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Kevin Phillips
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November 7, 2008

In 1969, Kevin Phillips was a young political strategist for the Republican Party and a newly published author. His book, THE EMERGING REPUBLICAN MAJORITY, correctly predicted an era of growing Republican electoral strength as people and industry moved from the old industrial states of the North to the South and West, an area still known in politics by his label, the "Sunbelt."

Nearly 40 years later, the political sphere is abuzz with specultion: is the Obama election the mark of an historic political realignment like 1980?

John Judis, co-author with Ruy Teixeira of the recent book THE EMERGING DEMOCRATIC MAJORITY (a title that highlights the influence of Phillips' book), writes in the THE NEW REPUBLIC that, "His election is the culmination of a Democratic realignment that began in the 1990s, was delayed by September 11, and resumed with the 2006 election." Much like Phillips before them, Judis and Teixeira see a major shift in demographic data driving the large political realignment they predict.

But, writing in the same magazine, Scott Winship argues that America remains a divided nation, and that rather than having a progressive mandate, Obama was elected in much the same way as Clinton and Bush before him -- by about 50 percent of voters. He puts his argument in perspective, saying:

Since 1994, election results have been regularly accompanied by claims that one party or the other has somehow broken through the "50-50 Nation" political environment and is on the verge of a permanent majority. But what E.J. Dionne said of progressives in the mid-1990s might just as easily be applied to conservatives today: They only look dead. The Republican Party is imploding now after trying to govern as if they had a mandate for conservative rule (and after letting their power corrupt themselves).

Writing in the WASHINGTON POST, columnist George Will agrees that the conservative movement is far from dead -- John McCain did earn 46 percent of the popular vote in a difficult year -- but he also notes the resounding nature of the defeat. "If, as seems likely at this writing, in January congressional Republicans have 177 representatives and 44 senators, they will be weaker than at any time since after the 1976 elections, when they were outnumbered in the House 292 to 143 and the Senate 61 to 38." Unlike the defeat of Goldwater, which actually heralded the coming conservative era, Will sees no such signs in McCain's defeat:

Although John McCain's loss was not as numerically stunning as the 1964 defeat of Barry Goldwater, who won 16 fewer states and 122 fewer electoral votes than McCain seems to have won as of this writing, Tuesday's trouncing was more dispiriting for conservatives. Goldwater's loss was constructive; it invigorated his party by reorienting it ideologically. McCain's loss was sterile, containing no seeds of intellectual rebirth.
But not all commentators see the election as merely a reversal of fortunes for the two parties. Some see the emergence of a new paradigm, with new ideas and approaches. Writing in the WALL STREET JOURNAL, Lanny J. Davis sees a major realignment not back to a partisan Democratic majority, but to a new, post-partisan, "moderate center" pioneered by Bill Clinton and further honed by Barack Obama:
President-elect Obama presents an ideological mix of social liberalism, fiscal conservatism and cultural moderation that attracted a 20-point margin Tuesday among self-described "moderates" -- including crucial crossover moderate Republicans from suburban and exurban areas previously considered safely part of the Republican/Reagan conservative base -- as well as a majority of self-described independent voters.
Kevin Phillips joins Bill Moyers on the JOURNAL to discuss whether the nation is seeing a major realignment like the one he predicted forty years ago and where he thinks the two parties should go from here.

Kevin Phillips
Kevin Phillips is a political analyst, historian and author of 13 books. Mr. Phillips' first gained prominence as the chief political strategist for Richard Nixon during the 1968 election. In 1969, he published THE EMERGING REPUBLICAN MAJORITY, which forecasted a major shift to the right in electoral politics - a prediction that has been remarkably accurate. Over 20 years, he has contributed commentary to CBS NEWS, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO, and THE LOS ANGELES TIMES.

