Alexander Hertel-Fernandez

Associate Professor of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University
Chapter Member: New York City SSN
Areas of Expertise:

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About Alexander

Hertel-Fernandez’s research currently focuses on the Democratic Party and the politics of federal tax policy; the sustainability of social insurance programs, with an emphasis on unemployment insurance and Social Security; and mobilization of business interests in state politics. Hertel-Fernandez is a member of the Roosevelt Institute Pipeline’s Boston Chapter, and is a former Board Member of the National New Deal Preservation Association.


Local Political Parties as Networks: A Guide to Self-Assessment

  • Lara Putnam
  • Daniel Schlozman
  • Tabatha Abu El-Haj
  • Joseph Anthony
  • Jacob M. Grumbach
  • Adam Seth Levine
  • Caroline Tervo

How to Revitalize America's Local Political Parties

  • Kenneth T. Andrews
  • Alexander Hertel-Fernandez
  • Lara Putnam
  • Daniel Schlozman
  • Theda Skocpol
  • Vanessa Williamson
  • Sarah E. James
  • Caroline Tervo
  • Michael Zoorob

Conservative and Progressive Trans-State Policy Networks

  • Theda Skocpol

The GOP Civil War over Medicaid Expansion in the States

  • Theda Skocpol

How to Fix America's Broken Unemployment Benefits

  • Alix Gould-Werth

Who Pays America's Taxes?

