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Moral Victories in the Battle for Congress: Cultural Conservatism and the House GOP, Marty Cohen

Reviewed by Jacob R. Neiheisel

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The basic story of evangelical Christians’ transformation from a group that was relatively quiescent in the political arena into one that would become a major part of the Republican Party’s coalition has been told numerous times. What sets Marty Cohen’s book on the subject, Moral Victories in the Battle for Congress, apart from much of what has come before is its focus on congressional elections and its somewhat novel application of a now familiar “bottom-up” approach to understanding party change. This approach diverges sharply in many respects from more traditional “top-down” or “conflict extension” perspectives on the political incorporation of religious and cultural conservatives that carve out a central role for party elites or ambitious politicians. Cohen begins by documenting the rise in mentions of moral issues in congressional races through a careful coding of expert evaluations of the dynamics at work in each race. This is a reasonable approach that, as might be expected, demonstrates that moral issues began to gain prominence in congressional races among candidates in both parties after the Christian right arrived on the scene in the early 1990s.

From there, Cohen sets out to explore how this might have been achieved through a series

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