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Stumping God

Reagan, Carter, and the Invention of a Political Faith

Andrew P. Hogue

Publication Year: 2012

For more than three decades, American presidential candidates have desperately sought the conservative Evangelical vote. With an ever broadening base of support, the Evangelical movement in America may now seem to many a very powerful lobbyist on Capitol Hill. As Andrew Hogue shows, however, this was not always the case.

In Stumping God Hogue deconstructs the 1980 presidential election, in which Ronald Reagan would defeat Jimmy Carter and John B. Anderson, and uncovers a disproportionately heavy reliance on religious rhetoric—a rhetoric that would be the catalyst for a new era of presidential politics. Until 1980, the idea that conservative politics was somehow connected with conservative theology was distant from the American imagination. Hogue describes the varying streams of influence that finally converged by the Reagan-Carter election, including the rapidly rising Religious Right. By 1980, candidates were not only challenged to appeal rhetorically to a conservative religious base, but found it necessary to make public their once-private religious commitments.

In compelling and illuminating fashion, Stumping God explains the roots of modern religious politics and encourages readers to move beyond the haze of rhetorical appeals that—for better or worse—continually clouds the political process.

Published by: Baylor University Press

Series: Studies in Rhetoric and Religion


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Front Matter

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pp. ix-x

I am deeply indebted to several people who had a direct hand in shaping this project. The most important is without a doubt Marty Medhurst, who helped guide this project from an idea to a finished product. Many know Marty for the world-class scholar that he is, but I am among the fortunate few who have had the privilege...

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pp. 1-9

On July 17, 1980, the audience inside Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena, along with much of the rest of the country watching on television, saw Ronald Reagan, as though moved by the Holy Spirit, invoke a supposedly unscripted moment of silent prayer to end his party nomination acceptance speech. “I have thought of something...

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1. Religion and American Conservatism: A Rhetorical History, 1944–1979

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pp. 11-64

This chapter asks a simple but important question: in what ways was the conservative political movement in America also a religious movement prior to the 1980 presidential election? I ask this question in an attempt to determine whether the broader development of post-1980 religious politics was simply the result of conservatives establishing hegemony in the Republican Party, thereby establishing...

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2. American Change and Religious Engagement, 1942-1976

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pp. 65-94

In a 1965 sermon called “Ministers and Marchers,” a young Rev. Jerry Falwell criticized liberal ministers because of their involvement in the political process, which took away from what he saw as a minister’s primary responsibility to preach the gospel. By 1979, Falwell would seemingly do an aboutface on this position, utilizing his stature as a popular television preacher to mobilize, alongside...

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3. Raising the Rhetoric of Righteousness: The Pivotal 1976 Election

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pp. 95-133

Appeals to personal religious piety entered the modern presidential campaign vernacular in 1976, when Jimmy Carter squared off against President Gerald Ford. Carter’s deep religiosity and his status as the first presidential candidate to claim having been born-again are well known, but it is lesser known that he was not alone in...

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4. Two Roads Diverged: Religious Conservatives and the Carter Disappointment

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pp. 135-164

Carter won in 1976 by fashioning an unusual coalition; attempting to hold it together proved to be among his most difficult tasks as president. Among the diverse groups he brought into the fold were progressive liberals, African Americans, moderate Southerners, as well as, to a slightly lesser degree, a newly involved group of religious conservatives who were increasingly willing to adopt a sustained...

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5. The Birth of a New Religious Politicsin 1980

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pp. 165-236

Having formed during a presidential administration that proved not only disappointing but unreceptive, the New Religious Right (NRR) stood at its greatest crossroads leading up to the 1980 election, positioned and motivated to have its ambitious goals realized by affecting government, for the first time, through presidential elections. Its goals, broadcast emphatically, were to create a society that...

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6. The Legacy of 1980 at the Dawn of a New Era: Lessons for Religion and Politics Going Forward

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pp. 237-266

The 1980 presidential election cast a long shadow over the last three decades because, since that time, religion has remained a pronounced and prominent aspect of presidential politics. In fact, the types of religious politics that Reagan and Carter created lived on, helping to shape an era of American politics. While office seekers since 1980 have doubtless introduced a few new uses of religion,...


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pp. 267-303


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pp. 305-323


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pp. 325-333

E-ISBN-13: 9781602584310
E-ISBN-10: 1602584311
Print-ISBN-13: 9781602584297
Print-ISBN-10: 160258429X

Page Count: 344
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: 1
Series Title: Studies in Rhetoric and Religion
Series Editor Byline: Martin J. Medhurst, Editorial Board Chair See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 802047926
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Stumping God

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Presidents -- United States -- Election -- History -- 20th century.
  • Religion and politics -- United States -- History -- 20th century
  • Presidents -- United States -- Election -- 1976.
  • Presidents -- United States -- Election -- 1980.
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