  • Vanessa Williamson

In the News

"Using the “Hidden Levers” of Government," Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, The Forge, November 8, 2023.
Interview on Weaknesses in the current U.S. Unemployment Insurance system Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Washington Center for Equitable Growth, October 6, 2020.
Alexander Hertel-Fernandez quoted on shifts towards temporary workers in the economy by Rachel Cohen, "Ending GM's Two-Tiered Labor System Is UAW Members' Top Demand - and Part of a Bigger Fight Against Worker Misclassification" The Intercept, September 26, 2019.
Alexander Hertel-Fernandez quoted on impact of right to work laws on political mobilization by German Lopez, "I was Skeptical of Unions. Then I Joined One." Vox, August 19, 2019.
Alexander Hertel-Fernandez's research on influence of conservative groups on state governments discussed by Rob O'Dell and Nick Penzenstadler, "vYou Elected Them to Write New Laws. They’re Letting Corporations Do It Instead.," USA Today, April 4, 2019.
Guest to discuss conservative groups' influence on New Books Network, Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, February 15, 2019.
Alexander Hertel-Fernandez's research on unions discussed by Katherine Barrett & Richard Greene, "How States Are Making It Harder to Leave Unions," Governing, July 16, 2018.
"The Supreme Court Just Dealt Unions a Big Blow in Janus. Here's What You Need to Know About the Political Fallout.," Alexander Hertel-Fernandez (with James Feigenbaum), The Washington Post, June 27, 2018.
Alexander Hertel-Fernandez quoted by Noam Scheiber, "Labor Unions Will Be Smaller After Supreme Court Decision, but Maybe Not Weaker" The New York Times, June 27, 2018.
Alexander Hertel-Fernandez's research on Philip Wegmann, "Sen. Joe Donnelley Makes a Pro-Labor Pitch to Disappearing Union Voters," Washington Examiner, June 4, 2018.
Alexander Hertel-Fernandez's research on the mobilization of employees discussed by Ganesh Sitaraman, "In Corporate America, Too Many Bosses Tell Employees Who to Vote For," The Guardian, May 7, 2018.
"How Companies Manipulate Their Workers into Becoming a Powerful Lobbying Force," Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Fast Company, April 3, 2018.
Alexander Hertel-Fernandez quoted by Josh Eidelson and Hassan Kanu, "The Newest Weapons against Unions are Employees" Bloomberg Politics, April 2, 2018.
Alexander Hertel-Fernandez quoted on companies mobilizing workers by Valerie Bolden-Barrett, "More Companies are Urging Workers to Rally for Policies, Candidates" HR Dive, March 27, 2018.
Alexander Hertel-Fernandez quoted on "right-to-work" campaigns by Grigor Atanesian, "'Right-to-Work' Draws Dark Money into Missouri" The Columbia Missourian, March 26, 2018.
"U.S. Companies are Pressuring Their Workers on How to Lobby and Vote," Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Washington Post, March 21, 2018.
"Right-to-Work Laws Have Devastated Unions — and Democrats," Alexander Hertel-Fernandez (with Vanessa Williamson and James Feigenbaum), New York Times, March 8, 2018.
Alexander Hertel-Fernandez quoted on how labor laws could hurt Democrats on Election Day, "The Supreme Court is Hearing a Labor Case Likely to Significantly Hit Unions, Democrats" The Week, February 26, 2018.
Alexander Hertel-Fernandez quoted by Noam Scheiber and Kenneth P. Vogel, "Behind a Key Anti-Labor Case, a Web of Conservative Donors" New York Times, February 25, 2018.
Alexander Hertel-Fernandez quoted by Andrew Hanna and Caitlin Emma, "Supreme Court Could Cripple Public Unions in Run-Up to 2018 Midterms" Politico, February 25, 2018.
"Trump’s Attempt to ‘Drain the Swamp’ Will Make Matters Worse in Washington," Alexander Hertel-Fernandez (with Lee Drutman), Los Angeles Times, November 27, 2016.
"Behind "Make America Great," the Koch Agenda Returns with a Vengeance," Alexander Hertel-Fernandez (with Theda Skocpol and Caroline Tervo), Talking Points Memo, November 21, 2016.
Alexander Hertel-Fernandez quoted on coercive kinds of political contact at work by Andrew Ross Sorkin, "Whom to Vote For? Employees Tend to Follow Their Leader" New York Times, September 5, 2016.
Alexander Hertel-Fernandez quoted on the Koch network in the states by Lee Drutman, "The Kochs are Retreating from National Elections. Here's What We Should Learn." Vox, May 16, 2016.
Alexander Hertel-Fernandez's research on Republican party committees discussed by Amanda Taub, "After Trump: How Authoritarian Voters Will Change American Politics," Vox, April 28, 2016.
Alexander Hertel-Fernandez quoted on the Koch's outsized influence on the Republican party by Jeff Stein, "How Conservative Megadonors Built a Shadow GOP That Weakened the Official Party" Vox, April 14, 2016.
Alexander Hertel-Fernandez's research on political recruiting discussed by Natalya Savka, "The 30 Top Thinkers under 30: Alexander Hertel-Fernandez," Pacific Standard, March 17, 2016.
Alexander Hertel-Fernandez quoted on political messaging in the workplace by Ned Resnikoff, "How Citizens United Made It Easier for Bosses to Control Their Workers’ Votes" International Business Times, March 17, 2016.
"Five Myths about the Koch Brothers - and Why It Matters to Set Them Straight," Alexander Hertel-Fernandez (with Theda Skocpol), Bill Moyers, March 10, 2016.
Alexander Hertel-Fernandez quoted on the Koch network by Jane Mayer, "Is This the End of Big-Money Politics?" The New Yorker, March 3, 2016.
Interview on the Republican agenda beyond election 2016 Alexander Hertel-Fernandez (with Theda Skocpol and Henry Farrell), The Washington Post, February 29, 2016.
Alexander Hertel-Fernandez quoted on inconsistencies with pledge signers for stopping climate taxes by Sean McElwee, "Moneyed Interests are Blocking U.S. Action on Climate Change" Al Jazeera America, February 8, 2016.
Alexander Hertel-Fernandez quoted on the Koch network by Jane Mayer, "New Koch" The New Yorker, January 25, 2016.
Alexander Hertel-Fernandez's research on documents the failure of the left to keep pace with the right in building local organizations discussed by Thomas B. Edsall, "The Republican Party’s 50-State Solution," New York Times, January 13, 2016.
Alexander Hertel-Fernandez's research on the Koch network discussed by Sean McElwee, "The Scary Lessons of Matt Bevin: What We Can Learn about American Politics from the Right Wing’s Destructive Anti-Medicaid Crusade," Salon, November 7, 2015.
"How the Right Trounced Liberals in the States," Alexander Hertel-Fernandez (with Theda Skocpol), Democracy Journal, Fall 2015.
Alexander Hertel-Fernandez quoted on bosses coercively mobilizing employees into politics by Corey Robin, "Your Boss Wants to Control Your Vote: The Real Reason to Fear Corporate Power" Salon, June 7, 2015.
Guest to discuss bosses recruiting employees into politics on MSNBC Nerding Out, Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, May 14, 2015.
Alexander Hertel-Fernandez's research on bosses recruiting employees into politics discussed by Andrew Prokop, "Millions of Americans are Experiencing Intimidating Political Contact at Work," Vox, May 6, 2015.
"How ALEC Helped Undermine Public Unions," Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Washington Post, December 17, 2014.
"How Sweden Fights Inequality: Not by Taxing the Rich," Alexander Hertel-Fernandez (with Cathie Jo Martin), Vox, October 8, 2014.
"ObamaCare's Surprising New Ally: The Chamber of Commerce," Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Talking Points Memo, May 7, 2014.
"Which Companies Pay to Play with ALEC?," Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Bangor Daily News, February 18, 2014.
"The Real Unemployment Insurance Fix No One is Talking About," Alexander Hertel-Fernandez (with Alix Gould-Werth), Talking Points Memo, February 6, 2014.
"ALEC Has Tremendous Influence in State Legislatures. Here's Why," Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Washington Post, December 9, 2013.


