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The Perils and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century

by Kevin Phillips

Pub Date: March 21st, 2006
ISBN: 0-670-03486-X
Publisher: Viking

A dazzling treatise on the collapse of Republican virtues under the fundamentalists and plutocrats united in the perfect storm of Bushism.

Phillips (American Dynasty, 2004, etc.), the apostate former Republican strategist, once coined the term “Sun Belt” and envisioned the Southernization of American politics. He is now in the unhappy position of bearing witness to the birth of a Texas-fried, small-tent politics that blends religious orthodoxy and unwavering uncertainty in presidential infallibility with an economics predicated on indebtedness and extraction. The red state/blue state schism marks several old divides, he holds, one between “a preference for conspicuous consumption over energy efficiency and conservation,” one between secularism and theocracy. Why would a good American encourage the latter? Well, a certain school holds that the Second Coming will not be triggered until theocratic rule is established in this most divinely favored of countries, after which, presumably, it will be up to the damned to sort through the ugly business of paying the debts and filling the tanks. Many of these divides are very old, Phillips observes, between “greater New England and the South”—save the polar reversal of the South now being Republican, the Northeast Democratic. As to the manifold manifestations of theocracy, few are subtle: Consider the Schiavo case, and unprecedented federal meddling in science education (with the executive’s expressing a clear preference for so-called “intelligent design”), and the endless effort to undo various civil liberties. And the financialization of America? Again, writes Phillips, it’s not subtle: “Never before have political leaders urged . . . large-scale indebtedness on American consumers to rally the economy,” to say nothing of an economy based on servicing debt rather than making anything useful—and, of course, on ever-scarcer oil.

Other credit-happy theocracies, like Inquisition Spain, went bankrupt, collapsed under their own weight, disappeared from influence and view. Phillips’s historical essay/polemic is provocative, though plenty of folks in Houston—to say nothing of Washington—won’t like it at all.