Matt Lewis

Evangelicals and the betrayal of American conservatism

In his new book, “From Billy Graham to Sarah Palin: Evangelicals and the Betrayal of American Conservatism,” D.G. Hart, author and professor of history at Hillsdale College, explores the impact evangelicals have had on conservatism.

Starting in the late 1970s, large numbers of evangelicals became politically active for the first time in their lives. Others — who had grown disenchanted with Jimmy Carter’s presidency (including Rep. Michele Bachmann) — switched their allegiance to the GOP.

This large influx of political neophytes immediately swelled GOP ranks, helping lead to the election of Ronald Reagan as president. But it also had long-term (and potentially negative) consequences — redefining what it meant to be a conservative. Some observers blame the rise of the Religious Right for ushering in an era of anti-intellectual, conservative populism.

Regardless of where you come down on the debate, it is a fascinating topic. You can listen to my full conversation with author D.G. Hart here.