Political scientists from University of California, Berkeley, and Yale University explore how conservatives have masked their plutocratic economic priorities with right-wing populist appeals—and how the scheme threatens the pillars of American democracy.
... 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 ... None of this analysis will astound a reader of journalists like Paul Krugman, Jane Mayer or Jonathan Chait. But there’s value in a calm overview that relentlessly traces the biggest themes of the era. This academic detachment lends credibility to the authors’ grim prophecy.
The authors have a knack for synthesizing complicated academic studies and explaining them concisely for popular audiences. They make particularly good use of political scientist Daniel Ziblatt’s work on the historical role played by European conservative parties in nascent democracies ... The authors’ analysis doesn’t adequately account for phenomena such as compassionate conservatism, intraparty fights over issues such as reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank or policy proposals such as a border adjustment tax that pitted large corporate interests against one another. Nonetheless, Hacker and Pierson accurately describe an overarching pattern of the super-rich using the Republican Party to tilt the American economy and political life in their favor ... Those who would resist this development should carefully consider the analysis that Hacker and Pierson lay out in such convincing and depressing detail.
... 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 ... The answers the authors come up with are cogent and distressing—and convincing. Highly recommended.