This morning’s New York Times carried another significant analysis, this time by PRRI’s Robert P. Jones.  He implies something that is significant for the work of scholars of media, class, and ideology, something that we perhaps should take on board.

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There has been a roiling discourse for years about “class interests” in the American electorate.  This has and will continue to be a growing debate in the post 11/8 period.  Why is it that the very people who suffer the most and should have the most to gain from progressive policies vote the way they do?  They are clearly voting against their class interests–in material terms.

Jones’s analysis suggests that perhaps we should start thinking about “class interests” differently. Clearly, in the Trump election, “classes” voted “interests.”  But those classes and interests did not fall neatly along structural/economic lines. They also fell along cultural lines.  Jones’s analysis suggests that “White Christians” should well be thought of as a class, or in class terms.  Now, clearly, “White” and “Christian” as demographic categories do cross significantly with “White” and “working class.”   But not perfectly.

More importantly, what Jones shows is that “White Christians” were the central demographic driving the rhetorical success of Trump’s call to make things great again.  For them, that meant a return to the 1950s.  The resonance of the “50s” clearly has more than just the prospects of waged labor in it.  It is resonant because it was the time when things made the most cultural sense, when a White Protestant moral architecture defined values, behaviors, and public images.

It can then be argued that this longing for a lost moral order, strongly inflected with religion but more importantly with a tacit and implicit Protestant aspiration to perfect the nation and its domestic spaces, was articulated in powerful ways in the Trump election as a “class interest.”

So, I’ll repeat again what I said in my last post: that it is perhaps time for media studies as a discipline, to the extent that it wishes to have something to say about political shifts such as this one, to take religion seriously.

Religion is not limited to belief and behavior around transcendent meaning.  In the American context, religion, specifically Protestant religion, continues to be embedded in–and make certain senses of–class discourses, interests, and politics.

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