The Secret of the Twentieth CenturynThe Politics of Rich and Poor:nWealth and the AmericannElectorate in thenReagan Aftermathnby Kevin PhillipsnNew York: Random House;n262 pp., $19.95nWhen Kevin Phillips’s The Politicsnof Rich and Poor hit thenbest-seller list last summer, the Gipperitesnbegan to squeal like a worn-out fannbelt in a used Toyota. “Anti-Reagannsophistry,” sneered David Brock of thenHeritage Foundation in the Wall StreetnJournal. “A book-length tantrum,”nwept Warren Brookes in the WashingtonnTimes. “Garbage,” pronouncednRepublican wheeler-dealer EddienMahe. “I refuse to read that fraud’snbook,” declared GOP consultant JohnnBuckley in what must have been one ofnthe more honest comments on Mr.nPhillips’s most recent contribution tonscholarship.nSuch, of course, is the predictablenreception of a book proposing ideasnSamuel Francis is deputy editorialnpage editor of the WashingtonnTimes.nby Samuel Francisn”In politics, what begins in fear usually ends in folly.”n— S.T. Coleridgenand advancing arguments that cannotnbe comfortably hammered into existingnideological and partisan holes, andnsuch especially is it the kind of receptionnto be expected from the lowingnherd of pseudo-conservatives who innthe past decade have succeeded innhornswoggling themselves into thencourtyards (but not the corridors) ofnnational power. When Mr. Phillips innhis youth was designing the “populist”ntheories and strategies by which conservativenRepublicans could gain thenvotes of rank-and-file Democrats andnchallenge the political hegemony of anliberal elite, these same courtiersnpranced for joy. Then they were happynto hear of his cyclical theory of Americannpolitics, how at approximatelynthirty-year intervals, one political elitenis displaced by another when the incumbentsnhave become a stale establishment.nThen they were pleased tonclamber into the cockpit that his theorynseemed to assign them as the pilots ofnthe “emerging Republican majority”nthat would hijack the country awaynfrom the New Deal coalition.nBut it might have occurred to them,nas it evidently did not, that if Mr.nPhillips had a shred of intellectualnintegrity, which he evidently has, thennnnsooner or later the cycle he claimed tonhave discovered would swing about,nand some other rough beast wouldnslouch toward a political Bethlehem tonbe born. It is Mr. Phillips’s thesis in hisnpresent book that that hour has comenround at last, and here he is to pluck hisnlyre in honor of the animal’s arrival.-nIn other words, Mr. Phillips’s beliefnthat the Reagan era saw the entrenchmentnof a new political establishmentnthat is about to be challenged by a wavenof populist revolt is merely the logicalnextension of his interpretation ofnAmerican politics that he first advancedn(and which most conservativesnembraced) in 1969 and that he hasnadapted and amended in a series ofnlater books ever since. Remainingnfaithful to and consistent with his ownntheory does not make him, as conservativenchuckleheads claim, a “liberal”;nthen again, it doesn’t make him rightneither.nWhat really makes the Gipperitesngasp, however, is not just Mr. Phillips’snprediction that Reaganism is schedulednto fail politically but also that GoodnOld Dutch and his “revolution” werenin large part fraudulent — that, so farnfrom helping the middle income stratanof the electorate who enabled ReagannNOVEMBER 1990/31n