Kevin Phillips (political commentator)

Kevin Phillips (political commentator)

Kevin Phillips (born November 30, 1940) is an American writer and commentator, largely on politics, economics, and history. Formerly a Republican Party strategist, Phillips has become disaffected with his former party over the last two decades, and is now one of its harshest critics. He is a regular contributor to the "Los Angeles Times" and National Public Radio, and is a political analyst on PBS' "NOW with Bill Moyers".

Phillips was a senior strategist for Richard Nixon's 1968 campaign, which was the basis for a book, "The Emerging Republican Majority", which predicted a conservative realignment in national politics, and is widely regarded as one of the most influential recent works in political science. His predictions regarding shifting voting patterns in presidential elections proved accurate, though they did not extend "down ballot" to Congress until the Republican revolution of 1994. Phillips also was partly responsible for the design of the Republican "Southern strategy" of the 1970s and 1980s.

The author of fourteen books, he lives in Goshen, Connecticut, in Litchfield County.


Phillips was educated at the Bronx High School of Science, Colgate University, the University of Edinburgh and Harvard Law School. After his stint as a senior strategist for the Nixon campaign, he served a year, starting in 1969, as Special Assistant to the U.S. Attorney General, but left after a year to become a columnist. In 1971, he became president of the American Political Research Corporation and editor-publisher of the American Political Report (through 1998).

In 1982, the "Wall Street Journal" described him as “the leading conservative electoral analyst -- the man who invented the Sun Belt, named the New Right, and prophesied ‘The Emerging Republican Majority’ in 1969.”

Ironically for someone who in later life became a virulent critic of Republicans from the south and west, Phillips in his 1969 book identified the "Heartland" as the future core of Republican votes, and the "Yankee Northeast" as the future Democratic stronghold, foreshadowing the current split between Red States and Blue States. More than 30 years before the 2004 election, Phillips foresaw such previously Democratic states as Texas and West Virginia swinging to the Republicans while Vermont and Maine would become Democratic states.


"American Theocracy" (2006)

In "American Theocracy" Phillips has come full circle, becoming a very harsh critic of the Republican Party (GOP). PBS journalist Allen Dwight Callahan [Rev. Dr. [ Allen Dwight Callahan's] page at Brown University] describes the GOP "Politics Of Radical Religion, Oil, And Borrowed Money In The 21st Century" the book's subtitle and theme, as an "Unholy Alliance." [ [ Callahan, Allen Dwight, "Unholy Alliance" "Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, No. 1008," October 25, 2006.] ] Phillips' last chapter, in a nod to his first major work, is called "The Erring Republican Majority." In the book, he "presents a nightmarish vision of ideological extremism, catastrophic fiscal irresponsibility, rampant greed and dangerous shortsightedness."

"The New York Times" wrote:

He identifies three broad and related trends — none of them new to the Bush years but all of them, he believes, exacerbated by this administration's policies — that together threaten the future of the United States and the world. One is the role of oil in defining and, as Phillips sees it, distorting American foreign and domestic policy. The second is the ominous intrusion of radical Christianity into politics and government. And the third is the astonishing levels of debt — current and prospective — that both the government and the American people have been heedlessly accumulating. If there is a single, if implicit, theme running through the three linked essays that form this book, it is the failure of leaders to look beyond their own and the country's immediate ambitions and desires so as to plan prudently for a darkening future. [ [ N.Y.Times review] on 3/19/2006.]

Phillips uses the term “financialization” to describe how the U.S. economy has been radically restructured from a focus on production, manufacturing and wages, to a focus on speculation, debt, and profits. Since the 1980s, Phillips argues in "American Theocracy",

the underlying Washington strategy… was less to give ordinary Americans direct sums than to create a low-interest-rate boom in real estate, thereby raising the percentage of American home ownership, ballooning the prices of homes, and allowing householders to take out some of that increase through low-cost refinancing. This triple play created new wealth to take the place of that destroyed in the 2000-2002 stock-market crash and simultaneously raised consumer confidence.

Nothing similar had ever been engineered before. Instead of a recovery orchestrated by Congress and the White House and aimed at the middle- and bottom-income segments, this one was directed by an appointed central banker, a man whose principal responsibility was to the bankingsystem. His relief, targeted on financial assets and real estate, was principally achieved by monetary stimulus. This in itself confirmed the massive realignment of preferences and priorities within the American system….

