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Let them Eat Tweets
Cover of Let them Eat Tweets
Let them Eat Tweets
How the Right Rules in an Age of Extreme Inequality
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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.

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.
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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.
Reviews-
  • Kirkus

    February 15, 2020
    How the Republicans' embrace of economic elites threatens democracy. Political scientists Hacker (Yale) and Pierson (Univ. of California, Berkeley) synthesize many scholarly studies and journalists' reports to mount a compelling, though not groundbreaking, argument that what they call "plutocratic populism"--reactionary economic priorities and right-wing cultural and racial appeals--dominates the Republican Party, undermining democracy. Although Donald Trump is an exemplar of this stance, the authors maintain that Republicans bowed to the ultrawealthy long before the 2016 election. They cite, for example, the 2001 tax cuts, which benefited the rich far more than the middle class and "were sharply at odds with what the majority of voters thought the nation's budget priorities should be." Republicans blatantly covet backing from wealthy supporters, with Mike Pence selected as vice president partly to satisfy evangelicals, partly because of his close ties to big donors, notably the Koch brothers. Over several generations, the party's loyalty to the wealthy caused a shift to cultural issues and outrage in order to attract voters. "The early specialists in outrage-stoking," the authors assert, "were the Christian right and the NRA," which both were fueled by "racial backlash." Increasingly, Republicans have fostered a campaign of "resentment, racialization and rigging" in their pursuit of white voters. In the 2018 midterm elections, however, the party's losses caused it to shift to "a third option": to "make voters' voices less relevant" by turning election rules and redistricting "into finely honed partisan weapons." Democracy itself is a problem for Republicans "because it threatens the property and power of powerful minorities." The interests of those wealthy minorities, the authors warn, "diverge from those of their fellow citizens," making them "more apprehensive about democracy." The authors are cautiously optimistic that shifting demographics may weaken Republicans' power, but only Trump's "decisive electoral defeat" will possibly "motivate a fundamental rethinking of the party's priorities." A cogent and dispiriting contribution to the growing number of analyses of the ailing American democracy.

    COPYRIGHT(2020) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    March 2, 2020
    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. Agent: Sydelle Kramer, the Susan Rabiner Literary Agency.

  • Booklist

    April 1, 2020
    Hacker and Pierson's latest (after American Amnesia, 2016) is a standout among recent releases, timed for the 2020 presidential election cycle, that seek to help readers make sense of the often-confusing political climate. Tweets addresses the question of how right-wing Republicans have gained and maintained their power despite the fact that their policies result in extreme?and increasing?economic and social inequality. The authors, both political scientists, find evidence to build their thesis by carefully analyzing recent history. They trace matters back to the presidential campaign of Barry Goldwater, which laid the groundwork for the transformation of the Republican Party from a moderately conservative albeit socially responsive party, to the economic and social conservatism of Reagan, to the extreme right-wing policies of Trump. They then look at how the increasingly right-wing Republicans dealt with the problem of promoting an economic system that concentrated wealth in an increasingly rarified elite that must coexist with a system that gives the ballot, and thus the ultimate power, to the many. The answers the authors come up with are cogent and distressing?and convincing. Highly recommended.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2020, American Library Association.)

  • Ezra Klein;Vox 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.
  • Nicholas Lemann;The Nation 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.
  • Publishers Weekly 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.
  • Julian Zelizer;CNN.com 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.
  • Daniel Ziblatt, professor of government at Harvard University and coauthor of the New York Times bestseller How Democracies Die 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.
  • Thomas E. Mann, coauthor of the New York Times bestseller It's Even Worse Than It Looks 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.
  • Franklin Foer;New York Times Book Review 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."
  • Ian F. Haney López, author of Merge Left: Fusing Race and Class, Winning Elections, and Saving America 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...
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Let them Eat Tweets
Let them Eat Tweets
How the Right Rules in an Age of Extreme Inequality
Jacob S. Hacker
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