I label the phenomenon of democratic politicians mobilizing and exacerbating societal conflict to win votes “democratic discord.” First, I demonstrate the concept of democratic discord with a pooled time series analysis showing that election years see greater polarization than non-election years in a range of European countries. Second, I show that democratic discord may have been a factor in the rise of populism in Europe by using a regression discontinuity design on British Election Study data on the period immediately before and after the U.K. General Election of 2015. I argue that the election results legitimized a grievance among the British public that would otherwise have remained dormant. Finally, I discuss the role of democratic discord in the Republican Party's complicated history with xenophobic appeals over the last several decades, drawing on archival material from my book Starving the Beast.
Monica Prasad's areas of interest are political sociology, economic sociology, and comparative historical sociology. Her new book Starving the Beast asks why Republican politicians have focused so relentlessly on cutting taxes over the last several decades--whether the economy is booming or in recession, whether the federal budget is in surplus or deficit, and even though total taxes in the U.S. are already lower than in other developed countries. Drawing on archival documents that have never before been seen, Prasad traces the history of the famous 1981 "supply side" tax cut which became the cornerstore for the next several decades of Republican domestic economic policy. She argues that the main forces behind tax cuts are not business group pressure, racial animus, or a belief that tax cuts will pay for themselves. Rather, the tax cut movement arose because in America--unlike in the rest of the advanced industrial world--progressive policies are not embedded within a larger political economy that is favorable to business, a situation whose origins she explored in a prior book