blue collar workers

Red counties and blue collars: As it turns out, folks in America's heartland still exist

Red counties and blue collars: As it turns out, folks in America's heartland still exist

Help me out here, readers.

I have been traveling so much in the past few weeks that lots of things I have read and heard have merged into a kind of fever dream in my 60-something brain. Somewhere out there I saw an advertisement for a last-moment fundraiser by liberal comedians who described their program as "like the Blue Collar Comedy tour," only for "smart, moral people" -- or words to that effect.

Did I just dream that? It's a perfect statement of half of what happened last night and this morning. In the end, Hillary Clinton did not get enough votes from blue-collar Democrats and lots of other people who used to be in the old Democratic Party coalition that included the Midwest and large parts of the Bible Belt.

When I wrote my Election Day post about the religion and culture angles hidden in Tennessee's rural vs. urban divide, I didn't realize that I was, in effect, writing about the whole United States. Click here for a final NPR verdict on the numbers, with rural areas going 62-34 percent for Donald Trump and cities voting for Hillary Rodham Clinton to the tune of 59-35 percent.

City people are happy with America, just like London people were happy with life trends in the European Union. The people in depressed towns and smaller cities? Not so much. The 2016 election map, broken down by counties, is going to be Jesusland: The Sequel.

As the exit poll numbers roll out, we are going to find out all kinds of religion-angle things that we already knew.

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Hold on: Wasn't there more to that 'Reagan Democrats' thing than money?

Hold on: Wasn't there more to that 'Reagan Democrats' thing than money?

If you are into politics in the Culture War era, then you may be familiar with the Thomas Frank bestseller called "What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America."

It's kind of dangerous to summarize a book in a few words, but here is what I took away from it: For the past decade or two, elite Republicans have been able to use social and moral issues to confuse middle class and working class Americans, convincing them that the GOP understands their "values." Once you understand this nasty trick, you know why ordinary Americans have been going to the polls and voting against their own economic interests. Or something like that.

Really old news consumers will remember that, once upon a time, these voters in middle America were called "Reagan Democrats," which was another way of saying blue-collar and Catholic Democrats who were turned off by some post-1960s elements of Democratic Party life. The crucial point for this post: Social issues and religion played a major role in this political drama.

This brings me to a very interesting, but very strange, political story that ran in The New York Times the other day under this headline: "G.O.P. Hopefuls Now Aiming to Woo the Middle Class." Here is the top of the story. See if you can spot The Big Idea:

WASHINGTON -- The last three men to win the Republican nomination have been the prosperous son of a president (George W. Bush), a senator who could not recall how many homes his family owned (John McCain of Arizona; it was seven) and a private equity executive worth an estimated $200 million (Mitt Romney).

The candidates hoping to be the party’s nominee in 2016 are trying to create a very different set of associations.

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