Saturday, April 08, 2006

Arrogant Capital

With all the attention that Kevin Phillips has gotten in recent years for his books documenting the religio-aristocratic turn of American government, you might want to search your used book stores for a book he wrote about a decade ago, Arrogant Capital. With his eye for the unique twist on the way things are as they are, he looks at D.C. from the perspective of past imperial capitals and sees much the same going on. As he detailed the trend of conservative populism that came to dominate our politics in The Emerging Republican Majority, he early on caught the inbred corruption of the sycophants and opportunists, the criminals and the mediocraties who are now so unfortunately visible to the rest of us more naive viewers. The book is a nice accompaniment to his more recent works, explaining why hoping for D.C. to recognize and resolve the problems of wealth, theocracy, and resources that he outlines is so, well, naive. The previous arrogant capitals didn't save their nations' standing. Look at the folks inhabiting ours and pick the ones who will save ours.

I worked in D.C. for several years before escaping. I had gone there skeptical of the reality of an "inside the beltway" mentality. It was probably just parochial jealously from outside observers. How out-of-touch could those people really be? I got there just in time for the Lewinsky travesty and saw up close the politician/party hack/pundit fellatio that constitutes discourse there, saw the self-impressed, self-deluded conventional wisdom that was also so conveniently self-serving and self-enriching. Too many of those folks were too convinced of their specialness. Why? Because they were operators in the capital. They truly did make a world of their own, a world where the Delays and Gingrichs are allowed power, where the McCains and Powells are seen as noble, where the Matthews and O'Reillys are given attention, where the Liebermans and Bidens, the Bayhs and Obamas are seen as reasonable in the face of imperial power grabs. Only arrogance can create a capital so delusional, and so threatening to a nation and its neighbors. Phillips captured that a decade ago while the rest of us were still credulous or doubting. I've long since repented. I recommend Arrogant Capital to other converts or those just on the cusp. It's worth your time.