Lots of context explained here. Much more info at the link.
Just before Christmas, George W. Bush traveled to North Carolina to pay a visit to the one man who, perhaps more than any other, made his political ascent possible: Billy Graham. But the aging evangelist’s contributions go far beyond simply helping 43 sober up and find Christ on a beach in Kennebunkport. As a charismatic young preacher in the post-war era, Graham galvanized southern evangelicals who had migrated to the Golden State. Socially conservative, business-friendly, a new political brew fermented in the cul-de-sacs of Southern California. The results: Yesterday’s religious right, today’s tea party, and the Reagan and Bush presidencies.
Historian Darren Dochuk explains the 50-year process in his new book, From Bible Belt to Sun Belt. Mother Jones spoke with Dochuk recently about Sarah Palin, the tea party, and the next Billy Graham.
MJ: Do we fixate too much on guys like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson?
DD: I think we do, and you can understand why; they make good soundbites and certainly they’re the most vocal and outspoken. And you do need to take them seriously, and certainly the press does and historians do. But what you’re missing is really the foundation of evangelicalism and evangelical conservatism, and that’s the people in the pews. And the businessmen, and boardroom politics. That’s really the power base of evangelical conservatism.
MJ: The guy who’s making tons of money at his business in Oklahoma and using it to finance a new college.
DD: Once you get into that, it’s really amazing the networks that exist and are created to support this entire system. And that’s the brilliance of conservative activism.
MJ: Your research coincided with the rise of the tea party movement. Do you see a connection between that and what you write about?
DD: I see a lot of similarity, and perhaps that’s sort of a fallback for historians. But I think back to 1978 and how it wasn’t necessarily abortion or social issues that galvanized evangelical conservatives; it was tax issues. They’re every bit as concerned about taxation as they are with politics of the body. Today we look at the tea party and many pundits tend to accentuate the divide within the tea party between fiscal and social conservatives, but in reality I think there’s more continuity there than anything, and evangelical conservatives are the bridge between those two.
More at Mother Jones…