Princeton Election Consortium

A first draft of electoral history. Since 2004

Politics & Polls #18: The Religious Right

October 29th, 2016, 8:20am by Sam Wang


Since the 1970s, the religious right has been an important part of the Republican coalition. This year, this group has tied itself to Donald Trump. (Note to time travelers from the past: yes, it’s true.) Julian Zelizer and I talked about this group with our colleague Kevin Kruse, a professor of history who studies 20th-century America, with particular focus on the making of modern conservatism. Listen!

Tags: Politics

7 Comments so far ↓

  • Amitabh Lath

    Happy Diwali.

    Very interesting talk, especially the bit about Clinton’s Methodist leanings. Glad it wasn’t just about Republican evangelicals.

    I kept waiting for an explanation of the racial divide in evangelism. It got mentioned a couple of times, but never explored. If white evangelicals are fine with heterodoxy since they embraced Romney. So why is there still such a schism with black evangelicals?

    In fact the group diagonalizes much more cleanly along the race axis than any issue (social justice, abortion, LGBT rights…).

    So at some point we have to admit it’s culture, not faith, that people are using to self-identify.

    • Sam Wang

      Race and culture, yes – but in the case of whites, education can apparently overcome the divide somewhat. See the graph that goes with my piece in the Sunday NYT.

      Happy Diwali!

    • Ed Wittens Cat

      Evo Theory of Culture 101
      Race trumps (lol) religion.
      Society and culture (like Sams point on education) can mitigate this somewhat.
      One reason Islam is so feared by xianity is that Muhammed made an explicit effort to break down racial discriminates in the establishment of the Ummah.

    • Amitabh Lath

      Yes, white voters with no college degrees do show a clear effect (except from 1992-1996).

      So then the question becomes, what is it about a college education that breaks this worldview? Is it mingling with other races? But the military does that, so do we see this divide in whites with military experience vs. no military?

      Or is there something about Peloponnesian War, the Krebs cycle, or the hydrogen wavefunction that somehow breaks this tribalism?

      Or maybe the ones who go get an education were somehow different anyway and we are confusing correlation with causation.

    • Ed Wittens Cat

      Amitabh, I think its social complex adaptive system dynamics and we have just just begun to study that…education is only one parameter– but maybe the most deterministic one?
      ur point abt the military is interesting– i wonder if the polarizations run through the armed services– if there are any studies. In one sense its forced acculturation– soldiers have to be *trained* to kill– maybe they are *trained* to accept diversity in their comrades.

    • Jay Sheckley

      Mr Lath, I always read your informed comments with interest. You write,”it’s culture, not faith, that people are using to self-identify”. But a differential diagnosis remains difficult. Is Faith about doing as asked in Matthew? Or is it about the importance of “Faith not works”? You write:”I kept waiting for an explanation of the racial divide in evangelism”. Perhaps I can help.
      After a possibly race-related trauma, I self-medicated by joining two African Methodist Episcopal church choirs. Also, my oldest –well, longest– friend is less educated, and a 24/7 evangelical who identifies as white. (Though pale and blue-eyed, I identify as Other, Mixed or, when offered, Jewish.)
      Itoo puzzled over the Yuge gap between interpretations of the bible by these two groups. In brief, it seems to me that the African Methodist Epicopals focus on Christ’s message per se (as one would see in a red letter bible, which Catholics use but don’t much read, but the black church doesnt AFIK use red letter bibles per se), whereas my 24/7 devotee friend [whom JoeMyGod.com would call Christianist) revels in her hugely "Amplified Bible", embellished as if is by long treatises into the Greek language and the intentions of Paul of Tarsus, the one apostle who never met Jesus outside of a vision and could be considered the first rebrander of that faith.
      And what is faith? What is its import and function compared to Jesus' edict to care for The Least of Men? This all-important emphasis _is_ taught, it is culture. In the case of the educated, and those who resoect education, culture is reading. But White Evangelical culture is an _oral_ tradition, founded some historians say on notions propounded by early anti-Enlightenment traveling preachers, and championed by procorporate and pop media influences. Former presidential candidate Pat Robertson [look him up on wikipedia!] has owned the Christian Broadcasting Network for over 52 years, progressing in his Moral Majority goal to convert those he once called hellbound: “mainstream Christians”, Lutherans, Episcopals, Catholics, even Baptists. Jewish folk, if Robertson’s 90′s bestseller “The New World Order” is to be believed, conspire in things this Jewish Jersey Grrl has never heard of.
      When my friend joined The Lighthouse Ranch, an evangelical commune based at an abandoned lighthouse in Eureka California, she obeyed their precept not to indulge in anything that wasn’t “edifying” or “of the World” as opposed to religious. That meant listening to Pat Robertson, and later Fox News was fine, but perhaps that the New York Times (not her thing anyway) was not acceptable. More relevantly, it meant that when Robertson declared that God told him that Romney would be a
      2 term President, she would be open to that, whereas readers of this site would wonder how Robertson’s Called ID got it so terribly wrong.

