Creating a Conservative Religio-Political Community as an anti-Reform Block: Proposal for Ethnographic and Historical Research

Paul Lichterman, University of Southern California

Tenacious evangelical Protestant support has been considered one of the factors enabling the Trump presidency to break through democracy’s guardrails. Researchers and commentators often argue that an alignment between evangelical beliefs and conservatively framed political issues or group interests explains the support even for a glaringly impious President. This paper offers a proposal for a different, ethnographic and historical approach that takes a performative rather than propositional approach to religion. It asks how evangelicals accomplish a conservative Christian political subjectivity in everyday settings. The paper hypothesizes a several decades-long process, partly orchestrated but also partly emergent, that has produced a conservative religio-political “bloc” from the organizer’s point of view, and a distinct form of political community. Republican Party strategies to produce a voting block by deploying hot-button moral issues are well documented; I suggest that common styles of interaction in evangelical group settings, a slow change in “institutional articulation strategies,” and the spread of “repositioned religion” have made the synthesis of conservative religion and conservative politics meaningful as a form of political community to some evangelicals.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 2. The Dynamics of Political Reform Failure