210216 - Let Them Eat Tweets: How the Right Rules in an Age of Extreme Inequality with Paul Pierson, University of California, Berkeley
CEE General Seminar
Let Them Eat Tweets: How the Right Rules in an Age of Extreme Inequality (Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson, Liveright Publishing Corporation, 2020)
Sciences Po, via Zoom, The podcast of this seminar is online
Let Them Eat Tweets situates Donald Trump’s ascendance in the broader currents of American political development. Unlike many variants of "right-wing populism" the American version represents a curious hybrid of populism and plutocracy. Although American right-wing populism has real social roots, it has long been nurtured by powerful elites seeking to undercut support for modern structures of economic regulation and the welfare state. Steeply rising inequality in the United States generated an acute form of what Daniel Ziblatt has termed "the conservative dilemma." Over the past few decades, the Republican Party rejected a path of economic moderation. Instead, it chose to construct an apparatus for stoking political outrage, particularly in forms that accentuate and intensify racial divisions. American political institutions offered a distinctive opportunity for a populist figure to draw on this fury to first capture the nomination of the GOP, and from that position to ascend to the White House. Yet the administration’s substantive agenda constituted a full-throated endorsement of the GOP economic elite’s long-standing demands for cuts in social spending, sharp tax reductions for the wealthy, and the gutting of consumer, worker and environmental protections. The chasm between Trump’s rhetoric and his actions justifies a more skeptical assessment of the breadth and depth of American populism, one that acknowledges how its contours were shaped by the nation’s unusual political institutions, its intensifying political polarization and the out-sized influence of the wealthy. While Trump lost the 2020 election, these structural conditions remain. So do the distressing incentives these conditions create for one of the nation's two major political parties.
Paul Pierson, John Gross Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley and Director of the UC Berkeley Center for the Study of American Democracy
Paul Pierson is the author or co-author of six books and many articles on American and comparative politics. He is a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He served as the Co-Director of the Successful Societies Program of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.
Patrick Le Galès, Sciences Po, CEE & Dean of Urban School, CNRS
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