Book Review: Kevin Phillips, American Theocracy

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American Theocracy :
The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century

by Kevin Phillips
Hardcover - 480 pages
First Edition, 2006
Published by Viking
ISBN 067003486X

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Book Review

It's not every day that a political strategist who once worked for the 1968 Nixon campaign and the Nixon administration changes his evil ways, and blows the whistle on the dangerous direction that the right wing has been pushing the country.

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Kevin Phillips ,
American Theocracy : The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century

In his 13th book, American Theocracy , historian Kevin Phillips cites the increased concentration of religious fundamentalism in the Republican Party to explain why America is "addicted" to oil and debt.

Why is the society this sedated about a dependence on a limited fossil fuel that is largely imported, and taking only token moves, too little and too late, to develop better energy and transportation methods? Why has society adopted a record high level in the ratio of government and household debt to the actual production levels of tangible goods, as if this economic bubble will never burst? In Phillips' view, it is because it doesn't really matter to certain powerful ideologues, if, as they profess to believe, the world is going to come to an end soon, and all the souls will have to face their final judgment before being consigned to heaven or hell, as described in the Book of Revelation.

About the Author

Kevin Phillips, a former Republican strategist, has been a political and economic commentator for more than three decades. He is currently a regular contributor to the Los Angeles Times and National Public Radio and also writes for Harper's Magazine and Time. He has written twelve books, including The New York Times bestsellers The Politics of Rich and Poor and Wealth and Democracy.

- From the Publisher

"The rapture, end-times, and Armageddon hucksters in the United States rank with any Shiite ayatollahs," says Phillips in the preface, "and the last two presidential elections mark the transformation of the GOP into the first religious party in U.S. history."

Tentatively to borrow Phillips' terminology, the "religification" and "theological correctness (TC)" of the Republican Party may be a factor, and the "Taliban-like" sector in America, are not without blame. However, Phillips neglects the more significant cause of our social problems, in that we have an economic system in which the only job description of top management is to choose any means whatsoever to maximize profits, with not a word therein about having any concern for the planet or the population.

It never becomes quite clear to this reviewer why society's addition to oil and debt should be blamed on any sort of religious viewpoint. Corporations are nearsighted, and their managers think that the long-term future of humanity means the release of the forthcoming annual report to the stockholders. Corporate behavior echoes the famous words of Marie Antoinette, wife of Louis XVI -- "After us, the deluge." So much can be explained by the tendency to take the money and run, it seems that Phillips is exaggerating the significance of apocalyptic religion. When the madness of seeking short-term profits above all else is sufficient to explain what we observe, why cite the madness that is religion?

Table of Contents
American Theocracy : The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century , by Kevin Phillips
1. Fuel and National Power  
2. The Politics of American Oil Dependence  
3. Trumpets of American Democracy, Drums of Gasoline  
4. Radicalized Religion: As American as Apple Pie  
5. Defeat and Resurrection: The Southernization of America  
6. The United States in a Dixie Cup: The New Religious and Political Battlegrounds  
7. Church, State, and National Decline  
8. Soaring Debt, Uncertain Politics, and the Financialization of the United States  
9. Debt: History's Unlearned Lesson  
10. Serial Bubbles and Foreign Debt Holders: American Embarrassment and Asian Opportunity  
11. The Erring Republican Majority  
Afterword : The Changing Republican Presidential Coalition

Nevertheless, the author's viewpoint is valuable as an attractor for numerous data regarding the American ruling class and its manipulation of the political sphere. For example, the author rightly deduces the fact that the "disenlightenment" [a word from his book dedication] exhibited by the 2000 and 2004 elections has to be understood as the result of a coalition within the Republican Party that was launched chiefly from the states with the greatest connections to the oil and automobile industries, and from the defeated South of the Civil War -- the "sunbelt", as Phillips calls this region. When he was still a Nixonite, he somewhat accurately predicted the increasing dominance of this demographic in his 1969 book, The Emerging Republican Majority .

But the real question is why it is so. The nation is hooked on "borrowed prosperity" The government and its corporate rulers are behaving recklessly, according to Phillips, much like the decadent Roman empire and British empire. True conservatives, he says, are worried about the "suicidal" path selected by the "Bush dynasty", such as our oil addiction and the $40 trillion of U.S. government and household debt. In the author's view, our top two guys in the Executive branch, Bush and Cheney -- both of these gentlemen being offspring of the oil industry -- are not true conservatives.

Peak book sales for American Theocracy occurred in May of 2006, when it attained position #2 on the New York Times bestseller list for hardcover nonfiction.

Book review by Mike Lepore for

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American Theocracy : The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century
by Kevin Phillips

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Book Description from the Publisher

From America's premier political analyst, an explosive examination of the axis of religion, politics, and borrowed money that threatens to destroy the nation.

In his two most recent New York Times bestselling books, American Dynasty and Wealth and Democracy , Kevin Phillips established himself as a powerful critic of the political and economic forces that are ruling-and imperiling-the United States. Now, Phillips takes an uncompromising view of the political coalition, led by radical religion, that is driving America to the brink of disaster.

From Ancient Rome to the British Empire, Phillips demonstrates that every world-dominating power has been brought down by a related set of causes: a lethal combination of global over-reach, militant religion, resource problems, and ballooning debt. It is this same axis of ills that has come to define America's political and economic identity in the past decade. Military miscalculations in the Middle East, the surge of fundamentalist religion, the staggering national debt, the costs of U.S. oil dependence-together these factors are undermining our nation's security, solvency, and standing in the world. If left unchecked, the same forces will bring a debt- bloated, preachy, energy-starved America to its knees. With an eye on the past and a searing vision of the future, Phillips has written a book that no American can afford to ignore.

Reviews of the Author's Previous Book, American Dynasty

"[Phillips] is a deep thinker extraordinaire, who does a masterful job of connecting the military- industrial dots.... A searing indictment of the Bush Dynasty."

-- Douglas Brinkley, Mother Jones

"Devastating ... an important, troubling book that should be read everywhere with care, nowhere more so than in this city."

-- Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post Book World

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