As I laid out back in 2017 and refined for my recent article in First Things, I divide the period from the 1960s to today into three phases distinguished by the way official American cultural viewed Christianity: the positive, neutral, and negative worlds.
Aaron, could you direct me to the particular deregulation that happened so I can understand it better?
The 1989 vs 1994 start date for 'neutral world' is a good question. I was in grad school in the last couple of years of the 80s, in the humanities, and I could see that the tide was turning fast at that point -- postmodernist theory was rampant, with established, more traditionally viewpoint-neutral (i.e. modernist) academics slammed back on their heels by this aggressive new approach. These years also saw the first significant wave of 'political correctness' -- which was closely akin to identity-obsessed postmodernism -- wash over the academy.
The biggest effect these pomo/PC types at this time had on the shift from positive to neutral world was their calling into question/suspicion any kind of religious commitment, especially (obviously) Christian faith. You believe in God? Well, what about the patriarchal oppression of women in Bible and the churches? Isn't the Christian narrative just a cover story for the exercise of white people's power over other races? And so on.
What's interesting is that this first surge of pomo/PC seemed to recede somewhat over the 1990s, before building back up fast into today's 'cancel culture'. The standard explanation is that they pushed too hard, too fast, and that there was some backlash. Or maybe it took some time for the poisonous tree already deeply rooted in the academy to spread its seeds more widely in politcs and popular culture, and then for those seeds to sprout and grow.
I am only 15 minutes in and won't get to finish the interview until later, so maybe this is addressed. I agree with your framework on the political scandals, but the sheer volume of political sex scandals from time of Gary Hart to Trump contributed to this public shift. How much of the public was unaware of this before the dam broke on the media keeping this stuff under wraps up until the Clinton years? There is also the fact that by the time Trump came along, every major party nominee for President from 1992 was either divorced or it was known that he had cheated on his wife, with the exception of Obama and Romney. George W. Bush may not have cheated after marriage but was upfront about being reckless in his personal life up until then. For Republican voters in particular, asking them to hold this against Trump when the Democrats weren't about to hold it against the Clintons and the Trump hating establishment had tried to force a moral degenerate like John McCain on them was no longer going to work.
Incredible writing, as always!