Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science

First Advisor's Name

Nicol C. Rae

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

John F. Stack, Jr.

Third Advisor's Name

Lesley A. Northup

Fourth Advisor's Name

Kevin A. Hill

Date of Defense



President Jimmy Carter once said, “I had a different way of governing.” In attempting to explain what he meant by this, Carter has been variously described as a political amateur, a trustee, a non-political politician, an “active-positive” president, and a forerunner of the 1990s’ New Democrats. It is argued here, however, that mere secular descriptions and categories such as these do not adequately capture the essence of Carter’s brand of politics and his understanding of the presidency.

Rejecting Richard Neustadt’s prescriptions for effective presidential leadership, Carter thought political bargaining and compromise were “dirty” and “sinful.” He deemed the ways of Washington as “evil,” and considered many, if not most, career politicians immoral. While he fully supported the institutional separation of church and state, politics for Carter was about “doing right,” telling the truth, and making the United States and the world “a better demonstration of what Christ is.” Like two earlier Democrats, William Jennings Bryan and Woodrow Wilson, Carter understood politics as an alternative form of Christian ministry and service. In this regard, Carter was a presidential exception.

Carter’s evangelical faith gave his politics meaning, skill, vision, and a framework for communication. Using Fred Greenstein’s categories of presidential leadership, Carter’s faith provided him with “emotional intelligence”, too. However, Carter’s evangelical style provoked many of his contemporaries, including many of his fellow Democrats. To his critics at home and abroad, Carter was often accused of being arrogant, stubborn, naive, and ultimately a political failure. But as evinced by his indispensable role in negotiating peace between Israel and Egypt, his leadership style also provided him some remarkable achievements.

The research here is based on a thorough examination of President Carter’s many writings, his public papers, interviews, and opinion pieces. Written accounts from former Carter administration officials and from Israeli and Egyptian participants at Camp David are also used. This project is largely descriptive, qualitative in approach, but quantitative data are used when appropriate and as supplements.





Rights Statement

Rights Statement

In Copyright. URI:
This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).