Likewise huge and indisputable but almost never discussed were the powerful political economics lurking behind the stimulus: the massive rate-cut-driven post-2000 bailout of the FIRE sector, with its ever-climbing share of GDP and proximity to power. No longer would Washington concentrate stimulus on wages or public-works employment. The Fed's policies, however shrewd, were not rooted in an abstraction of the national interest but in pursuit of its statutory mandate to protect the U.S. banking and payments system, now inseparable from the broadly defined financial-services sector.

"Bad Money" (2008)

Kevin Phillips tackles the reality that America has substituted finance for manufacturing as its main focus. He also addresses America’s play in oil and its tying of the dollar to the price of oil. The tying of oil to the dollar is something that has propped up our currency and caused political dissent particularly in the middle east. The Euro and the Chinese Yuan/Renminbi are favorites to take the dollar's place in countries hostile towards America, like Iran. He then tackles the lack of control employed in the housing market and how it was allowed to get away under the tutelage of Alan Greenspan. All of this culminates in the idea that America is employing bad capitalism and extensions of Gresham’s Law of currency to suggest that our bad capitalism will be driven out. [Bad Money, 2008]

Critical reception

"American Theocracy" was reviewed widely. "The New York Times Book Review" wrote "It is not without polemic, but unlike many of the more glib and strident political commentaries of recent years, it is extensively researched and frighteningly persuasive..." [Alan Brinkley, "The New York Times Book Review", March 19, 2006] "The Chicago Sun-Times" wrote "Overall, Phillips’ book is a thoughtful and somber jeremiad, written throughout with a graceful wryness... a capstone to his life’s work." [William O'Rourke, "The Chicago Sun-Times", March 12, 2006] However, Joseph Loconte, of the conservative thinktank the Heritage Foundation labeled it a work of "irrational, fantastical, near-nativist charges." []


*"Bad Money: Reckless Finance, Failed Politics, and the Global Crisis of American Capitalism" (2007) ISBN 0-670-01907-0
*"American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century" (2006) ISBN 0-670-03486-X
*"American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush" (2004) ISBN 0-670-03264-6
*"William McKinley" (2003)
*"Wealth and Democracy: A Political History of the American Rich" (2002) ISBN 0-7679-0533-4
*"The Cousins’ Wars: Religion, Politics and the Triumph of Anglo-America" (1999)
*"Arrogant Capital: Washington, Wall Street and the Frustration of American Politics" (1994)
*"Boiling Point: Democrats, Republicans and the Decline of Middle Class Prosperity" (1993)
*"The Politics of Rich and Poor: Wealth and Electorate in the Reagan Aftermath" (1990)
*"Staying on Top: The Business Case for a National Industrial Strategy" (1984)
*"Post-Conservative America" (1982)
*"Electoral Reform and Voter Participation"(with Paul H. Blackman, 1975)
*"Mediacracy: American Parties and Politics in the Communications Age" (1974)
*"The Emerging Republican Majority" (1969)


*"Now what I get a sense of from all of this — and then topped obviously by spending all the money in 2000 to basically buy the election — is that this is not a family that has a particularly strong commitment to American democracy. Its sense of how to win elections comes out of a CIA manual, not out of the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution." — Kevin Phillips writing about the Bush family in "American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush"


External links

* [ Bio page at the "American Theocracy" site]
* [ Fmr. Top Republican Strategist Discusses The Bush Family's Rise To Power Since WWI]
* [ Fmr. Top Republican Strategist Examines the History of the Bush Family]
* [ Fmr. GOP Strategist Kevin Phillips on American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century]
* [ Bio page for Leigh Speakers' Bureau]
* [ New York Times Book review of "American Theocracy"]
* [ The Erring Republican Authority: Kevin Phillips is wrong about everything. Why is he taken so seriously?]
* [ VIDEO - Bad Money: Reckless Finance, Failed Politics, and the Global Crisis of American Capitalism] , presentation from Kevin Phillips' book tour, April 28, 2008, Portland, Oregon.

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