March 30, 2006


The Erring Republican Authority: Kevin Phillips is wrong about everything. Why is he taken so seriously? (Jacob Weisberg, March 29, 2006, , Slate)

Phillips' declinism relies on fatuous anti-market prejudices familiar from his earlier work: that a healthy economy must be based in manufacturing, that free trade and globalization impoverish us, that foreign ownership is treacherous, that industrial policy works, and that a robust financial sector means trouble.

The hostility to Wall Street implicit in the last notion is part and parcel of a condescending, aristo-populism that recalls Gore Vidal without the twinkle. In the Phillips worldview, plutocrats exploit the American proletariat, which supports the policies that keep it miserable out of false consciousness—the poor hicks actually believe Christ is coming to save them. But any potential Marxist rigor swiftly dissipates into a haze of Syriana—paranoia about the Bush dynasty and the CIA, Skull and Bones, the House of Saud, and the discredited October Surprise conspiracy. Have I mentioned that Phillips is an appalling writer? His prose is cliché-ridden, self-referential, maddeningly repetitive, and dull enough to kill weeds.

Once upon a time, Kevin Phillips crunched a lot of numbers to give shrewd, if cynical, political advice to Republicans about capitalizing on white fear of black people. Since switching sides, he has proposed various ways for the liberals to knock down the conservative majority he helped to build. Democrats would be wise to beware of geeks bearing such gifts.

Holy Colgate alumnus, Batman! Why didn't we see it before? Mr. Philiips was the first Rovebot, programmed to give Democrats really awful advice about adopting Pat Buchanan's politics.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 30, 2006 9:31 PM
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