Religion and American Politics: From the Colonial Period to the Present

Religion and American Politics: From the Colonial Period to the Present

Religion and American Politics: From the Colonial Period to the Present

Religion and American Politics: From the Colonial Period to the Present

Synopsis

During a Republican primary debate leading up to his 2000 nomination, George W. Bush famously identified Jesus Christ as his favorite philosopher. His ability to speak to the concerns of a politically active religious base earned him a massive portion of evangelical votes and signaled the continued prominence of religion in American political discourse.

Excerpt

The first edition of this book was mostly made up of chapters presented at a conference in the spring of 1988. In that year’s presidential primaries, which were about at their midpoint when the conference took place, two clergymencandidates were still in the hunt, the Reverend Jesse Jackson as a contender for the Democratic nomination and the Reverend Pat Robertson for the Republican. At the time, the overt religious energy that Jackson and Robertson were injecting into the campaigns was the object of considerable media attention. By advocating a values-based agenda, Robertson was trying to mobilize his fellow Protestant Pentecostals, who had hitherto been relatively inactive politically, and also to find support beyond Pentecostals and the viewers of his television programming. Jackson’s use of moral argumentation moved in a different direction as he sought to register black Americans, mobilize them as a voting bloc, and force the Democrats to strengthen their commitment to urban economic development. In the end, neither campaign was successful, for the Republican nomination went easily to George H. W. Bush, who was finishing his second term as Ronald Reagan’s vice president, and the Democratic nod to Governor Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts.

In the fall presidential campaign of 1988, religion remained in the background. Observers did note something new/something old in the religious adherence of the candidates, with Dukakis as the first Greek Orthodox to stand for national office and Vice President Bush an Episcopalian, like so many presidents stretching all the way back to George Washington. Earlier in the Democratic primaries, character issues had sidelined Senator Gary Hart of Colorado (after a charge concerning an extramarital affair) and Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware (after a charge of plagiarism). During the national campaign, one or two reports circulated about the connections of Marilyn Quayle, wife of Republican vice presidential candidate Dan Quayle, to a Texas-based preacher of militaristic fundamentalism, Colonel R. B. Thieme. And after the November elections, a few . . .

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