Image - Lily Geismer

Past Event

Lily Geismer: How Democrats Failed to Solve Inequality

Despite controlling two of the three branches of government in Washington, the Democratic Party is struggling with its identity and the policies it should emphasize, particularly when it comes to reducing inequality and poverty at a time of deep divisions in the United States.

For decades, the Republican Party has been known as the party of the rich: arguing for "business-friendly" policies like deregulation and tax cuts. But as our national and global economy confronts a crisis of inequality, some, like increasingly visible political historian Lily Geismer, question whether the Democrats are willing or able to take political risks to pursue policies that would help address or reduce poverty.

In her powerful new book Left Behind: The Democrats' Failed Attempt to Solve Inequality, Geismer shows how she feels the Democratic Party of the 80s and 90s—particularly during the height of the Clinton Administration years—furthered policy ideas that centered on helping the poor without asking the rich to make any sacrifices: "Doing well by doing good" was a popular theme. Social enterprise and micro-lending became big businesses, and private programs to promote democracy and equality abroad grew trendy. But as social programs in the private sector boomed, the structure of the government in the United States began to weaken, according to Geismer, contributing to a crisis that has now fully arrived. And the Democratic Party is divided about how to respond, leaving the poor without a true champion, and the public unsure where one of the country's two major parties stands on inequality.

Please join us for an important discussion about poverty, the Democratic Party politics that make it harder to address, and where we can go from here.


Copies of Left Behind are available for purchase at checkout (for U.S. domestic shipping only).

Speaker photo by Michael Kaufman.

March 23, 2022

The Commonwealth Club of California
110 The Embarcadero
Taube Family Auditorium
San Francisco, CA 94105
United States

Image - Lily Geismer

Lily Geismer

Ph.D., Associate Professor of History, Claremont McKenna College; Author, Left Behind: The Democrats' Failed Attempt to Solve Inequality

Image - Dan Pfeiffer

In Conversation with Dan Pfeiffer

Co-Host, "Pod Save America"; Author, Batting the Big Life: How Fox, Facebook, and the MAGA Media Are Destroying America (forthcoming); Twitter @danpfeiffer


5:30 p.m. doors open & check-in
6–7 p.m. program
(all times PDT)