One of the most interesting elections I remember was the 1976 campaign that led to the election of ?born again? candidate, Jimmy Carter. Randy Balmer, in his God in the White House, says this: ?Abetted by the political chicanery of Richard Nixon and his minions, by the dark depravity of Watergate and the ignominy of Vietnam, Carter burst onto the scene at precisely the moment when Americans were searching for a kind of savior, someone to lead them out of the wilderness of shame and corruption to the promised land of redemption and rehabilitation? (79).
In general, it was an evangelical crowd that tipped in Carter?s favor and it was also an evangelical crowd that leaned in the other direction in 1980 to usher the Reagan era in.
After a short career in the US Navy, Carter returned home to run his father?s peanut farm and teach Sunday School class. As a result of Brown v. Board of Education, Carter became politically active and resisted segregation. He ran for senator; then for governor. He lost the governor election, had a spiritual experience through his sister Ruth Carter Stapleton, and formed a ?more intimate relationship with Christ? (85). It was during this time that he had his famous Lock Haven experience of closeness with Christ and evangelism. He then won governorship and followed through with is promises.
The New South perspective ? progressive-minded who fought segregation ? led Carter into candidacy for President and beat Gerald R. Ford. It was about this time that Carter was interviewed by Playboy, in which interview he confessed to his lust and adultery in his heart. WA Criswell ? whom Balmer manages to bring into the picture in several incidents in this chp ? was ?highly offended? by the Carter interview.
His Presidency begins with affirming the prophet Micah and it was his commitment to the principles of human rights. Balmer then digresses into a discussion of the rise of the Religious Right, which (as he made clear in his previous book) did not arise as a result of the abortion issue (Roe v. Wade) but the invasion of the rights of religious institutions as seen in the Bob Jones decision (Green vs. Connally). Here he points to the paradox of the evangelical opposition to slavery in the 19th century flipped into a tacit defense of racial discrimination.
It was the politics of the Southern Baptist Convention, with the planned takeover led by Paige Patterson and Paul Pressler, that led to a shift on the part of the SBC on both the separation of Church and State and advocacy for Reagan.
Popular discontent with Carter, along with the bad hand Carter was played (which he played badly, according to Balmer), led to the demise of Carter and the election of Reagan. Much was going on: the LaHayes, Jerry Falwell, the SBC, Pat Robertson, etc etc, all coalesced into the election of Reagan. I call the ideology at this time, mixing evangelicalism with Republicanism, Reaganology.