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What’s Responsible for the Upheaval in American Politics?

On October 29, the Kluge Center released a conversation with Theda Skocpol and Caroline Tervo in which they talked about their new book, “Upending American Politics.” These two scholars provide considerable insight into developments in American party politics in recent years – and even shed some light on this year’s election results.

Skocpol, the Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology at Harvard University and a member of the Kluge Center Scholars Council, and Tervo, a research coordinator in the Harvard Government Department, spoke with the Kluge Center’s Dan Turello and Janna Deitz about the book.

According to Skocpol, “Upending American Politics” focuses on organizations and networks of citizens and professional advocates as agents of change in a way that separates it from other volumes on similar topics. Tervo emphasized the book’s inclusion of research from differing perspectives and case studies, including work by both established and younger scholars.

Skocpol argued that money in politics, though it is important, is not always a determining factor in political success. She pointed to moderate and conservative areas where Hillary Clinton did not campaign in 2016, and where the Trump campaign had alliances with gun rights organizations and Christian organizations that allowed him to overcome Clinton’s fundraising advantage.

Tervo talked about the sometimes-surprising alliances between elite political organizations that are able to work with lawmakers on one side, and grassroots organizations that can turn individuals out to rallies and protests on the other. These groups may have very different objectives from one another, Skocpol said, but the “strange bedfellow” coalitions they create together often have a great deal of clout and have successfully promoted policies that are not generally very popular among Americans.

Watch the full event here to learn more.

 

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