April 03, 2006
God’s Own Party

Now I’m really looking forward to reading Kevin Phillips’s new book, American Theocracy: The Perils and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century, a title that veritably rolls off the tongue.

Phillips, you’ll recall, has some credibility with the right due to his past contributions to Republicanism. His 1967 book The Emerging Republican Majority was a must read for early movement conservatives. In recent years he’s become a strong critic of the direction that movement has taken.

In his Washington Post article, “How the GOP Became God’s Own Party”, Phillips displays a bit of the zeal of a convert, but he makes some solid points.

The United States has organized much of its military posture since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks around the protection of oil fields, pipelines and sea lanes. But U.S. preoccupation with the Middle East has another dimension. In addition to its concerns with oil and terrorism, the White House is courting end-times theologians and electorates for whom the Holy Lands are a battleground of Christian destiny. Both pursuits — oil and biblical expectations — require a dissimulation in Washington that undercuts the U.S. tradition of commitment to the role of an informed electorate.

The political corollary — fascinating but appalling — is the recent transformation of the Republican presidential coalition. Since the election of 2000 and especially that of 2004, three pillars have become central: the oil-national security complex, with its pervasive interests; the religious right, with its doctrinal imperatives and massive electorate; and the debt-driven financial sector, which extends far beyond the old symbolism of Wall Street.

President Bush has promoted these alignments, interest groups and their underpinning values. His family, over multiple generations, has been linked to a politics that conjoined finance, national security and oil. In recent decades, the Bushes have added close ties to evangelical and fundamentalist power brokers of many persuasions.

You gotta admit, he calls ’em as he sees ’em.

The American heartland, from Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico to Ohio and the Appalachian coal states, has become (along with the onetime Confederacy) an electoral hydrocarbon coalition. It cherishes sport-utility vehicles and easy carbon dioxide emissions policy, and applauds preemptive U.S. airstrikes on uncooperative, terrorist-coddling Persian Gulf countries fortuitously blessed with huge reserves of oil.

Of the 99 requests at the SF library for a copy of his book, I’m number 58. The web site says they have seven copies, with two more on the way. So it will probably take two to four months for the book to reach me, at which point it won’t be the hot topic any more. I expect to blog about it anyway; for one thing, I’ll already know what lots of other people said, so maybe some new synthesis will present itself.

Anyone else interested in reading the book? If so, we could synchronize our reading of chapters and post a running conversation here at BA.

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at April 03, 2006 12:58 AM
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If you have an ipod, or a computer, or one of those other "newfangled" audio things, the unabridged book is available NOW as an audio download for $14.00 at audible.com ($9.95 if you're a member).
http://www.audible.com/adbl/store/amazonProduct.jsp?amazonCategory=product&productID=BK_PENG_000464&source_code=WSAZS01001102000

So if you commute a lot, this might be an ideal way to get it if you prefer the read to the written.

Otherwise, I don't see it available yet, at least on Amazon.

Posted by: Buck on April 3, 2006 8:51 AM

...and I see Barnes and Noble has a CD audio version available too!

I guess we are entering the age of the spoken rather than the printed word.

Oh well, my reading list is long, I probably won't get to it until next year anyway.

Posted by: Buck on April 3, 2006 8:55 AM

I am currently reading it and believe me it is worth the money and the time. For example, take this quote from the preface:
"No leading world power in modern memory has become a captive, even a partial captive, of the sort of biblical inerrancy -- backwater, not mainstream -- that dismisses modern knowledge and science. The last parallel was in the early seventeenth century, when the papacy, with the agreement of inquisitional Spain, disciplined the astronomer Galileo for saying that the sun, not the earth, was the center of our solar system."

Posted by: MadMatriarch on April 3, 2006 12:04 PM

Phillips can always be counted on to cover a topic thoroughly. The wade through "Wealth and Democracy" is worth the trip. It is, of course, an exhaustive, if not exhausting and detailed study of just how wealth has trickled up in America and who benefited from it. Who said that enlightenment would come cheap or easy? From the excerpts and reviews I've read, it's a safe bet that Phillips will cover "American Theocracy" from every angle.

I've also found it interesting that two former members of the Nixon administration —Phillips and John Dean —are now among the most lucid critics of the GOP.

Posted by: Len Hart on April 6, 2006 4:10 PM
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