Degree Year

2019

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

Politics

Advisor(s)

Michael D. Parkin
H.N. Hirsch

Committee Member(s)

Cynthia R. Chapman

Keywords

Democrats, Christianity, Narrative, Morality, Emotion, Affect contagion

Abstract

The conventional wisdom in American politics associates Christian appeals with the Republican Party. However, the fact is, many prominent Democratic politicians identify as Christian along with many Democratic voters. This paper draws upon extant research in political psychology to propose a theory of how Christian appeals from Democratic politicians might positively influence liberal voters’ political decision-making. The first section provides a brief overview of Christian social activism in the United States in order to establish the compatibility between progressivism and Christianity throughout American history. The second section outlines the theory that proposes how Democratic politicians could use Christian appeals to craft moral narratives in order to catalyze emotional reactions in liberal voters that might positively impact their attitudes towards Democratic candidates. Finally, the third section further explicates the theory via case studies of Christian appeals in the rhetoric of Barack Obama, John Kerry, and Hillary Clinton. The first case study is congruent with the theory, while the second and third case studies demonstrate the potential effectiveness of Christian appeals even in the absence of certain theoretical elements.

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