Alexander W. Hertel-Fernandez

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

Connect with Alexander

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
  • Hahrie Han
  • Lara Putnam
  • Daniel Schlozman
  • Theda Skocpol
  • Vanessa S. 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 S. Williamson

In the News

Opinion: "Using the “Hidden Levers” of Government," Alexander W. Hertel-Fernandez, The Forge, November 8, 2023.
Interviewed in "In Conversation With Alexander Hertel-Fernandez," Washington Center for Equitable Growth, October 6, 2020.
Quoted by German Lopez in "I was Skeptical of Unions. Then I Joined One.," Vox, August 19, 2019.
Research discussed by Rob O'Dell and Nick Penzenstadler, in "vYou Elected Them to Write New Laws. They’re Letting Corporations Do It Instead.," USA Today, April 4, 2019.
Guest on New Books Network, February 15, 2019.
Research discussed by Katherine Barrett & Richard Greene, in "How States Are Making It Harder to Leave Unions," Governing, July 16, 2018.
Opinion: "The Supreme Court Just Dealt Unions a Big Blow in Janus. Here's What You Need to Know About the Political Fallout.," Alexander W. Hertel-Fernandez (with James Feigenbaum), The Washington Post, June 27, 2018.
Quoted by Noam Scheiber in "Labor Unions Will Be Smaller After Supreme Court Decision, but Maybe Not Weaker," The New York Times, June 27, 2018.
Research discussed by Philip Wegmann, in "Sen. Joe Donnelley Makes a Pro-Labor Pitch to Disappearing Union Voters," Washington Examiner, June 4, 2018.
Research discussed by Ganesh Sitaraman, in "In Corporate America, Too Many Bosses Tell Employees Who to Vote For," The Guardian, May 7, 2018.
Opinion: "How Companies Manipulate Their Workers into Becoming a Powerful Lobbying Force," Alexander W. Hertel-Fernandez, Fast Company, April 3, 2018.
Quoted by Josh Eidelson and Hassan Kanu in "The Newest Weapons against Unions are Employees," Bloomberg Politics, April 2, 2018.
Opinion: "Employers are Increasingly Using Their Workers as Lobbyists. Here’s Why That’s a Problem.," Alexander W. Hertel-Fernandez, Vox, March 29, 2018.
Quoted by Valerie Bolden-Barrett in "More Companies are Urging Workers to Rally for Policies, Candidates," HR Dive, March 27, 2018.
Quoted by Grigor Atanesian in "'Right-to-Work' Draws Dark Money into Missouri," The Columbia Missourian, March 26, 2018.
Opinion: "U.S. Companies are Pressuring Their Workers on How to Lobby and Vote," Alexander W. Hertel-Fernandez, Washington Post, March 21, 2018.
Interviewed in "Voting for the Boss," Jacobin, March 16, 2018.
Opinion: "Right-to-Work Laws Have Devastated Unions — and Democrats," Alexander W. Hertel-Fernandez (with Vanessa S. Williamson and James Feigenbaum), New York Times, March 8, 2018.
Quoted by Andrew Hanna and Caitlin Emma in "Supreme Court Could Cripple Public Unions in Run-Up to 2018 Midterms," Politico, February 25, 2018.
Quoted by Noam Scheiber and Kenneth P. Vogel in "Behind a Key Anti-Labor Case, a Web of Conservative Donors," New York Times, February 25, 2018.
Opinion: "Trump’s Attempt to ‘Drain the Swamp’ Will Make Matters Worse in Washington," Alexander W. Hertel-Fernandez (with Lee Drutman), Los Angeles Times, November 27, 2016.
Opinion: "Behind "Make America Great," the Koch Agenda Returns with a Vengeance," Alexander W. Hertel-Fernandez (with Theda Skocpol and Caroline Tervo), Talking Points Memo, November 21, 2016.
Quoted by Andrew Ross Sorkin in "Whom to Vote For? Employees Tend to Follow Their Leader," New York Times, September 5, 2016.
Opinion: "Democrats are Losing to Republicans at the State Level, and Badly. Here's Why.," Alexander W. Hertel-Fernandez (with Theda Skocpol), Vox, August 3, 2016.
Research discussed by Amanda Taub, in "After Trump: How Authoritarian Voters Will Change American Politics," Vox, April 28, 2016.
Research discussed by Natalya Savka, in "The 30 Top Thinkers under 30: Alexander Hertel-Fernandez," Pacific Standard, March 17, 2016.
Quoted by Ned Resnikoff in "How Citizens United Made It Easier for Bosses to Control Their Workers’ Votes," International Business Times, March 17, 2016.
Opinion: "Five Myths about the Koch Brothers - and Why It Matters to Set Them Straight," Alexander W. Hertel-Fernandez (with Theda Skocpol), Bill Moyers, March 10, 2016.
Quoted by Jane Mayer in "Is This the End of Big-Money Politics?," The New Yorker, March 3, 2016.
Interviewed in "Trump Will Win or Lose. Either Way, the Koch Network Will Still Shape the Republican Party.," (with Theda Skocpol and Henry Farrell) The Washington Post, February 29, 2016.
Quoted by Sean McElwee in "Moneyed Interests are Blocking U.S. Action on Climate Change," Al Jazeera America, February 8, 2016.
Quoted by Jane Mayer in "New Koch," The New Yorker, January 25, 2016.
Research discussed by Thomas B. Edsall, in "The Republican Party’s 50-State Solution," New York Times, January 13, 2016.
Opinion: "How the Right Trounced Liberals in the States," Alexander W. Hertel-Fernandez (with Theda Skocpol), Democracy Journal, Fall 2015.
Guest on MSNBC Nerding Out, May 14, 2015.
Research discussed by Andrew Prokop, in "Millions of Americans are Experiencing Intimidating Political Contact at Work," Vox, May 6, 2015.
Opinion: "How ALEC Helped Undermine Public Unions," Alexander W. Hertel-Fernandez, Washington Post, December 17, 2014.
Opinion: "How Sweden Fights Inequality: Not by Taxing the Rich," Alexander W. Hertel-Fernandez (with Cathie Jo Martin), Vox, October 8, 2014.
Opinion: "ObamaCare's Surprising New Ally: The Chamber of Commerce," Alexander W. Hertel-Fernandez, Talking Points Memo, May 7, 2014.
Opinion: "Which Companies Pay to Play with ALEC?," Alexander W. Hertel-Fernandez, Bangor Daily News, February 18, 2014.
Opinion: "The Real Unemployment Insurance Fix No One is Talking About," Alexander W. Hertel-Fernandez (with Alix Gould-Werth), Talking Points Memo, February 6, 2014.
Opinion: "ALEC Has Tremendous Influence in State Legislatures. Here's Why," Alexander W. 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.
"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.

"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.

"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.