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Democrats, Republicans and the Explosive Politics of Health Insurance

Theda Skocpol

The current debate on the repeal of the Affordable Care Act has once again highlighted healthcare as a divisive issue at the national level. In this climate, healthcare is framed in a variety of ways that escape easy categorization. This national debate cannot be addressed without taking into account the intricate history of social policy in the United States since the end of the Civil War and how the emergence of welfare programs in the 20th century were shaped by race, gender, and class structures. Professor Theda Skocpol presents her recent work how the health insurance debate has galvanized both the Democratic and Republican parties and has also showcased the complexities of the relationship between the Federal and the State Governments.

THEDA SKOCPOL (PhD, Harvard, 1975) is the Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology at Harvard University. At Harvard, she has served as Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (2005-2007) and as Director of the Center for American Political Studies (2000-2006). In 1996, Skocpol served as President of the Social Science History Association, an interdisciplinary professional group, and in 2002-03, she served as President of the American Political Science Association during the centennial of this leading professional body.
In 2007, she was awarded the Johan Skytte Prize in Political Science for her “visionary analysis of the significance of the state for revolutions, welfare, and political trust, pursued with theoretical depth and empirical evidence.” The Skytte Prize is one of the largest and most prestigious in political science and is awarded annually by the Skytte Foundation at Uppsala University (Sweden) to the scholar who in the view of the foundation has made the most valuable contribution to the discipline.

Skocpol has also been elected to membership in all three major U.S. interdisciplinary honor societies: the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (elected 1994), the American Philosophical Society (elected 2006), and the National Academy of Sciences (elected 2008). Skocpol’s work covers an unusually broad spectrum of topics including both comparative politics (States and Social Revolutions, 1979) and American politics (Protecting Soldiers and Mothers: The Political Origins of Social Policy in the United States, 1992).

Among her other works are Bringing the State Back In (1985, with Peter Evans and Dietrich Rueschemeyer); Social Policy in the United States (1995); Boomerang: Clinton’s Health Security Effort and the Turn Against Government in US Politics (1996); Civic Engagement in American Democracy (1999, with Morris Fiorina); Diminished Democracy: From Membership to Management in American Civic Life (2003); Inequality and American Democracy: What We Know and What We Need to Learn(2005, with Lawrence R. Jacobs); What a Mighty Power We Can Be: African American Fraternal Groups and The Struggle for Racial Equality (2006, with Ariane Liazos and Marshall Ganz); and The Transformation of American Politics: Activist Government and the Rise of Conservatism (2007, with Paul Pierson). Her books and articles have been widely cited in political science literature and have won numerous awards, including the 1993 Woodrow Wilson Award of the American Political Science Association for the best book in political science for the previous year. Skocpol’s research focuses on U.S. social policy and civic engagement in American democracy, including changes since the 1960s.

She has recently launched new projects on the transformations of U.S. federal policies in the Obama era.

Zeyno Ustun

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