Here are two NYT reviews of Kevin Phillips's new book, American Theocracy (by Michiko Kakutani and Alan Brinkley, respectively).
Reading these reviews, one thing troubles me. Phillips makes a three-pronged at current conservative politics—it has placed religious extremism, petro-politics, and debt at or very near the foundation of the party's energy and power. These are fairly facile criticisms, which led me to think that perhaps Phillips dazzles us all at the end and ties them together, showing how they depend on one another for their importance or at least how they relate one to another, likely showing how "theocracy" factors into all three. However, no mention of such a conclusion is made, and I doubt it is in deference to the reader's suspense.
I'm not sure one can tie these three elements together, a fact which is perplexing me. Important elements in large ideologies do not need to cohere perfectly, but the success of an ideology depends greatly on people's ability to relate different aspects or manifestations of that ideology to one another more or less simplistically.
I cannot link Christ, oil, and debt to one another in any convincing way that doesn't depend on superficial relations, such as Christ and oil sharing the Middle East. Exxon's profit margin does not, I think, explain why many Red Staters think that abortions should be criminalized. Debt, furthermore, seems to be awfully incongruous with both the Protestant Ethic and the oilman's head for business.
Perhaps I am wrong and all three fit together very nicely. I can't see it, though, and the radical incongruities I see make me wonder what the hell is really going on.
More: TPMCafe is having a week-long book club discussion of Phillips's book. The best discussion so far is, I think, this: "Are we a Christian nation? Will we be at the end of the 21st Century?"