Off Center


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The Republican Revolution and the Erosion of American Democracy

Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson

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The Republicans who run American government today have defied the normal laws of political gravity. They have ruled with the slimmest of majorities and yet have transformed the nation’s governing priorities. They have strayed dramatically from the moderate middle of public opinion and yet have faced little public backlash. Again and again, they have sided with the affluent and ideologically extreme while paying little heed to the broad majority of Americans. And much more often than not, they have come out on top. This book shows why—and why this troubling state of affairs can and must be changed.

Written in a highly accessible style by two professional political scientists, Off Center tells the story of a deliberative process restricted and distorted by party chieftains, of unresponsive power brokers subverting the popular will, and of legislation written by and for powerful interests and deliberately designed to mute popular discontent. In the best tradition of engaged social science, Off Center is a powerful and informed critique that points the way toward a stronger foundation for American democracy.

Jacob S. Hacker is Peter Strauss Family Associate Professor of Political Science, Yale University. PAUL PIERSON is professor of political science (Avice Saint Chair in Public Policy), University of California, Berkeley.

Read more about Off Center and its authors at their website,

“Hacker and Pierson shrewdly assess the new structures of political power in our country and the success of conservative Republicans in mobilizing resources and framing political choices. This book is innovative, it’s important, and it will open many eyes. It is the book Karl Rove would wish he had written–if he were on the other side.”—E. J. Dionne, Jr., author of Stand Up, Fight Back and Why Americans Hate Politics


"Hacker and Pierson have produced the most penetrating study of contemporary American politics since Thomas and Mary Edsall's Chain Reaction. (And that was over fourteen years ago....) Every political journalist in America needs to read and heed this brilliant book."—Eric Alterman, author of When Presidents Lie and What Liberal Media?

"Off-Center proves two points beyond reasonable dispute. The first is that the current paralysis and polarization of the American political system is not some split-the-difference, everyone's-to-blame phenomenon. Instead, its worst aspects are direct results of Republican extremist tactics over the last decade. The second is that the consequences are bad for nearly everyone in the country, except for the very richest people and corporations. The book makes an important case convincingly."—James Fallows, author of Breaking the News

"Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson announce something that everyone will—and should—pay attention to. They have done something in this book that political scientists rarely do: they dissect the broad meaning of current political dynamics. By applying political science concepts to current events in very accessible ways, they help lay readers to get the big picture of contemporary American politics."—Richard Valelly, Swarthmore College

"Outdated political science clichés go flying like bad guys in a Kung Fu movie in this revelatory new book. American politics is supposed to be prone to stalemate. Extremists are supposed to be relegated to the dustbin of history. So how come policies so radically at odds with what the American people say they want have been locked in for the next generation? Hacker and Pierson brilliantly nail the case: the Republicans have rigged the system. Off Center provides the missing piece from What's the Matter with Kansas?: how they committed the crime, and where they hid the bodies. Pundits: read it and heed it."—Rick Perlstein, author of Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus

"Off Center offers a penetrating and provocative commentary on the current state of party politics in the United States. Hacker and Pierson lend their considerable analytical gifts to one of the most important developments of our time—the emergence of a militantly conservative Republican Party that shapes the political agenda, controls the major governing institutions, and is poised to recast the welfare state in its own image. Not everyone will agree with the arguments of this book, yet no serious student of American politics will dare ignore the profound questions it raises about vitality of American democracy."—Sidney M. Milkis, White Burkett Miller Professor of Politics, University of Virginia

"Off Center is an important and provocative new book. It will capture imaginations and inspire argument both in academic circles and among the educated public. This book will be widely read—and vociferously debated—in colleges and universities and in the media. I think this is a home run.”—Theda Skocpol, Harvard University

"The synthesis is executed with a deft balance of grace and rigor. . . . The authors’ analysis of the country’s present predicament is a tour de force."—Matthew Yglesias, American Prospect

"Their research is devastating. . . . They make it clear how far we have strayed from a society that clothes the naked and feeds the hungry—and how difficult it will be to return."—Bill McKibben, Christian Century

There are numbers of recent books aspiring to chart the future for progressive thought and policy. This is the best.

"Excellent."—Craig Aaron, In These Times

"[An] intriguing investigation. . . . Strongly recommended."—Library Journal

"[An] illuminating investigation into the underlying dynamics of our present political predicament. . . . Demonstrates just how badly Americans are served by media that accept the fundamental frame put forth by far-right Republicans. . . . Hacker and Pierson shine a light on the methods employed by the governing right-wing clique to maintain and expand their power without paying the price for their unpopular policies. . . . If our leading political reporters were forced to address these authors' evidence or to stop mouthing the nonsense dominating their own stories, our politics would be transformed overnight."—Eric Alterman, Nation

"An important new book."—Paul Krugman, New York Times

"A new book, Off Center . . . explains how the GOP is simply better than the Democratic Party at the basic blocking and tackling of politics, including the exploitation of cultural and religious issues. The authors argue that even if DeLay goes down, the zealotry and corporate shilling will continue as long as the GOP controls the House."—Jonathan Alter, Newsweek

"An important book."—Thomas Riggins, Political Affairs

"Closely-argued and very readable, the book never sinks under the weight of its details. . . . This book should become required reading for anyone interested in the triumph of the neocons or worried about where they are leading America."—Publishers Weekly

"Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson argue convincingly. . . . The book's detail, specificity, and comprehensiveness make it a vital contribution."—Christopher Hayes, Washington Monthly

"Off Center provides a valuable analysis of policy formulation and passage to explain a phenomenon that has not been adequately addressed by existing literature. The explanation that Hacker and Pierson provide is detailed and plausible, and they provide plenty of real-world context with which to support their points. It is an enjoyable read and should have significant appeal to anyone interested in legislative process and politics."—Todd L. Belt, Political Science Quarterly
ISBN: 9780300108705
Publication Date: October 20, 2005
272 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
4 charts, 1 cartoon, 1 figure