers that be would have hailed it as a tremendous loss for Trump -- even though this was a rather pricey, highly educated district that wasn't fond of Trump (as noted in this New York Times fact piece).

Since the Democrats lost, this affair was hailed -- by Trump supporters -- as a great win for their bronze-tinted leader, as opposed to Handel, a pro-life Catholic.

One thing was clear: Acela-zone journalists knew that this race was about money and jobs, as well as politics, money and jobs. Here's the most recent Washington Post overture:

Narrow losses in two House special elections had Democrats once again trading recriminations Wednesday and pondering anew whether their leaders have them on a path back to power.
Especially painful was Jon Ossoff’s three-percentage-point loss Tuesday in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District after his campaign was buoyed by more than $23 million in donations, much of it from grass-roots Democrats across the country eager to oppose President Trump.
That funding surge was blunted by millions of dollars’ worth of TV ads and mailers from Republican victor Karen Handel and from outside GOP groups. A common theme in those efforts was to tie Ossoff to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) -- a figure both well-known and widely reviled, according to Republican polling.

You can hear the same dirge here, in the Times. However, down near the bottom of that long Post report there were some interesting thoughts from Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), assistant House Democratic leader. He was concerned about weak efforts to turn out African American voters, but he also added:

But Clyburn said he asked the DCCC “not to make it a national cause” and that he “intentionally did not want it nationalized . . . because I know how South Carolina voters are.” ...
“Southern voters are a totally different breed,” he added. “And Southern voters react parochially.”

Maybe, just maybe, there were some cultural issues at play in this race? Down South, issues of culture, morality and faith tend to be rather important. Can I hear an "Amen"? Why are many Southern voters a "totally different breed"?

During the heat of the campaign, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution noted that Ossoff had worked hard to undercut Handel's support with female voters by focusing on issues that, one way or another, were linked to a familiar social issue.

Democrat Jon Ossoff held a roundtable Friday with women’s health advocates and breast cancer survivors as his campaign stepped up the attack on Republican Karen Handel’s stint at a breast-cancer charity.
A split on abortion is one of the starkest contrasts between the two candidates in the nationally-watched June 20 runoff to represent suburban Atlanta’s 6th District. And both candidates are banking that their positions will energize their supporters in the final stretch of the race.

Yes, we are talking about the infamous wars over the Susan G. Komen Foundation (click here for GetReligion background material).

Afterwards Handel's win, many reporters -- with good cause, in my opinion -- devoted lots of coverage to the tsunami of outside money that flooded into Georgia for this special election, on both sides. However, it was easy for conservatives to note that the second largest donor to the Ossoff campaign fund, after the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee -- was Planned Parenthood.

So what? What's the big idea, here? What does this have to do with life in America as we know it?

This particular congressional district was especially important to Democrats because it included lots of zip codes full of highly educated, well-to-do Southern voters. If the Democrats could not peal off a district in that kind territory, what were their prospects in the "real South"?

Once again, was this story all about politics, money and jobs? #REALLY

It's ironic that -- days before the Handel win -- the Post published a fascinating feature story with this interesting two-layer headline:

Rural divide
America’s cultural divide runs deep. While rural and urban Americans share some economic challenges, they frequently diverge on questions of culture and values. On few issues are they more at odds than immigration.

Here is the overture for that deep-dive into new polling data:

The political divide between rural and urban America is more cultural than it is economic, rooted in rural residents’ deep misgivings about the nation’s rapidly changing demographics, their sense that Christianity is under siege and their perception that the federal government caters most to the needs of people in big cities, according to a wide-ranging poll that examines cultural attitudes across the United States.
The Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation survey of nearly 1,700 Americans — including more than 1,000 adults living in rural areas and small towns — finds deep-seated kinship in rural America, coupled with a stark sense of estrangement from people who live in urban areas. Nearly 7 in 10 rural residents say their values differ from those of people who live in big cities, including about 4 in 10 who say their values are “very different.”

So let's see, how was this massive feature structured?

As you would imagine, there are large sections dedicated to politics (Trump!), money and jobs. Issues of race and immigration receive lots of attention.

Oh, and under the section labeled, "Distrust and Estrangement," there is one paragraph that says this:

That sense of division is closely connected to the belief among rural Americans that Christian values are under siege. Nearly 6 in 10 people in rural areas say Christian values are under attack, compared with just over half of suburbanites and fewer than half of urbanites. When personal politics is taken into account, the divide among rural residents is even larger: 78 percent of rural Republicans say Christian values are under attack, while 45 percent of rural Democrats do.

That's that. Moving on.

What are the issues at the heart of this concern in rural and suburban America? What are the issues attached to those strong words "under siege"? Might the words "religious liberty" have come into play, when talking about this divide?

But that one paragraph is all you are going to get in this feature. But that's more than political-desk reporters dedicated to cultural and religious issues, when covering the Ossoff-Handel showdown.

Never forget: Politics is real. Religion? Not so much.

Oh, that Post poll package does include a nice sidebar (alert: former GetReligionista Sarah Pulliam Bailey was involved) with this headline: "When it comes to saying grace, Americans are still united."

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