"Small Business Pressures and Democratic Party Ambivalence in U.S. Tax Politics" (with Theda Skocpol). Studies in American Political Development (forthcoming).
Compares debates over the inception and renewal of the Bush tax cuts and argues how small business organizations and constituencies have divided Democrats on tax issues. Identifies the mechanisms that have propelled tax resistance in contemporary U.S. politics, and contributes to theoretical understandings of the ways in which political parties are influenced by policy feedbacks and by coalitions of policy-driven organized economic interests.
"The Koch Network and Republican Party Extremism" (with Theda Skocpol). Perspectives on Politics 14, no. 3 (2016).

Draws from research on changes since 2000 in the organizational universes surrounding the Republican and Democratic parties to highlight a major emergent force in U.S. politics: the recently expanded "Koch network" that coordinates big money funders, idea producers, issue advocates, and innovative constituency-building efforts in an ongoing effort to pull the Republican Party and agendas of U.S. politics sharply to the right. Reviews the major components and evolution of the Koch network and explores how it has reshaped American politics and policy agendas, focusing especially on implications for right-tilted partisan polarization and rising economic inequality. 

"How the Right Trounced the Liberals in the States" (with Theda Skocpol). Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, no. 39 (2016).

Discusses the work and organizational innovations on the Right, the sputtering liberal efforts to counter the American Legislative Exchange Council, the success of Center-Left research networks. Discusses the shortcomings of the Left and what can be learned from the Right.

"Business Associations, Conservative Networks, and the Ongoing Republican War over Medicaid Expansion" (with Theda Skocpol and Daniel Lynch). Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law 41, no. 2 (2016): 239-296.

Finds that partisan differences between Democrats and Republicans are central, but goes beyond earlier analyses to measure added effects from two dueling factions within the Republican coalition: statewide business associations and cross-state networks of ideologically conservative organizations. Shows that GOP-leaning or GOP-dominated states have been most likely to embrace the expansion when organized business support outweighs pressures from conservative networks. Helps make sense of ongoing state-level debates over a core part of health reform and sheds new light on mounting policy tensions within the Republican party.

"Funding the State Policy Battleground: The Role of Foundations and Firms," Duke University Symposium on Philanthropy, Politics, and Democracy, December 31, 2014.
Investigates interactions between funders, policy advocates, and political entrepreneurs on the left and the right to explore how the two major parties coordinate policy action at the state level.
"Who Passes Business’s ‘Model Bills’? Policy Capacity and Corporate Influence in U.S. State Politics" Perspectives on Politics 12, no. 3 (2014).
Argues that ALEC provides private policy capacity to state legislators who would otherwise lack such support, and relatedly, that low state policy capacity may favor certain organized interests over others - namely the business interests affiliated with ALEC.
"Dismantling Policy through Fiscal Constriction: Examining the Erosion in State Unemployment Insurance Finances" Social Service Review 87, no. 3 (2013).
Examines the long-run decline in UI finances and concludes that changes in UI taxes are associated with the largest declines in state finances. Examines why more states have not pursued reforms to strengthen UI finances and finds that opponents of more generous UI benefits have generally succeeded in preventing such measures, thus constricting UI finances and gradually retrenching benefits.
"A Young Person’s Guide to Social Security " (with Anna Turner and Kathryn Edwards) (Economic Policy Institute, 2011).
Presents a comprehensive guide to Social Security, written by young authors for young people.