His books have covered the range of history, politics and economics. In 1990, THE POLITICS OF RICH AND POOR, a critique of Reagan-Bush economics, rose to number two on the New York Times bestseller list; in 1999, Phillips stepped back from politics to write a history of three Anglo-American civil wars, THE COUSINS' WARS; his 2002 WEALTH AND DEMOCRACY chronicled the history of America's wealthiest families and their effect on public policy from 1780s to 1991, arguing that America has entered a new gilded age; in 2003, he produced a biography, WILLIAM MCKINLEY; then, in 2004, AMERICAN DYNASTY: ARISTOCRACY, FORTUNE, AND THE POLITICS OF DECEIT IN THE HOUSE OF BUSH rose to number two on the NEW YORK TIMES bestseller list. And in 2006, AMERICAN THEOCRACY explored the corrosive influence of oil, fundamentalist religion and debt on American democracy.

Photo by Robin Holland

Related Media:
FBI Domestic Spy PosterKevin Phillips
Bill Moyers sits down with former Nixon White House strategist and political and economic critic Kevin Phillips, whose latest book BAD MONEY: RECKLESS FINANCE, FAILED POLITICS, AND THE GLOBAL CRISIS OF AMERICAN CAPITALISM explores the role that the crumbling financial sector played in the now-fragile American economy. (September 19, 2008)

FBI Domestic Spy PosterMickey Edwards and Ross Douthat on the Conservative Heart
What’s happened to the conservative movement in America? Conservatives Mickey Edwards and Ross Douthat discuss why they believe their movement has gone off track during the last eight years and what it means for the Republican Party. (July 11, 2008)

FBI Domestic Spy PosterVictor Gold
Deputy Press Secretary to Barry Goldwater during the 1964 campaign, Victor Gold discusses where he believes the Republican Party has gone astray in the last twenty years.(June 29, 2007)

References and Reading:
More from Kevin Phillips

Bubble and Bail
"For most of the 20th century, America manufactured things. For the past 30 years, though, it has chiefly manufactured debt. Here's how Wall Street, with the aid of both political parties, gravely damaged the economy. " by Kevin Phillips, THE AMERICAN PROSPECT, May 5, 2008.

"Numbers racket: Why the economy is worse than we know"
by Kevin Phillips, for HARPERS. Phillips explains the funny numbers of government economic indicators.

The Political Economics of Deception
Read the preface from Kevin Phillips' new book, BAD MONEY.

Kevin Phillips on NOW WITH BILL MOYERS
In 2004, Kevin Phillips spoke with Bill Moyers about his book WEALTH AND DEMOCRACY.

NEWSHOUR: Wealth and Democracy
Kevin Phillips spoke with Paul Solman of the NEWSHOUR about his book WEALTH AND DEMOCRACY.

Reviews of BAD MONEY

"'Bad Money' by Kevin Phillips"
by Tim Rutten, THE LOS ANGELES TIMES, April 16 2008.

"Digging a Hole"
by James K. Galbraith for the TEXAS OBSERVER, May 16 2008.

"Phillips Slams Wall Street, Feckless Politicians in 'Bad Money' "
by James Pressley for BLOOMBERG, April 21, 2008.

"What Ails the American Economy? Everything, and There's Worse to Come"
by Barry Gewen for THE NEW YORK TIMES, April 21, 2008.

"Getting it Wrong"
by Robert M. Solow for THE NEW REPUBLIC, September 10, 2008.

"Riches to Rags"
by Daniel Gross for THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW, August 3, 2008.

Published November 7, 2008

Also This Week:

Does Barack Obama's victory mean a new and permanent political alignment in American politics? Bill Moyers speaks with Kevin Phillips about how America has changed since Phillips penned THE EMERGING REPUBLICAN MAJORITY 40 years ago.

Bill Moyers sits down with Columbia University professor Eric Foner, who specializes in political and African-American history, and Patricia J. Williams, a professor of law at Columbia University.

JOURNAL viewers lay out their priorities for the next administration.

A Bill Moyers essay on the loss of Studs Terkel and John Leonard.

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