Scott Poole, an associate professor of history at the College of Charleston, is author of Satan in America: The Devil We Know and Monsters in America: Our Historical Obsession with the Hideous and the Haunting. His website is Monsters in America.
Satan has had an awfully good 2014. He might get a statue on the grounds of the Oklahoma State Capitol. Actually, he probably won’t, but the New York-based Satanic Temple has proposed to have the goat-headed image of Baphomet built so that it can be seen by all visitors to the state’s seat of government.
Americans have always believed that the devil likes to play politics. Colonial leader Henry Hugh Brackenridge claimed in 1778 that Satan inspired George III’s allegedly ruthless policy toward the colonies. Two decades later, Federalists claimed that the nascent Democratic Party had put forward the antichrist as a presidential candidate in the form of Thomas Jefferson. Later Jedidiah Morse, inventor of Morse code and end-times enthusiast, explained to audiences the Devil’s role in Jeffersonianism. He even claimed to have a list of Democrats who belonged to the Illuminati (though like Joe McCarthy, Morse never showed anyone his proof).
The History Channel miniseries The Bible has been alleged to continue this trend.