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

One Is a Great Man. The Other Is the President-Elect.

On John Lewis and Donald Trump

(Photo: AP/Mark Humphrey)
(Photo: AP/Mark Humphrey) Representative John Lewis poses in the Civil Rights Room at the Nashville Public Library on November 18, 2016. T here may be no two Americans more different—in background, temperament, and career—than Donald Trump and John Lewis. Their viral paths crossed last week after Lewis—a civil rights icon and a congressman from Atlanta—said in an NBC interview on Friday that “I don’t see the president-elect as a legitimate president.” The next day, Trump responded over Twitter, saying Lewis was “All talk, talk, talk - no action or results. Sad.” Trump’s comments sparked controversy in part because the exchange occurred on Martin Luther King Day weekend. Trump might have been shocked by the uproar stirred by his tantrum, including demands by people across the ideological and partisan spectrum that he apologize to Lewis. It is possible, perhaps even likely, that Trump had no idea he was attacking one of the most admired figures in American history—one whose entire life...

Denzel Washington Brings August Wilson’s ‘Fences’ to the Screen

New film captures playwright’s iconic family drama about race, community, and baseball

Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP
Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP Actor Denzel Washington attends a special screening of Fences , at Rose Theater at Jazz at Lincoln Center's Frederick P. Rose Hall, on Monday, December 19, 2016, in New York. T he film version of August Wilson’s play Fences —a stunning slice-of-life drama that illuminates large issues of race, family, and work—links the story of one family with civil rights history and the Pittsburgh neighborhood where the film takes place. It is 1957, and the film’s protagonist, Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington), owns a small, run-down house with a tiny backyard in the Hill District, the heart of Pittsburgh’s black community, where he lives with his wife Rose (Viola Davis) and their 17-year-old son, Cory (Jovan Adepo). Troy is 53 and earns $74 a week ($32,000 a year in today’s dollars) as a garbage collector, which he dutifully hands over to Rose every Friday. Though he lives paycheck to paycheck—and can’t even afford $200 to buy a television or $234 to fix the roof—...

The Professor Watchlist Gets an F for Accuracy

It’s easy to laugh at the error-riddled attacks on professors now being circulated on a new right-wing website, but such propaganda campaigns foreshadow more serious assaults on the First Amendment under a President Trump.

jeenamoolstudio/Shutterstock
jeenamoolstudio/Shutterstock I 'm one of the roughly 200 professors listed on the Professor Watchlist , which claims to “expose and document college professors who discriminate against conservative students.” It was launched on November 21, two weeks after Donald Trump was elected president. It is sponsored by a right-wing group called Turning Point USA and run by a 22-year-old conservative named Charlie Kirk. The website is getting a lot of attention in both the mainstream and right-wing media. None of the stories about it so far have sought to identify where its funding comes from or who is really behind it. Mainstream news outlets, like The New York Times , have reported about it as a controversial group that might threaten free speech. Fox News, the Daily Caller , and other parts of the right-wing echo chamber celebrate it as a useful tool for exposing the allegedly “liberal” atmosphere on college campuses. If the Professor Watchlist were a research paper, I'd give it an F. Much...

Why Trump Picked Ben Carson as HUD Secretary

Donald Trump’s “edifice complex” explains his ill-advised choice of the completely inexperienced Ben Carson to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez Ben Carson speaks during a town hall meeting Sunday, February 21, 2016, in Reno, Nevada. W hy would Donald Trump appoint the uniquely unqualified Ben Carson to run the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development? If the Senate approves the neurosurgeon’s nomination, he will run an agency with a $47 billion budget that oversees federal rental assistance programs serving more than five million of the country's lowest-income households. The largest of these is the housing choice voucher program (formerly known as Section 8), which helps low-income families rent apartments in the private market. HUD also oversees a million units of public housing run by local governments, administers $5 billion in community development funds, insures the mortgages of more than one-fifth of all homeowners, and enforces fair housing laws that bar racial discrimination by lenders and landlords. Carson has no experience with any of these programs—nor any experience in...

Steve Mnuchin: Evictor, Forecloser, and Our New Treasury Secretary

Trump’s appointee is the very model of a predatory lender.

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster Steven Mnuchin, national finance chairman of President-elect Donald Trump's campaign, arrives at Trump Tower, Monday, November 21, 2016 in New York, to meet with President-elect Donald Trump. T hroughout his presidential campaign, Donald Trump criticized Wall Street bankers for their excessive political influence and attacked hedge-fund managers for getting away with “murder” under the current tax code. “The hedge-fund guys didn’t build this country,” Trump said on Face the Nation . “These are guys that shift paper around and they get lucky.” Now, however, Trump has tapped Steve Mnuchin, a 53-year-old Wall Street hedge-fund and banking mogul—and, since May, his campaign-finance chair—to be the nation’s secretary of the Treasury. Trump’s earlier rhetoric aside, it’s actually a good match. Both Trump and Mnuchin earned their first fortunes the old fashion way: They inherited them. Trump took over his father Fred’s real-estate empire and expanded it through...

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