      Running out of steam here, but I’m agreeing with (elaborating on?) Sam Wang’s reply to “Race and culture, yes – but in the case of whites, education can apparently overcome the divide somewhat”.

      Whether one believes JC was fictional, an historical figure, or combinations of real persons, many wish politically opposing Christians and Christianists would keep their story straight, prefably not praying in public for political and other gain as spoken again in Matthew 23.
      There certainly remains a question why some claim to have a New Convenant not based on “blood sacrifice like Judaism” [WTF??] but on the New Testament alone, yet insist on referring to proscriptions for which bed mats are to be used in Levite priest house rules [Leviticus] without paying any attention to thousands of years of Jewish commentary on these matters. Indeed, most modern Jewish folk hold to the tradition of the past 700 years of Rabbinal thought, discarding bashing and focusing on Micah, who, prefiguring the Christlike, asks,”What doth the Lord require of thee but to do justly, love mercy and walk humbly?” [Answer: Nada. Bupkis. Zilch.]

      A careful _reading_ would clear up much, but that doesn’t happen. Truly, if one respects the old testament _literally_ one notices discrepancies therein in included Genesis retellings, telling us the OT is our Greatest Hits, with “Spirit moving over the waters” as lovely as CGI. [And the flood tops all kids' complaints about rainy days.] This is why Genesis is taught as Literature in Israel. Show some respect, creationist museum-monger Ken Hamm.

      The question of education –and education even t Princeton is self-education– is also a question of literacy, and Yugely important in understanding today’s racial divide and Evangelism’s “culture of faith” which is so uninterested in Trayvon Martin and so interested in outlawing bringing on the period of rape victims even before a one cell oocycte can form and try to implant.

      So I was thrilled to hear at the Woocast’s tail end a mention that the Politics and Polls guest’s book is available at “actual bookstores.” Hallelujah!

      I close with links on Evangelicalism as _oral_ not written tradition:
      http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1016/0191-6599%2884%2990086-X?journalCode=rhei20

      ” Evangelical Christians and Popular Culture: Pop Goes the Gospel
      https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0313386552
      Robert H. Woods Jr. – 2013 – ‎Social Science
      30 In addition, most of the popular televangelists have been from the South, where oral culture is a better fit with the charismatic medium: Falwell, Joel Osteen”

      Media & Conservative Religious Culture https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=hZfe-exSVkoC&oi=fnd&pg=PR7&dq=evangelical+oral+culture&ots=QZTarIhIm0&sig=UrVChF7WHa9xV7RKuUEc7jskTNA#v=onepage&q&f=false

      I hope Dr Wang will post my serious fact-based comment

    • Matt McIrvin

      White evangelicalism is dominated by Southern churches that split from their less-popular Northern variants specifically over support for slavery, and, later, the Jim Crow regime.

      Fred Clark has written a lot about this.