Let them Eat Tweets: How the Right Rules in an Age of Extreme Inequality (Paperback)
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A New York Times Editors’ Choice
An “essential” (Jane Mayer) account of the dangerous marriage of plutocratic economic priorities and right-wing populist appeals — and how it threatens the pillars of American democracy.
In Let Them Eat Tweets, best-selling political scientists Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson argue that despite the rhetoric of Donald Trump, Josh Hawley, and other right-wing “populists,” the Republican Party came to serve its plutocratic masters to a degree without precedent in modern global history. To maintain power while serving the 0.1 percent, the GOP has relied on increasingly incendiary racial and cultural appeals to its almost entirely white base. Calling this dangerous hybrid “plutocratic populism,” Hacker and Pierson show how, over the last forty years, 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. Based on decades of research and featuring a new epilogue about the intensification of GOP radicalism after the 2020 election, Let Them Eat Tweets authoritatively explains the doom loop of tax cutting and fearmongering that defines the Republican Party—and reveals how the rest of us can fight back.
About the Author
Jacob S. Hacker is a political scientist at Yale University, and the coauthor of three books, including the New York Times bestseller Winner-Take-All Politics. He lives in New Haven, Connecticut.
Paul Pierson is a political scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, and the coauthor of three books, including the New York Times bestseller Winner-Take-All Politics. He lives in Berkeley, California.
Sharp and thoughtful . . . The most chilling argument in [Jacob S.] Hacker and [Paul] Pierson’s book is that Trump’s rhetoric has focused us on the wrong authoritarian threat. . . . This is the cliff on which American democracy now teeters. The threat isn’t that Donald Trump will carve his face onto Mount Rushmore and engrave his name across the White House. It’s that the awkward coalition that nominated and sustains him will entrench itself, not their bumbling standard-bearer, by turning America into a government by the ethnonationalist minority, for the plutocratic minority.
— Ezra Klein - Vox
With Let Them Eat Tweets, the political scientists Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson have constructed a portrait of the Trumpian moment that, in the book’s professorial way, is as terrifying as those Page 1 accounts of presidential ravings. They meticulously show how the president isn’t a singular presence, but a thoroughly representative one. Hacker and Pierson are two of the most reliable and reliably creative thinkers in their discipline. . . . Persuasively and meticulously argued.
— Franklin Foer - New York Times Book Review
Hacker and Pierson . . . offer a strong case that the Republican Party’s dependence on its top donors explains much of its trajectory in recent decades, culminating in the rise of Trump. The authors have a knack for synthesizing complicated academic studies and explaining them concisely for popular audiences. . . . Their historical explanation of how the GOP became radicalized raises legitimate concerns that the party, its judicial appointees and its donor class will carry on ‘fomenting tribalism, distorting elections, and subverting democratic institutions, procedures, and norms.’ . . . Those who would resist this development should carefully consider the analysis that Hacker and Pierson lay out in such convincing and depressing detail.
— Geoffrey Kabaservice - Washington Post
Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson provide a persuasive and insightful explanation of the current extremes of American political polarization:?it is the response to a fundamental and deep problem for conservatives, of how to enlist support for their self-interested economic policies in order?to maintain a plutocratic society that benefits the few. [The authors]?show that the conservative Republican Party’s appeal to nativism and tribalism, while deep rooted in US history, is not inevitable.?There is yet hope for American democracy.?A?must-read for anyone interested in understanding contemporary American politics.
— Joseph E. Stiglitz, 2001 Nobel laureate, economic sciences?
Since Ronald Reagan, Republican presidents have had to reconcile their own economic policies—which largely benefit corporations and the wealthy—with the growing populist rhetoric that their base responds to. [In Let Them Eat Tweets] political scientists Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson astutely chronicle the ways that the GOP has attempted to navigate this fundamental contradiction.
— Julian Zelizer - CNN.com
Hacker and Pierson are persuasive in contending that the Republican Party can on its own imperil the whole system by pulling everything to the right, especially if it continues to restrict voting. American mainstream politics has become profoundly out of sync with the economic realities that motivate most voters.
— Nicholas Lemann - The Nation
Let Them Eat Tweets is the perfect title for a wise and passionate book that distinguishes between a populism genuinely challenging to elites and the ‘plutocratic populism’ of Donald Trump the purpose of which is to entrench the power of the already privileged. Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson have an admirable record of seeing around corners and their warnings about threats to majoritarian democracy—from the right and from the way our institutions are working—are telling and worrying. In the face of this danger, [they] offer realistic hope that democratic action can rescue democracy itself. An important book for our moment.”
— E. J. Dionne Jr., author of Code Red: How Progressives and Moderates Can Unite to Save Our Country
This book makes intelligible how the nightmare of our current politics has happened. With their usual acuity and verve, Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson confront us with an uncomfortable reality: extreme economic inequality has left America vulnerable to a right-wing extremism that has destroyed other countries’ democracies in the past. Hacker and Pierson’s message is not that democracy in America is doomed. But to save it, we need to come to grips with the underlying economic forces pulling it apart today.
— Daniel Ziblatt, professor of government at Harvard University and coauthor of the New York Times bestseller How Democracies Die
Highly readable, historically grounded, analytically clear, and carefully argued, Let Them Eat Tweets exposes generations of Republican lawmakers who serve the narrow goals of the uber wealthy while cynically disregarding the needs of their own constituents. This book is for everyone who wants to move beyond a singular focus on the Trump presidency and gain a broader understanding of how we arrived at this political moment—and how we can move beyond it.
— Melissa Harris-Perry, Maya Angelou Presidential Chair at Wake Forest University
A standout. . . . Highly recommended.
— Gary Day - Booklist
Hacker and Pierson pull disparate pieces into a lucid narrative that goes a long way toward explaining the current iteration of the Republican Party. Liberals will be equal parts enraged and edified by this deeply sourced polemic.
— Publishers Weekly
For almost twenty years respected scholars Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson have been ahead of the curve in diagnosing how the increasing concentration of wealth in America has diminished democratic accountability and threatened the underpinnings of our constitutional democracy. Now they have written a fantastic capstone volume tying together the essential elements of their story: plutocracy, asymmetric partisan polarization, counter-majoritarianism, and right-wing populism. It is a tour de force, embedded in sophisticated historical and comparative analysis yet immensely helpful in making sense of the daily headlines in these troubling times.
— Thomas E. Mann, coauthor of the New York Times bestseller It’s Even Worse Than It Looks
Democracy, or plutocracy enabled by dog whistle politics? Those are the heart-stopping stakes, according to the compelling volume in your hands. Read this book and get in the fight.
— Ian F. Haney López, author of Merge Left: Fusing Race and Class, Winning Elections, and Saving America