In a very cogent piece in today’s New York Times, Thomas Edsall elaborates what seems to be an emerging consensus. That at least one of the lessons of this week’s election is that Democrats and progressives suffered a loss because they’d overlooked or misunderstood the cultures of “flyover country.”

Let’s leave aside for another time the  argument about whose responsibility it must be to speak for the white voters from those places who powered Trump to victory.  Questions such as: why aren’t they more engaged or informed about their own interests; and why they don’t vote for those interests.  Those are important questions but ones that assume that there are manifest and material interests that are obviously rooted in the structural consequences of economic change.

But the “flyover country” phenomenon has causes and consequences beyond the structural.  There are also cultural, rhetorical, symbolic and imagined causes, each deeply connected with social life, and each a domain that is addressed by–and supposedly understood by–scholarships of various kinds.  In my case, in media studies, there are vibrant theoretical and methodological discourses focused on these domains.

So, the question then comes to us. Scholarship should be responsible to help inform and shape the way various social actors (from elites to individuals and networks on various levels to journalists, to creative communities) conceive of society in terms including politics.  We may not be expected to be predictors of political outcomes, but we know full well that the materials we look at and work with are relevant, not least to the motivations and meanings citizens inhabit when they become voters.

So, time for some introspection?  I’ll do some initial introspection in the form of a critique of my own field, drawn from both superficial and anecdotal evidence and from my own professional specialization.

My field–media, mass communication, cultural studies–has failed to fully account for the cultural politics of “flyover country” because it has lacked a serious, informed, scholarly discourse about religion.  There, I’ve said it.  And I’ll say more about it in due course.