I hear, since my office is on Capitol Hill, that there is some kind of election going on today. The word on the street is that all kinds of terrified, emotional, angry people are going to march into polling places and destroy the era of hopeful, rational, optimism that has ruled our great land for the past 18 months or so. At least, that’s just what I read in the papers.
Religion is not supposed to be a major factor in the elections this time around, unless there was been a secret meeting in which Tea Party libertarians have conspired with Theocrats and we just haven’t heard about it. Keep NPR turned on today, just in case.
Still, anyone want to bet that, once again, the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life (paging John Green) or some other respected group will find that two of the top three or so indicators on how people voted as (a) how often they attend worship services and (b) how many children are in the household. This time around, unemployment will almost certainly be factored in there, somewhere. But I do not expect the pew gap to vanish, do you?
So where am I going with this?
It’s time for an open thread of some kind for this election day.
I’ll start it off, offering my own laugh-to-keep-from-crying perspective as a culturally conservative Democrat. Oh, by the way, it is not a good idea — in this age of robotic political telephone campaigning — to have a registered Democrat and a registered Republican living in the same household. The Mattinglys of Ferndale are getting about 30 robot calls a day. Ugh.
Where was I? For many weeks now, the mainstream-news template for election coverage has, of course, been that Americans are afraid and angry and, thus, have become irrational. This powerful template has been in effect so long (Weekly Standard survey here) that I am convinced that most mainstream journalists are now (a) aware of it and (b) beginning to get a bit embarrassed by it.
Don’t be surprised if journalists frantically seek some other kind of framing device tonight. It is getting too easy to lean on the angry, irrational meme.
If that takes place, the turning point may have been the following story from The Politico — a story that does specifically address religion, but is haunted by language that for many implies a clash between reason, logic, science, sanity (paging Jon Stewart) and a caricature of religious faith. The story contains the thought for the day, from President Barack Obama. Why will the Democrats have a rough day? In the end, it all comes down to evolution:
WEST NEWTON, Mass. – President Barack Obama said Americans’ “fear and frustration” is to blame for an intense midterm election cycle that threatens to derail the Democratic agenda.
“Part of the reason that our politics seems so tough right now and facts and science and argument does not seem to be winning the day all the time is because we’re hardwired not to always think clearly when we’re scared,” Obama said … in remarks at a small Democratic fundraiser Saturday evening. “And the country’s scared.”
So here are the three questions for this open thread:
* Have you seen any evidence of a new template for coverage, other than the old “angry, irrational voters” model?
* What role has religion played in the mainstream coverage today?
* What language did you hear today that you thought was haunted by religion, even if the reporters and commentators didn’t openly connect what they were saying with moral, religious and cultural issues (since those do not matter in this election)?
I’ll be much more lenient than normal today about allowing comments about the issues themselves, but I WILL INSIST that comments be based on specific items of news coverage. Whenever possible, please offer a URL that points toward a media source.
UPDATE: Watching CNN off and on, while working on my column. The struggle to find an alternative template is not going well, with a steady stream of references to the public being angry (lost count on that word) and mad. Other interesting turns of phrase, so far, include the public letting loose with a “visceral scream of anger” and being “fundamentally upset” with the direction of the country.
And is it just me, or does CNN have a digital semi-Jaws theme going on when they announce races in which a seat in the U.S. Senate changes hands?