Contrast the accomplishments of Presidents Reagan and Bush relative to evangelical religious ideals.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I am going to make the presumption that we are examining the concept of social policy with regards to the two term Presidents of Reagan and Bush.  I believe that both recognized the fundamental need to consolidate the conservative, religious right wing of the Republican party in order to ensure a steady flow of power support of their policies.  Both Presidents did not necessarily define themselves as "evangelical" first, but both Presidents recognized the need to ensure that the evangelical wing of the Republican Party supported them.  President Reagan understood the political capital of the evangelical enthusiasm.  Reagan's appeal to the reductive nature and strict understanding of evangelical social values enabled him to craft a message of simplicity and focus at a time when disorder and divergence were taking a toll on American social sensibilities.  Reagan's appointment of Supreme Court justices that reflected this perception as well as seeking to establish the War on Drugs and an attitude that "right is right" were all part of this.  In doing so, President Reagan keenly understood that embracing the social agenda of evangelical voters can serve be consistent with his messages and his ability to serve as "the Great Communicator."

For President Bush, the notion of "compassionate conservativism" stemmed from an alignment with the evangelical community.  President Bush understood that the emphasis on the idea stemmed from a belief that religious organizations, in particular Christian evangelical ones, would be critical in delivering on this message.  Such a notion of the good became evident in his own narrative, reflecting a redemption through evangelical faith.  This ends up resulting in two elements that become critical in the Bush Administration.  The first is a movement of the political dialogue closer to the religious one.  President Bush had little problem invoking religion "in the public square" as it was, and this pleased evangelicals for the religious views invoked were similar to their own.  The second is that President Bush drafted and defended policies whose intent helped to galvanize the evangelical wing of the Republican party.  Whereas Reagan understood how to display a support of the evangelical vote, enabling him to access their capital to pragmatically move wherever he needed to, President Bush fully embraced the evangelical notion of the political good on a political and spiritual level.

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