Please join us on Oct 13, 2020, from 12pm-1:30pm Pacific for an online panel on the book Let them Eat Tweets: How the Right Rules in an Age of Extreme Inequality, co-authored by Paul Pierson, the John Gross Endowed Chair and Professor of Political Science at UC Berkeley, and Jacob Hacker, Stanley B. Resor Professor and Director of the Institution for Social and Policy Studies at Yale University. They will be joined by Theda Skocpol, the Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology at Harvard University, and Christopher Parker, Stuart A. Scheingold Professor of Social Justice and Political Science in the Department of Political Science at the University of Washington. The discussion will be moderated by Irene Bloemraad, Class of 1951 Professor of Sociology at UC Berkeley. A Zoom link will be sent to registrants in advance of this event.
The Republican Party appears to be divided between a tax-cutting old guard and a white-nationalist vanguard—and with Donald Trump’s ascendance, the upstarts seem to be winning. Yet how are we to explain that, under Trump, the plutocrats have gotten almost everything they want, including a huge tax cut for corporations and the wealthy, regulation-killing executive actions, and a legion of business-friendly federal judges? Does the GOP represent “forgotten” Americans? Or does it represent the superrich?
In Let Them Eat Tweets, best-selling political scientists Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson offer a definitive answer: the Republican Party serves its plutocratic masters to a degree without precedent in modern global history. Conservative parties, by their nature, almost always side with the rich. But when faced with popular resistance, they usually make concessions, allowing some policies that benefit the working and middle classes. After all, how can a political party maintain power in a democracy if it serves only the interests of a narrow and wealthy slice of society?
Today’s Republicans have shown the way, doubling down on a truly radical, elite-benefiting economic agenda while at the same time making increasingly incendiary racial and cultural appeals to their almost entirely white base. Telling a forty-year story, Hacker and Pierson demonstrate that since the early 1980s, when inequality started spiking, extreme tax cutting, union busting, and deregulation have gone hand in hand with extreme race-baiting, outrage stoking, and disinformation. Instead of responding to the real challenges facing voters, the Republican Party offers division and distraction—most prominently, in the racist, nativist bile of the president’s Twitter feed.
As Hacker and Pierson argue, Trump isn’t a break with the GOP’s recent past. On the contrary, he embodies its tightening embrace of plutocracy and right-wing extremism—a dynamic Hacker and Pierson call “plutocratic populism.” As Trump and his far-right allies spew hatred and lies, Republicans in Congress and in statehouses attack social programs and funnel more and more money to the top 0.1 percent of Americans. Far from being at war with each other, reactionary plutocrats and right-wing populists have become the two faces of a party that now actively undermines democracy to achieve its goals against the will of the majority of Americans. Drawing on decades of research, Hacker and Pierson authoritatively explain the doom loop of tax cutting and fearmongering that characterizes our era—and reveal how we can fight back.
Paul Pierson is the John Gross Professor of Political Science at the University of California at Berkeley. Pierson’s teaching and research includes the fields of American politics and public policy, comparative political economy, and social theory. His most recent books are Off-Center: The Republican Revolution and the Erosion of American Democracy (Yale University Press 2005), co-authored by Jacob Hacker, Politics in Time: History, Institutions and Social Analysis (Princeton University Press 2004), and The Transformation of American Politics: Activist Government and the Rise of Conservatism (Princeton University Press 2007), which was co-edited with Theda Skocpol, and Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class (Simon and Schuster 2010), also co-authored by Jacob Hacker. Pierson is an active commentator on public affairs, whose writings have recently appeared in such outlets as The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, and The New Republic. Pierson is also the author of Dismantling the Welfare State? Reagan, Thatcher, and the Politics of Retrenchment (Cambridge 1994), which won the American Political Science Association's 1995 prize for the best book on American national politics.
Jacob S. Hacker is Stanley Resor Professor of Political Science and Director of the Institution for Social and Policy Studies at Yale University. A regular media commentator and policy adviser, he is the author or co-author of five books, numerous journal articles, and a wide range of popular writings on American politics and public policy. His most recent book, written with Paul Pierson, is American Amnesia: How the War on Government Led Us to Forget What Made America Prosper—a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice and a best business book of 2016 according to the management magazine Strategy+Business. Previously, the two wrote the New York Times bestseller Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class. Professor Hacker is known for his research and writings regarding health policy, especially his development of the so-called public option. He is also a member of the OECD’s High-Level Expert Group on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress. He was recently elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Theda Skocpol is the Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology at Harvard University. At Harvard, she has served as Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (2005-2007) and as Director of the Center for American Political Studies (2000-2006). In 2007, Skocpol was awarded the Johan Skytte Prize in Political Science for her "visionary analysis of the significance of the state for revolutions, welfare, and political trust, pursued with theoretical depth and empirical evidence." Skocpol's work covers an unusually broad spectrum of topics including both comparative politics (States and Social Revolutions, 1979) and American politics (Protecting Soldiers and Mothers: The Political Origins of Social Policy in the United States, 1992). Her books and articles have been widely cited in political science literature and have won numerous awards, including the 1993 Woodrow Wilson Award of the American Political Science Association for the best book in political science for the previous year. Skocpol's research focuses on U.S. social policy and civic engagement in American democracy, including changes since the 1960s. She has recently launched new projects on the development of U.S. higher education and on the transformations of U.S. federal policies in the Obama era. Her most recent books and research focus on the politics of health reform, the Tea Party, Republican Party extremism, and resistance organizing since 2016.
Christopher Sebastian Parker (Ph.D., University of Chicago, 2001) is the Stuart A. Scheingold Professor of Social Justice and Political Science in the Department of Political Science at the University of Washington. His first book, Fighting for Democracy: Black Veterans and the Struggle Against White Supremacy in the Postwar South (Princeton University Press, 2009), winner of the American Political Science Association's Ralph J. Bunche Award, takes a fresh approach to the civil rights movement by gauging the extent to which black veterans contributed to social change. A second book, Change They Can't Believe In: The Tea Party and Reactionary Politics in America (Princeton University Press, 2013, with Matt Barreto), explores the beliefs, attitudes, and behavior of the Tea Party. This book won the American Political Science Association's award for the best book in Race, Ethnicity, and Politics. Another book (with Matt Barreto), also in progress, The Great White Hope: Donald Trump, Race, and the Crisis of American Democracy (University of Chicago Press, under contract), examines the causes, and political consequences of Trump’s election. His scholarly articles have appeared in the Journal of Politics, Political Research Quarterly, Perspectives on Politics, Annual Review of Political Science, Annual Review of Sociology, and the Du Bois Review. Parker’s work has also appeared, or been featured in, the New York Times, 538.com, the Washington Post, CNN.com, the American Prospect, Talking Points Memo, The Brookings Institution, Salon.com, and The Conversation. He has also appeared on MSNBC, PBS, C-SPAN, anf the History Channel. He resides in Seattle with his dog, Brooklyn.
Irene Bloemraad (moderator) is the Class of 1951 Professor of Sociology at UC Berkeley. She also serves in multiple leadership roles, as the Thomas Garden Barnes Chair of Canadian Studies at UC Berkeley, the founding Director of the Berkeley Interdisciplinary Migration Initiative, and as co-director of the Boundaries, Membership and Belonging program of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. In 2014-15, she was a member of the U.S. National Academies of Sciences Committee reporting on the integration of immigrants into American society. She studies how immigrants become incorporated into political communities and the consequences of their presence on politics and understandings of membership. Her research stands at the intersection of immigration studies and political sociology, with a strong interdisciplinary (and international) scope.