Mark Silk of the Greenberg Center of Religion and Politics (whose blog is here) sent me this link to his provocative piece, an extended version of a talk at the Sunstone Symposium last year, and part of a project he's considering for a short book-length work in the future. He considers the revival of restorationism in contemporary evangelical life, its influence with Mormonism, and its impact on the evangelical and Mormon place within contemporary conservative politics. A little excerpt here, and Silk is interested in reactions and other ideas.
Why have evangelicals and Mormons become the GOP’s most devout supporters?
With respect to the evangelicals, the usual answer is that the embrace of civil rights by the national Democratic Party after World War II drove white Southerners—who constitute a large portion of the evangelical vote—into the GOP. But while Southern evangelicals did come to feel alienated from national Democratic tickets, it was not until 1980 that they began to turn to the GOP at the state and local level, and by that time overt race-based politics had become a thing of the past.
As for the Mormons, the answer is that they are simply conservative folks who would naturally flock to the Republican banner. But that begs the question. Through the 1970s, the Democratic banner was planted well to the left of where it is now, yet many Mormons retained their allegiance to the party of Bryan and FDR.
For a sufficient explanation, it is necessary to recognize the importance of the idea of restoration in contemporary conservatism.
During the presidency of Ronald Reagan, the Republican Party became committed to taking America back to an imagined past of traditional moral, economic, and political values. How this happened and why it proved so appealing to evangelicals and Mormons cannot be understood apart from the restorationism embedded in both religious communities.
In the broad sweep of Christian history, there have been various times when reformers sought to reanimate the faith by fostering a return to the days of the Apostles or of the Early Church. The Protestant Reformation, especially, was committed to such a vision, doing away with what were considered unwarranted Catholic accretions to the faith.