I don't usually write about books here, instead I usually end up reviewing something important and deep, like the latest episode of The Apprentice. But I have to make an exception after reading the book review in today's Times about Kevin Phillips' newest work, "American Theocracy."
Phillips is an interesting character. He used to be a die-hard Republican, and is widely credited with helping mastermind the GOP's Southern strategy, the odious (and successful) move to lure the racist southern whites, who were unhappy that the Democratic party had become the party of civil rights, over to the Republican side.
Of course, the two parties, at one time, were almost the mirror images of where they are today, with the Republicans (the party of Lincoln, after all), being more enlightened about race relations, and the Dems, the party of the old South, fighting civil rights tooth and nail.
It started changing in the 1960s, and when Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, he is supposed to have turned to his aides and said, “Boys, we've just lost the South for a generation.” And of course, he was right. Those southern racists started flocking to the Republican party, and today the GOP basically has a lock on the South's Electoral College votes. Sad.
Anyway, I digress. Phillips was one of the masterminds of the strategy implemented first by Richard Nixon to atttract those southern racists, and the GOP politicians started using code words like state's rights and affirmative action, and sometimes got outright obnoxious, as when Ronald Reagan kicked off his election campaign in Philadelphia, Miss., at the Neshoba County Fair, an annual gathering that was famous for its diatribes by segregationist politicians. In office, Reagan would also often rail against “welfare queens.” Everyone knew what that meant.
Anyway, over the years, Phillips, perhaps feeling some sort of guilt at what he helped unleash, has turned against the GOP, and has written several books harshly criticizing that evil party.
And, according to the Times review, "American Theocracy" is “an examination of the religious right and its influence on the current administration — to anatomize a host of economic, political, military and social developments that Mr. Phillips sees as troubling indices of the United States' coming decline.”
Regular readers of this blog know my feeling towards the Christian right, so, needless to say, the book sounds to me like it's going to be a great read.
According to Michiko Kakutani's review, Phillips analyses five symptoms of "a power already at its peak and starting to decline" - and tell me these symptoms don't sound like the sorry state this country is in today:
1) "widespread public concern over cultural and economic decay," along with social polarization and a widening gap between rich and poor.
2)"growing religious fervor" manifested in a close state-church relationship and escalating missionary zeal
3) "a rising commitment to faith as opposed to reason and a corollary downplaying of science"
4) "considerable popular anticipation of a millennial time frame"
5) "hubris-driven national strategic and military overreach" in pursuit of "abstract international missions that the nation can no longer afford, economically or politically."
Added to these symptoms, Phillips writes, is a sixth one, almost too obvious to state: high debt, which can become "crippling in its own right."
According to the review, Phillips places the U.S. in the same condition former great empires, like the British and the Romans were, before they began to decline. He's got it pegged. The question, now, is will the country wake up and realize that the current gang in power is driving this country into such decline, or will they continue to be more concerned about the wedge issues the Republicans specialize in using to gin up concern among the red staters - abortion and gay rights and race relations.
I guess we'll find out in the November Congressional elections. I know the polls look good right now, but I'm not optimistic for our future.
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