Under God, by Garry Wills
It Is impossible, Garry Wills contends, to understand American politics apart from religion; yet the media, and most political commentators, show a “willed ignorance” of the subject. He is quite right. In 33 chapters discussing various political figures—including some who ran for President in 1988—events in American history, and such contemporary issues as abortion, pornography, and feminism, Wills undertakes to redress the balance.
Had Wills kept his own views in check, he might have produced a worthy book, for there are parts of Under God in which he is both a skillful reporter and a shrewd analyst. Thus, in dealing with Gary Hart, Wills carefully explores the Holiness movement and the morally strict Church of the Nazarenes in which Hart was raised. The perfectionist impulse in his religious background is something which Hart as a presidential candidate wanted to hide even as it shaped his own behavior, including his strained discussions of his publicized adulteries. As Wills observes, Hart “made himself a powerful symbol of the problem presented by a secular politics cut off from its past moral vocabulary.”
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