Vanessa Williamson

Fellow in Governance Studies, Brookings Institution
Areas of Expertise:
  • Democracy & Governance
  • Economy
  • Civic Engagement

Connect with Vanessa

About Vanessa

Williamson’s research focuses on the politics of taxation in America. She worked at the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America from 2004 to 2010, serving as their Policy Director from 2007.


How to Revitalize America's Local Political Parties

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

The Tea Party Lives On - And Pulls Republicans to the Right

  • Vanessa Williamson

Who Pays America's Taxes?

  • Alexander Hertel-Fernandez

Making Sense of the Tea Party

  • Vanessa Williamson

In the News

Vanessa Williamson quoted on Republican opinions on gun control in Perry Bacon Jr., "GOP Politicians are Much More Resistant to Gun Control than GOP Voters Are " FiveThirtyEight, August 6, 2019.
Vanessa Williamson's research on federal tax spending discussed in Elizabeth Dohms, "Spelling Out Where Your Federal Tax Dollars Go," Wisconsin Public Radio, April 12, 2019.
"'Tax-the-Rich' Policies are All the Rage in the US," Vanessa Williamson, The Hill, February 17, 2019.
Vanessa Williamson's research on tax policy discussed in Jessica Smith, "Trump Promises Another Tax Cut for Middle-Class," ABC4 News, October 25, 2018.
"Why the U.S. Tax System is so Complicated — but Americans are Proud to Pay Taxes Anyway," Vanessa Williamson (with Andrea Louise Campbell), Interview with John Sides, The Washington Post, April 12, 2018.
"Right-to-Work Laws Have Devastated Unions — and Democrats," Vanessa Williamson (with Alexander Hertel-Fernandez and James Feigenbaum), New York Times, March 8, 2018.
Vanessa Williamson quoted in Andrew Hanna and Caitlin Emma, "Supreme Court Could Cripple Public Unions in Run-Up to 2018 Midterms" Politico, February 25, 2018.
Vanessa Williamson quoted on views on paying taxes in Noam Gidron, "The Left Shouldn’t Fear Nationalism. It Should Embrace It." Vox, February 8, 2018.
"What Can (or Should) Activists Learn from the Tea Party?," Theda Skocpol (with Vanessa Williamson), The Washington Post, May 11, 2017.
Guest to discuss the Tea Party on WBUR, Vanessa Williamson, February 13, 2017.
"How the Women’s March Could Have a Lasting Historical Impact," Vanessa Williamson, Teen Vogue, January 19, 2017.
"Choose Your Own Post-Mortem: Part 1," Vanessa Williamson (with Carly Knight), Brookings Institution, November 16, 2016.
"Choose Your Own Post-Mortem: Part 2," Vanessa Williamson (with Carly Knight), Brookings Institution, November 16, 2016.
"What the Tea Party Tells Us about the Trump Presidency," Vanessa Williamson, Brookings Institution, November 9, 2016.
"Getting Federal Stimulus Money Turned Blue U.S. Counties Bluer, and Red Counties Redder. How Can That Be?," Vanessa Williamson (with Katherine Levine Einstein and Kris-Stella Trump), The Washington Post, June 2, 2016.
"Can Sanders Do for Income Inequality What Clinton Did for Healthcare?," Vanessa Williamson, Brookings Institution, May 23, 2016.
Theda Skocpol quoted on the Koch's outsized influence on the Republican party in Jeff Stein, "How Conservative Megadonors Built a Shadow GOP That Weakened the Official Party" Vox, April 14, 2016.
"Clinton v. Sanders: New Democrats or the New Deal?," Vanessa Williamson, Brookings Institution, January 19, 2016.
"Trump's 'Populist' Tax Plan is Nothing but a Bush-Era Giveaway to the Rich," Vanessa Williamson, Talking Points Memo, September 29, 2015.
"How Bush-Appointed Ivy Leaguer Ted Cruz Became a Tea Party Darling," Vanessa Williamson, Talking Points Memo, March 25, 2015.
Vanessa Williamson quoted on Tea Party stance on immigration in Elias Isquith, "Tom Coburn’s Lunacy and the Real Meaning of the Immigration Fight" Salon, November 20, 2014.
Vanessa Williamson's research on conservative media (with Theda Skocpol) discussed in Matthew W. Hughey and Gregory S. Parks, "Fox News' Divisive Race Strategy: How O'Reilly, Hannity and Coulter Intentionally Tore America Apart," Salon, May 17, 2014.
Vanessa Williamson quoted on their book, "The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism", "The Ten Best Political Books of 2012" The New Yorker, December 14, 2012.
Interview on The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican ConservatismVanessa Williamson, The Rachel Maddow Show, December 9, 2011.


Read My Lips: Why Americans are Proud to Pay Taxes (Princeton University Press, 2017).

Presents a surprising picture of tax attitudes in the United States, and demonstrates that Americans view taxpaying as a civic responsibility and a moral obligation.

The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism (with Theda Skocpol) (Oxford University Press, 2012).
Shows how grassroots activism, elite funders and policy advocates, and the right-wing media interact to allow the Tea Party to boost the GOP and prod it to the right. Includes interviews with grass roots activists and an analysis of the role of the Tea Party in the 2010 and 2012 elections.