Phillips was a strategist on voting patterns 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.
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 presidential 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 term "Sun Belt" [a phrase also attributed to Sam Rayburn], named the New Right, and prophesied ‘The Emerging Republican Majority’ in 1969.”
Later, he became a critic of Republicans from the south and west, the area he had identified as the "Heartland", the future core of Republican votes. He had also identified 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 and Vermont and Maine becoming Democratic states.
Phillips worked for Richard Nixon's presidential campaign in 1968, and wrote a book on what has come to be known as the "Southern strategy" of the Republican Party. The book was entitled The Emerging Republican Majority and argued that the southern states of the US would keep the Republicans winning Presidential Elections and more than offset the Northeast states, based on racial politics. As he stated to the New York Times Magazine in 1970,
“All the talk about Republicans making inroads into the Negro vote is persiflage. Even 'Jake the Snake' [Senator Jacob Javits of New York] only gets 20 percent. From now on, Republicans are never going to get more than 10 to 20 percent of the Negro vote, and they don't need any more than that... but Republicans would be shortsighted if they weakened the Voting Rights Act. The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That's where the votes are. Without that prodding from the blacks, the whites will backslide into their old comfortable arrangement with the local Democrats."
Allen Dwight Callahan states the book's theme is that the Republican Party (GOP), religious fundamentalism, petroleum, and borrowed money are an "Unholy Alliance." The last chapter, in a nod to his first major work, is titled "The Erring Republican Majority." American Theocracy "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.
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 banking system. 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 (finance, insurance, and real estate) 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.
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..." 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."
Kevin Phillips examines America's great shift from manufacturing to financial services. He also discusses America’s petroleum policies and the tying of the dollar to the price of oil. Phillips suggests that 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 regulatory oversight employed in the housing market and how the housing boom was allowed to run free under Alan Greenspan. The book concludes with the proposal that America is employing bad capitalism and extends Gresham’s Law of currency to suggest that our good capitalism will be driven out by the bad.