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.
Political scientists Hacker and Pierson (American Amnesia) analyze the modern Republican Party's shift toward "plutocratic populism" in this barbed and cogent account. Contending that all conservative parties within democracies face the same dilemma of how to protect the interests of the "economic elite" while winning electoral support from the masses, Hacker and Pierson document Richard Nixon's efforts to win over white, working-class voters; Newt Gingrich's partisan warfare during the Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations; the rise of the Koch brothers' libertarian agenda ; and Donald Trump's embrace of the "most radical" Republican priorities. They examine the role of evangelical Christians, the NRA, and the right-wing media in Republican efforts to solve the "Conservative Dilemma" despite the unpopularity of their legislative pursuits (repeal of the Affordable Care Act, tax cuts for the wealthy), and note that gerrymandering, restrictive voter ID laws, the Electoral College, and malapportionment in the U.S. Senate help to ensure that conservative voters have an outsized voice. Though much of this will be familiar to politically minded readers, 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.