Peter Dreier

Peter Dreier teaches politics and chairs the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College. His latest book is The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame (Nation Books, 2012).

Recent Articles

Recalling Pete Seeger’s Controversial Performance on the Smothers Brothers Show 50 Years Ago

Seeger had been blacklisted as a communist and this gutsy defiance of a corporate media giant marked his return to the mainstream cultural scene.

Josef Schwarz/Creative Commons Pete Seeger performing in 1986 F ifty years ago this week, folk singer Pete Seeger performed the controversial anti-war song “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy” on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour show on CBS television. The story of that appearance, and that song, illustrates the tumultuous political tensions of the era and was a bold act of defiance against corporate media power. Seeger, who died in 2014, is now viewed as a legendary figure in American history. But when Tom and Dick Smothers invited him on their show, many people still viewed him as a dangerous radical, marginalized by the nation’s political, business, and media establishment. Seeger had been blacklisted from network television since the 1950s because of his leftist politics. For a brief period in the early 1950s, as a member of the Weavers quartet, he performed in prestigious nightclubs, appeared on network television shows, and recorded several hit songs, including “Goodnight, Irene,” “...

Who Was Marjory Stoneman Douglas?

The namesake of the high school where 17 people were killed was a remarkable progressive activist—much like the students now demanding real gun control.

AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee
AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee Law enforcement officers block off the entrance to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida T here’s nothing on the Parkland, Florida, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School website about the woman whose name adorns the school, so its students may not realize that in rising from last week’s tragedy to speak truth to power, they are following in Douglas’s activist footsteps. Douglas would certainly see a bit of herself in Emma Gonzalez, the poised and eloquent young woman whose speech electrified her classmates, teachers, parents, and the whole country at a Fort Lauderdale rally on Saturday, only days after a gunman entered her school and killed 17 people. “If the president wants to come up to me and tell me to my face that it was a terrible tragedy and how it should never have happened and maintain telling us how nothing is going to be done about it,” said the 18-year-old senior, “I'm going to happily ask him how much money he received from the...

Wells Fargo Gets What It Deserves—And Just in Time

Janet Yellen lowered the boom on the crooked bank—but now finance’s regulators are all Trump appointees.

(Ron Sachs/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)
(Ron Sachs/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images) Wells Fargo CEO Timothy J. Sloan testifies before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs on October 3, 2017. O n Friday, Janet Yellen’s last day as chair of the Federal Reserve, the central bank imposed harsh penalties on Wells Fargo—the nation’s fourth-largest bank and its leading home lender—as punishment for its long-term abuse of consumers and employees. Much more than a slap on the wrist, the Fed announced that it would replace four members of Wells Fargo’s 16-member board, which it accused of failing to oversee the bank and fix problems that have transformed it from a corporate icon to a public disgrace. It also prohibited Wells Fargo from growing any larger than its current asset size ($2 trillion) until the regulator is persuaded that the bank has changed its ways. That means that Wells Fargo won’t be able to keep pace with rival banks engaged in mergers and acquisitions with other financial firms. “We cannot...

Should Democrats Hope that Joe Arpaio Wins Arizona’s GOP Nomination for Senate?

Will the retired sheriff’s candidacy put the Grand Canyon State in play?

(AP Photo/Matt York) Former Maricopa County Sheriff and U.S. Senate candidate Joe Arpaio at his office on January 10, 2018, in Fountain Hills, Arizona S hould liberals and Democrats pray for a Joe Arpaio victory in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate? On the one hand, his primary victory would further poison the political atmosphere and embolden white supremacists, anti-immigrant haters, and other bigots. On the other hand, an Arpaio candidacy would make it more likely that a Democrat will win the Senate seat next November, similar to Doug Jones’s defeat of Roy Moore for the Alabama Senate seat last month. A Democratic victory could help the party gain a majority in the Senate, where the Republicans now have a slim 51-49 edge. On Tuesday, the 85-year-old Arpaio declared his intention to seek the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Republican Jeff Flake, who declined to run for re-election after polls revealed he would have a hard time winning his party’s...

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