1980 : Reagan, Carter, and the politics of religion in America.
This dissertation examines the political uses of religion in the 1980 presidential election, doing so within the broader context of how and why those uses emerged, as well as how they functioned to usher in a new era, setting the parameters for future presidential candidates' uses of religion in presidential elections. I go about this by first examining several streams that converged in 1980, among them: the expansion of the American conservative movement upon its inclusion of religious conservatism as a major concern; the various historical factors that led to the engagement of religious conservatives in American politics; the surfacing of religious rhetoric in presidential politics during the 1976 election; and the disappointment experienced by religious conservatives during the Carter presidency. I then closely examine of the candidacies of Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, and John B. Anderson in 1980, showing the ways in which these candidates constructed lasting discourses of political religion and signaled the emergence of a new religious era in presidential politics. Finally, I observe the legacy of the 1980 presidential election, offering lessons from it to inform what appears to be the present dawn of a new religious era in American politics.