The persuasive strategies employed by the Moral Majority in the early 1980s reassured and calmed a segment of the American population left confused and uncertain by recent national events. David Swball analyzes this powerful movement, how its rhetoric energized its supporters, the positions it endorsed and causes it championed, and its response to political and media critics. By examining the fundamental messages, the tactics used, and the personalities involved, the study reveals that, while the basic message of the Moral Majority remained constant, its changing popular image and maturing rhetoric, which initially added momentum to its rapid rise, may also have been at the root of its swift decline by the end of the decade. While tracing the movement's origins, Swball investigates in-depth the American people's reaction to the influence of the Moral Majority. He subsequently reviews its founding tenets and the language typically used to encourage its disciples. A look at the specific issues which polarized critics and followers exposes the reasons for the movement's collapse and poses questions regarding its future. Although the primary focus of this study is the history of the Moral Majority, the analysis also provides valuable insight into the nature of the American political system's response to religiously-motivated movements in general.
DAVID SNOWBALL is Assistant Professor in the Department of Speech Communication at Augustana College.