Going Low: How Profane Politics Challenges American Democracy

Columbia Univ. Jul. 2022. 312p. ISBN 9780231205726. $110; pap. ISBN 9780231205733. $28. POL SCI
This is a timely explanation of current political realities in the U.S. The analysis, done from Curtis’s (philosophy and religious studies, Georgia Southern Univ.; The Production of American Religious Freedom) viewpoint as a religious academic, is a unique and clarifying perspective of how profane politics have grabbed hold of the nation. “Going low” refers to the act of using inflammatory speech and skirting reality to garner fervent followers in the political arena. Curtis explains how and why this illiberal tactic is so successful theoretically. He offers many examples from famous conservative figures such as Donald Trump and Steve Bannon and recent historical events, such as Trump’s presidency, the NFL protests, and the Masterpiece Cakeshop legal fight. These case studies exemplify how going low elides truth and reason and instead taps into a new emotionally charged reality constructed on fears and fantasies. Through the profane, politics become a zero-sum, winners or losers battle, wherein one side keeps trying to compromise to maintain democracy, and others refuse to believe they are playing the same game.
VERDICT Although academic, the prose is still accessible, and the author does a skillful job of breaking down the strategies that everyone will recognize from daily news coverage. An excellent buy for any political collection.
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