Al Gore

Monday Mix: Pittsburgh shooting, hate that kills, Sutherland Springs, white nationalism, 'double lives'

Monday Mix: Pittsburgh shooting, hate that kills, Sutherland Springs, white nationalism, 'double lives'

Surprised? No.

Numb? Yes.

After a weekend marred by yet another mass shooting in America, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s front page pays tribute to the victims in a special way today.

Welcome to another edition of the Monday Mix, where we focus on headlines and insights you might have missed from the weekend and late in the week.

The fine print: Just because we include a headline here doesn't mean we won't offer additional analysis in a different post, particularly if it's a major story. In fact, if you read a piece linked here and have questions or concerns that we might address, please don't hesitate to comment below or tweet us at @GetReligion. The goal here is to point at important news and say, "Hey, look at this."

Three weekend reads

1. "The day closed with 3,000 people attending a vigil for the dead and wounded at the intersection of Murray and Forbes avenues.” GetReligion’s Julia Duin, who used to live in Pittsburgh, has a helpful overview of news coverage of the synagogue shooting.

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Democrats after The Kiss: Did new left let enough 'blue dogs' run in 2018 midterms?

Democrats after The Kiss: Did new left let enough 'blue dogs' run in 2018 midterms?

So what does the famous Al and Tipper Gore snog-deluxe at the 2000 Democratic National Convention have to do with the upcoming midterm elections in 2018? And what does that question have to do with the Big Bang question that is always lurking in American politics, which is control of the U.S. Supreme Court?

Be patient with me here, because I can see the connections in my mind (and in my own political experience over recent decades). But I’m not sure if I can get them to make sense in 600 words or so. But that’s what I need to do, since these questions are connected to the content of this week’s “Crossroads” podcast. Click here to tune that in.

So let’s start with The Kiss.

Long ago, young Al Gore was one of the heroes of conservative Democrats everywhere — as in “blue dog” Democrats that lean left on populist economic issues and lean right on matters of morality and culture. In other words, Gore was a pro-life Southern Baptist guy when he was in the U.S. House of Representatives and an almost-pro-life guy when he first hit the U.S. Senate.

That made him the kind of Democrat that could get elected over and over in a culturally conservative state — think Bible Belt — like Tennessee. That was good for Democrats. Hold that thought.

But when Gore took his ambitions to the national level, the realities of Democratic Party life made him float over to the liberal side of things on issues such as abortion and the illiberal side of things on issues like religious liberty (I say that as on old-fashioned First Amendment liberal).

In terms of image, however, he made a great New Democrat partner for President Bill Clinton, who once flirted — in politics, that is — with conservative moral stances on a host of issues.

But then Clinton turned into a whole different kind of man in the public eye. To say the least.

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Big religion ghost: Would a 'blue dog Democrat' win Tennessee's U.S. Senate race?

Big religion ghost: Would a 'blue dog Democrat' win Tennessee's U.S. Senate race?

What, pray tell, is a “blue dog Democrat” these days? If you look up the term online, you will find several variations on what characteristics define this politically endangered species.

Growing up as a Democrat in ‘70s Texas, I always heard that “blue dogs” — especially in West Texas — were progressives on economic issues and conservatives on culture. Many were “populist” Texans left over from the old New Deal coalition. Eventually, it was crucial that many “blue dogs” were Democrats who angered Planned Parenthood.

Meanwhile, we had a term for politicos who were conservative on economics and liberal on cultural and moral issues. They were “country club” Republicans.

Here is some language from the website of the current Blue Dog PAC :

The Blue Dog Coalition was created in 1995 to represent the commonsense, moderate voice of the Democratic Party, appealing to mainstream American values. The Blue Dogs are leaders in Congress who are committed to pursuing fiscally-responsible policies, ensuring a strong national defense, and transcending party lines to do what’s best for the American people.

Ah, what do the words “mainstream American values” mean in a land dominated by digital “progressives” and Donald Trump? Are there moral or religious implications there?

The term “blue dog” showed up in a recent New York Times feature about the U.S. Senate race in Tennessee, the Bible Belt state that I now call home. (Click here for a previous post on a related subject.) Here is the Times headline: “A Changing Tennessee Weighs a Moderate or Conservative for Senate.”

In Times terms, of course, this is a race between a “moderate” Democrat, that would be former governor Phil Bredesen, and the “hard-line” Republican, Rep. Marsha Blackburn. As always, the term “moderate” is a sign of editorial favor.

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Fading color purple: America's cultural divisions getting worse, election after election

Fading color purple: America's cultural divisions getting worse, election after election

For various reasons, I didn't get to post a "think piece" this weekend. A "think piece," on this blog, is an essay linked to the news that raises or discusses an issue that I believe is directly linked to religion trends and events that are in the news.

So please consider the following short-ish piece from FiveThirtyEight a kind of holiday weekend thinker for you to scan on your smartphones while flipping burgers at your grills (or pulling pork out of smokers here in the hills of East Tennessee).

To be honest with you, there is little or no religion content in this piece -- which is precisely why it fascinated me. The double-decker headline proclaims:

Purple America Has All But Disappeared
Counties are increasingly super red or super blue, with less and less in between

Purple, of course, represents compromise between liberal blue (urban) and conservative red (Middle America and/or flyover country). The whole fascination with red counties and blue counties really began with that famous USA Today graphic following the 2000 George W. Bush vs. Al Gore race.

What does purple mean on the ground? In my experience, it means liberal social values and conservative economics (think libertarian). On the other hand, it could refer to people who are progressive on economics and conservative on moral issues (think abortion and, now, religious liberty). However, the evidence I have seen indicates that prog pro-lifers, to pick one possible label, have primarily been voting GOP at the national level, due to concerns about the U.S. Supreme Court.

Whatever it means, purple people are an endangered species. The overture in this think piece notes:

President Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton was among the narrowest in history, and the country is deeply split on his job performance so far. But if you feel like you hardly know anyone who disagrees with you about Trump, you’re not alone: Chances are the election was a landslide in your backyard.

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The Tennessean surveys a deep-red state: Might religion play big role in its political divides?

The Tennessean surveys a deep-red state: Might religion play big role in its political divides?

So here I am in New York City on Election Day, typing away at my desk at The King's College near the corner of Broadway and Wall Street -- which means I'm about two blocks from a Trump tower in Lower Manhattan.

I imagine that things will get pretty wild in some corners of New York City tonight. However, my mind is very much on the past, present and future in the hills of East Tennessee. In other words, I'm thinking about politics and religious folks.

You see, East Tennessee is about as old-school Republican as you can get. Forget Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. East Tennessee's Republican roots go all the way back to the Civil War era (see this New York Times piece on "The Switzerland of America").

But there are at least two other Tennessees, symbolized by the other two stars on the flag. The hills are one thing, while Nashville and Memphis are radically different cultures.

Once upon a time, Tennessee voted for Bill Clinton. Soon after that, it turned its back on native son Al Gore. While the mountains are historically Republican, the political story in the rest of the state centers on the decline of old-guard Southern Democrats and the now dead Democratic Party coalition that included Bible Belt farmers and laborers, as well as urban elites.

Donald Trump will carry Tennessee with ease tonight, I imagine, but I have met very few old-school Republicans in the hills who are happy about that. I have, however, wondered about the deep-red tint of the rest of the state, other than blue patches in the big urban zones.

Thus, I read with great interest the Tennessean piece that ran with this headline: "Tennessee politics: State increasingly split along urban-rural lines." That headline tells you what editors in Nashville think.

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