The day after election day is, of course, a day for political chatter. Let’s face it: In Twitter America, every day is a day for political chatter.
This doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to see a few religion ghosts in all of this media fog — hints at the religion/politics stories that will soon return to the headlines. Let me start with a few observations, as a Bible Belt guy who just spent his second straight national election night in New York City.
* I didn’t think that it would be possible for the U.S. Supreme Court to play a larger and more divisive role in American political life than it has post-Roe v. Wade. I was wrong. Do you see big, important compromises coming out of the new U.S. House and Senate?
* Maybe you have doubts about the importance of SCOTUS in politics right now. If so, take a look at the U.S. Senate races in which Democrats sought reelection in culturally “red” states. Ask those Democrats about the heat surrounding Supreme Court slots.
* So right now, leaders of the religious left are praying BIG TIME for the health of 85-year-old Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and, to a lesser degree, 80-year-old Justice Stephen Breyer. After two battles with cancer, activists inside the Beltway watch Ginsburg’s every move for signs of trouble. What will conservative religious leaders pray for?
* If Ginsburg or Breyer exit, one way or the other, what will be the central issues that will surround hearings for the next nominee? Do we really need to ask that? It will be abortion and religious liberty — again.
* If the next nominee is Judge Amy Coney Barrett (a likely choice with GOP gains in the U.S. Senate), does anyone doubt that her Catholic faith (“The dogma lives loudly in you”) will be at the heart of the media warfare that results?
* Yes, anyone who watched the final hours of the midterm election news, and then the election night coverage, knows that our niche-market journalists will be a major issue in the religious/political fights that they are covering.
At Fox News, the core journalists handling election-night news (as opposed to commentary) seemed to be going out of their way to avoid triumphalist Donald Trump talk as the House and Senate dramas unfolded. And where was Sean Hannity, after his presidential hug at a campaign rally? Click here for news on that. Then contrast that info with this collection of reaction clips from election night at CNN. The word “grieving” comes to mind.
* Finally, expect lots and lots of coverage of America’s growing rural vs. urban divide — a subject that automatically hits at “values voters” and Barack Obama’s infamous “God, guns and gays” soundbite. And what is the religious content of Hillary Clinton’s “Basket of Deplorables” comment?
What is interesting, to me, is that the moral, cultural and religious angles of this great American divide usually vanish from the national news — until there is an empty chair at the U.S. Supreme Court or yet another major church-state case there.
As a rule, most journalists look at “flyover country” America and immediately think “race” — not “religion.”
For example, look at the top of this must-scan Axios round-up: “1 big thing ... Two Americas: amplified, tearing apart.” After the lede included in that screen shot (above), there is this:
The Democratic strategy of targeting women, minorities and the young was vindicated with the new House majority. We saw record liberal turnout in many suburbs.
The Republican strategy of targeting men, whites and rural voters was vindicated with the larger Senate majority. We saw record conservative turnout in rural Trump country.
The net result: Two parties with two wildly different bases and philosophies are pulling farther and farther apart — and are certain to double down on divisiveness heading into 2020.
Fox News' Karl Rove, the former George W. Bush architect, said: "Let’s be clear. ... Both parties are broken."
A GOP lobbyist emailed: "Poisonous gridlock. Hemlock?"
Shades of 2016: The blue wave was a lot less ferocious and unanimous than much of the polling, forecasts and commentary had led Americans to expect.
It's a reminder that, even after all the post-2016 angst, all the supposed experts still don't fully understand the country.
No surprise, but I would argue that part of the tone-deaf experts problem is related to divisions over issues that, in the end, are religious just as much as they are political.
For example: I would really, really, really like to see exit-poll numbers on voting patters among Latino evangelicals — right, not the white evangelicals — in the state of Florida.
For starters, when you look at Trump’s narrow 2016 win in that state there is a good chance that he owes his desk in the Oval Office to Latino evangelicals and Pentecostals, especially in the Orlando area. Now, there is a good chance that they swung the state’s razor-close Senate race.
Ask Amy Coney Barrett if that Senate seat matters.
Would Democrats have a better chance of winning some of these red zip code races if they ran candidates that were populist on economics and more conservative on moral and social issues?
I don’t know. I do know, however, that most elite political journalists are not asking that question. For example, check out this passage in an important piece that ran at The Atlantic just ahead of this election. The prophetic headline: “The 2018 Midterms Could Kill the American Moderate for Good.” Check out this bitter pill about the great American divide:
This is not only because campaigns tend to favor personalities over policy goals and apocalyptic rhetoric over good-faith debate. It’s also because Congress itself disincentivizes reaching across the aisle. Work with a Democrat? Bid your perfect Heritage Action Scorecard farewell. Consider a GOP judicial nominee? Hope you weren’t too attached to that committee gavel.
Judicial nominees are that important? You think?
Meanwhile, the key to this analysis piece is the meaning of the word “moderate.” Check out this crucial section:
The challenges on the campaign trail are steep for House and Senate hopefuls alike. The race for Senator Bob Corker’s seat in Tennessee lays this bare. Like Rouda, Democrat Phil Bredesen is adhering to the moderate playbook in the hopes of besting an ardently pro-Trump Republican. Bredesen, a popular former governor of the state, is challenging Representative Marsha Blackburn. John Tanner, a former Tennessee congressman who founded the Blue Dog Coalition — a group of the House’s most conservative Democrats — told me that Bredesen is the Platonic ideal of a moderate: “financially responsible and socially tolerant.”
That’s really interesting. Growing up in the heart of Blue Dog Texas, I always thought that the formula for this endangered species was progressive economics and conservative stands on culture. Remember this GetReligion post — “Big religion ghost: Would a 'blue dog Democrat' win Tennessee's U.S. Senate race?” — about that Tennessee Senate race?
Now it appears that the Bill Clinton model for centrist Democrats has become the norm, calling for conservative finances and low-key progressive work on hot-button issues linked to culture, morality and religion.
That’s all for now.
It’s time for lots of reading and another 24 hours of listening. Help us spot the religion ghosts, please, and leave some URLs in our comments pages.
FIRST IMAGE: From the One Nation Blog.