New York Times team explains black Democrats in South Carolina -- without going to church

If you’ve been reading the political coverage in The New York Times lately, you’ve had a chance — if you are patient and willing to dig deep — to learn a few complex realities about life in today’s complex and often splintered Democratic Party.

Two months ago, the Times ran a very interesting piece with this headline: “The Democratic Electorate on Twitter Is Not the Actual Democratic Electorate.”

The thesis is right there in the headline. Lots of Democrats, especially in the Bible Belt, call themselves “moderates” or even “conservatives.” Lots of them are African-Americans. Yes, it would have been nice if this feature had addressed moral and religious concerns. Here is a key chunk of this must-read report that is based on data from the Hidden Tribes Project.

In recent decades, most of the candidates who have found their core strength among the party’s ideologically consistent, left-liberal activist base have lost. … Establishment candidates won the nomination by counting on the rest of the party’s voters.

The rest of the party is easy to miss. Not only is it less active on social media, but it is also under-represented in the well-educated, urban enclaves where journalists roam. It is under-represented in the Northern blue states and districts where most Democratic politicians win elections.

Many in this group are party stalwarts: people who are Democrats because of identity and self-interest — a union worker, an African-American — more than their policy views. Their votes are concentrated in the South, where Democratic politicians rarely win.

Then there was that interesting Times feature about grassroots pro-life Democrats — in Pennsylvania, of all places (as opposed to the Bible Belt). Check out Julia Duin’s post on that topic: “New York Times finally profiles pro-life Democrats but forgets to add what religion they might be.” I followed up on her must-read post by pointing readers to a New York Post essay that noted that a high percentage of pro-life Democrats in the South are African-Americans who go to church — a lot.

The bottom line: If you are interested in what Democrats in the South think, especially African-American Democrats, it really helps to explore their views on issues linked to religion. Reporters might even want to go to church.

This brings me to a new Times political feature with this headline: “ ‘The Black Vote Is Not Monolithic’: 2020 Democrats Find Split Preferences in South Carolina.

What’s so interesting about this story? Well, for starters it is absolutely faith-free, other than a passing reference to Cory Booker’s style as an orator. This whole story is framed in Democratic Twitter lingo.

Looking for content on the Democratic Party’s surge to the cultural left on abortion? Zero content here. How about issues linked to religious liberty? Zero content here. How about LGBTQ issues, a source of tension in many black churches? Zero content here.

Looking for content from the legions of Southern Democrats who call themselves “moderates” or “conservatives”? Here’s a sample of what the Times team offers on that front. And remember, this is a story about Democrats attempting to draw win the support of African-Americans in the Bible Belt:

As most of the Democratic candidates descended on South Carolina this weekend, attending a fish fry on Friday night and the state party convention and a Planned Parenthood forum on Saturday, they encountered a black electorate whose interests and allegiances are far more divided than in recent presidential elections.

“The black vote is not monolithic, never has been, but I think our primary will really drive that point home because the vote is going to be fragmented,” said Gilda Cobb-Hunter, a longtime state legislator.

In interviews with several dozen black voters across the state in recent weeks, many said they were most interested in candidates who could make the best case against President Trump. Some also said they were also impressed that so many candidates were talking explicitly about economic and systemic problems leading to income inequality and poverty faced by black Americans and others.

OK, let’s stop and think about this for a second.

Yes, it’s valid to tune into the views of black Democrats who show up at a Planned Parenthood event in the Deep South. But where would a reporter need to go to listen to the voices of Democrats on the other side of that issue?

Hint: This word, in its singular form, starts with a “c” and ends with an “h.”

This piece managed to stay totally religion-free, even in its passages focusing on older voters and those living in rural areas.

Yes, that big South Carolina “fish fry” is a symbolic and important event.

Yes, when probing rural life, it made since to visit a “dollar store.”

But where else could reporters have gone to tap into mainstream black life in rural South Carolina?

In Bamberg, a town of 3,500, black voters said they wanted a nominee who could both defeat Mr. Trump and speak to their racial and economic concerns.

Located in the state’s “corridor of shame,” a reference to the abysmal school conditions in the region, Bamberg lacks a grocery store and residents are most concerned about fundamental quality-of-life issues like access to health care, clean drinking water and the internet. Many are not yet focusing on the 2020 presidential race, but in interviews outside a dollar store voters said their hopes are limited.

Brady Jackson, 46, said South Carolina is “so far behind” it often feels impossible to catch up. “It feels like nothing is getting better, it’s all at a standstill,” he said.

That’s valid material. The problem is what is missing here and, yes, WHO is missing.

This leads to my essential question: Have the woke members of the New York Times political team been reading the Times lately?

FIRST IMAGE: From the Black Church Art website.

Please respect our Commenting Policy