Robert Kuttner

Robert Kuttner is co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect, a professor at Brandeis University's Heller School, and a distinguished senior fellow of the think tank Demos. He was a longtime columnist for Business Week and continues to write columns in The Boston Globe. He is the author of Obama's Challenge and other books.

Recent Articles

Of Our Time: Fearful Symmetry

T he 1994 election, more than any in recent memory, "nationalized" politics. That is, the Republicans ran on a coherent ideology and program; Newt Gingrich's Contract with America became the manifesto. Even though the actual swing in the popular vote was small, it was consistent across the country--enough to give Republicans control of both houses of Congress and most statehouses. Given the drama of the Democrats losing the U.S. House for the first time in 40 years, the Republican ferocity, and rare party unity under Gingrich, the result was almost parliamentary. The Republicans, despite slender numerical margins in the House and Senate, took their victory as a mandate for radical change. However, ours is not a parliamentary system. And the president happens to be of the opposite party. In claiming a mandate, the Republicans have made much of the fact that Clinton was elected 36 months ago, while they were elected 12 months ago. But the fact remains that he is president--in a system...

Of Our Time: A Pile of Vetoes

M idway through this first year of Republican legislative hegemony, President Clinton has seemingly risen, once again, from the political dead. One cannot yet say the same for the Democratic Party or the cause of liberalism. The Republicans are still very much in charge, with an agenda more stridently radical and more dominant than anything justified by their slender win last November. One prospect is that the Clinton presidency will survive, but in an alliance with a conservative Congress and at the expense of liberalism. Another is that Clinton's attempt at accommodation will fail, and the right will make a clean sweep in 1996. To date, Clinton's posture has been that of Great Conciliator. During Gingrich's giddy Hundred Days, the president kept his head down. He was polite, even deferential to the Republicans, insisting that he wanted to work constructively with the new congressional majority. He was not elected "to produce a pile of vetoes," Clinton declared on several occasions...

Up From 1994

S ince Franklin Roosevelt, the central liberal credo has been the use of government to benefit ordinary people. That premise is now battered--fiscally, politically, ideologically. In 1994, swing voters rejected both the concept and the party of government. The 1994 midterm election is not yet the epochal realignment that prefigures a new governing coalition and a new dominant party. But if Democrats sleep through the wake-up call and Republicans win the White House in 1996, realignment will be complete. Thus the stakes could not be higher for Bill Clinton, and for liberals. Clinton must decide how to use his pulpit: when to conciliate and when to fight; what to jettison and what to defend; where to offer bipartisanship and where to draw partisan distinctions; what mechanisms to signal alliance with disaffected voters, absent the capacity to legislate; how to regain ground in the near term and also build strategically for the long term. Clinton also will have to struggle to regain the...

Comment: Why Liberals Need Radicals

The demonstrations last November in Seattle and last month in Washington have made some liberals uneasy. For many, the street activity suggests both a rowdiness and a know-nothing attitude toward global commerce. A recent New Republic cover, caricaturing a protester, asks, "Does the New New Left Have a Brain?" I've noticed that my liberal friends divide into two camps: those who posit a Manichaean dividing line between "liberal" and "left," and those who appreciate the necessary role of radicals. I'm with the latter group, though at the end of the day I count myself a liberal. For one thing, nearly every great social justice movement was initiated by radicals before it became safe for liberals. This includes the antislavery movement, women's suffrage, birth control, modern feminism, industrial unionism, civil rights, and the movement against the Vietnam War. Even causes that seem fairly tame today, such as pure food and drugs and safe workplaces, were initially the handiwork of such...

Comment: Is Bradley for Real?

We've gotten our hearts broken before. Clinton, many of us hoped, was really a closet progressive who somehow also attracted moderates. His fellow southern governor, Jimmy Carter, looked to be a fine reformer for the post-Watergate era. But both presidents left legacies more conservative than liberal. Both were anti-party men. Both failed to use their high office to enhance credibility in government, the Democratic Party, or the liberal cause. Now comes the moderately liberal former senator from New Jersey, seeming to outflank Al Gore on both ends. Bradley is rather to Gore's left with his calls to end child poverty and extend health coverage. Yet Bradley also has great appeal to independents and even to Republicans. Is this Clinton all over again, a politician who is all things to all people? Or something more hopeful? Is Bill Bradley for real? A bit warily, I think he is. Following him around Massachusetts and New Hampshire in early November, I noticed several encouraging things...

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