Please note the new date and time: MONDAY, MARCH 18 at 12:00 PM


A discussion of Diane Winston's new book, Righting the American Dream: How the Media Mainstreamed Reagan’s Evangelical Vision (University of Chicago Press, 2023). The author will be joined in conversation by Darren Dochuk (University of Notre Dame) and Lerone A. Martin (Stanford University), moderated by Kamy Akhavan (USC). Co-organized by the USC Center for the Political Future. Registration is required: REGISTER HERE


About the Book: A provocative new history of how the news media facilitated the Reagan Revolution and the rise of the religious Right.


After two years in the White House, an aging and increasingly unpopular Ronald Reagan looked like a one-term president, but in 1983 something changed. Reagan spoke of his embattled agenda as a spiritual rather than a political project and cast his vision for limited government and market economics as the natural outworking of religious conviction. The news media broadcast this message with enthusiasm, and white evangelicals rallied to the president’s cause. With their support, Reagan won reelection and continued to dismantle the welfare state, unraveling a political consensus that stood for half a century.


In Righting the American Dream, Diane Winston reveals how support for Reagan emerged from a new religious vision of American identity circulating in the popular press. Through four key events—the “evil empire” speech, AIDS outbreak, invasion of Grenada, and rise in American poverty rates—Winston shows that many journalists uncritically adopted Reagan’s religious rhetoric and ultimately mainstreamed otherwise unpopular evangelical ideas about individual responsibility. The result is a provocative new account of how Reagan together with the press turned America to the right and initiated a social revolution that continues today.


About the Author:  Diane Winston is Professor of Journalism and Communication and Knight Center Chair in Media and Religion. Winston is a Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist, author, and columnist. She has authored and edited numerous books on the connection between religion, media, American history, and politics. They include Red-Hot and Righteous: The Urban Religion of the Salvation Army (1999), Faith in the Market: Religion and the Rise of Urban Commercial Culture (2002), Small Screen, Big Picture: Television and Lived Religion (2009), The Oxford Handbook of Religion and the News Media (2012), and Religion and Reality TV: Faith in Late Capitalism (2018). Her latest book – Righting the American Dream: How the Media Mainstreamed Reagan’s Evangelical Vision (2023) — reveals how the Reagan presidency utilized news media to spread a new religious vision of American identity, one which continues to influence politics, including the rise of Trumpism and Christian nationalism.


Open to attendants outside of USC. An excerpt of the book will be made available to registered attendants. Registration before the event is required. 


Levan Institute for the Humanities Book Chats


This event is part of the Levan Institute for the Humanities' “Book Chats” series, conversations about new books published by USC scholars in the humanities and humanistic social sciences. To see more events in this series, including recordings of past events, visit

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