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Building Back Better: Joe Biden, Civil Religion, and the Struggle to Rebuild the Vital Center

Fri, November 3, 2:15 to 3:45pm, Omni Parker Mezzanine, Gardener Room


In the 2020 presidential election Joe Biden had two key campaign messages: that this
election was a fight for the soul of America, and that he would help America “Build Back Better.”
These two slogans are generally treated separately, especially when after winning the election Biden
put forward Build Back Better (BBB) as a set of legislative proposals. In this paper, I argue that the
BBB is about more than policy, it is about America’s Civil Religion (ACR). Using evidence from
several Biden speeches, including his inaugural address and “Soul of the Nation” address on the eve
of the 2022 midterms, I show that BBB is about rebuilding the ACR as the via media in American