\(newer readers are SMART PROGRESSIVE INVOLVED INFLUENTIAL GOOD LOOKING 39 are \(5’1 erver aaverasers r Get noticed by Texas Observer folks all over the state and nation. Let them know about your bookstore, service, restaurant, non-profit organization, event, political candidate, shoe store, coffee house, boutique, salon, yoga studio, law practice, etc. ADVERTISE IN THE OBSERVER! REASONABLE RATES GREAT EXPOSURE Ca11 512-477-0746 and ask for Julia Austin or e-mail [email protected] ke g , 06seruer recOersr Consider advertising your business or non-profit in the Observer. GOOD FOR YOU GOOD FOR THE OBSERVER Phillips looked into the future and saw that a backlash against civil rights legislation would lead Southern voters into a new Republican coalition. By the time the book was published in 1969, it was also clear that leftist revolutionaries in the streets would further alienate middle Americans from liberalism. Phillips was one of the architects of Richard Nixon’s victory in 1968, and when Nixon won reelection resoundingly in 1972, Phillips’ thesis of a new Republican majority in presidential politics looked prescient. When Republican strength was consolidated in the Reagan years, it was confirmed. But once the Republican majority was firmly in place, Phillips didn’t much like what he saw. He decried the economics of the Reagan years in The Politics of Rich and Poor assaulted the alliance of both presidents Bush with the corporate elite in Wealth and Democracy American Dynasty American Theocracy, he surveys the effects of 40 years of mostly Republican rule. The question his book poses is whether the United States is heading for the fate of other empires that have crumbled in a heap of hubris. If so, he says, the GOP coalition he once championed “will share in the ignominy.” This is really three books rolled into one, and only the middle third is about the influence of the religious right. Phillips sees three perils to American power in the 21st century: an energy economy and foreign policy that requires a doomed “petro -imperialism;” a rise in conservative Christian power that has turned the GOP into “America’s first religious party;” and the transition from a productive, manufacturing-based economy into one dominated by a “debt-and-credit industrial complex.” The author’s analysis turns time and again to the factors that caused the decline of imperial power in Rome, in 17th century Spain, in 18th century Netherlands, and in Great Britain after 1914. In each case, Phillips sees parallelsimperial overreach, fervent religion, and precarious debt go arm in arm with decline. Despite the title, it isn’t really the specter of theocracy that worries Phillips. He says in his preface that a country as large and diverse as America “goes about as far in a theocratic direction as it can when it satisfies the unfortunate criteria on display in Washington circa 2005: An elected leader who believes himself in some way to speak for God, a ruling political party that represents religious true believers and seeks to mobilize the churches, the conviction of many voters in that Republican Party that government should be guided by religion, and on top of it all, White House implementation of domestic and international political agendas that seem to be driven by religious motivations and biblical worldviews. In his final chapter, Phillips suggests that “Evangelicalism under George W. Bush probably expanded to levels of adherence and belief that it will be unable to sustain much further into the twenty-first century.” Look what happened when the other great powers went through periods of religious fervor and then came to grips with not being God’s favored people. Spain, Holland, and Britain today are irreligious. “Organized religion did not profit from the great disillusionment when the various chosen peoples turned out not to be,” he writes. “It is not hard to imagine something similar happening in the United States by 2030 or 2040 as two or three decades of cynicism claim religious as well as economic and political victims.” Most of the time it is hard to imagine America transformed into a land of tolerant, laid-back, nonbelievers. Instead of “the Texification of America,” as Phillips describes recent American politics, it would be the Eurofication of America. The United States would take its place as an equal to Britain, Spain, and the Netherlands. Dreams of dominion would have to be abandoned. But look on the bright side: We could still try democracy. Dave Denison is a former editor of The Texas Observer. 28 THE TEXAS OBSERVER OCTOBER 6, 2006
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