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Jimmy Carter: The Re-emergence of Faith-Based Politics and the Abortion Rights Issue


  • AUTHOR's NOTE: We would like to thank Professor Tony Badger, Master of Clare College, University of Cambridge, UK, for providing generative comments in connection with this article. Research for this article was supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Board.

Andrew R. Flint is lecturer in American History at University of Wales, Swansea, UK.

Joy Porter is lecturer in the Department of American Studies at the University of Wales, Swansea, UK. She is the author of To Be Indian: The Life of Seneca-Iroquois Arthur Caswell Parker, 1881-1955 and editor, with Kenneth Roemer, of The Cambridge Companion to Native American Literature.


This article will extend the current re-evaluation of the Carter presidency through a detailed examination of the enduring impact of his evangelical Christian faith upon modern American political discourse. Carter successfully reawakened faith-based politics but, because his faith did not exactly mirror the religious and political agenda of the disparate groups that make up the religious conservative movement within the United States, that newly awakened force within American politics ultimately used its power to replace him with Ronald Reagan, a president who more carefully articulated their agenda. As this article will show, the key issue that marked the intrusion of highly contentious religious-cultural issues into the political debate was abortion. This issue was emblematic of both the engagement of religious conservatives in political life in this period and of the limitations of Carter as their authentic political agent.