Robert Kuttner

Robert Kuttner is co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect, and professor at Brandeis University's Heller School. His latest book is Debtors' Prison: The Politics of Austerity Versus Possibility. He writes columns for The Huffington Post, The Boston Globe and the New York Times international edition. 

Recent Articles

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...

A More Truthful Use of Political Props

It was Ronald Reagan, that old trouper, who first started using as human props ordinary Americans who would supposedly benefit from administration policies. We became accustomed to seeing John and Mary Doe, the putative beneficiaries of tax cuts and regulatory guttings, seated in the gallery at State of the Union addresses and other political events. Reagan also liked to identify himself with everyday heroes, who were regularly invited to White House affairs. Christa McAuliffe, the schoolteacher who tragically died in the 1986 Challenger explosion, gave her life because the Reagan administration needed an education prop. At the time, the administration was under fire for big cuts in federal school funding. Sending a teacher into space, supposedly to perform educational experiments, was mainly a public relations gimmick to divert attention from the administration's actual policies and associate Reagan in the public mind with teaching. Despite occasional setbacks, the use of human props...

Democrats, Block Those Bush Appointees

Republicans now control the executive and legislative branches of government and are aiming for a lock on the third branch, the federal courts. All that stands in their way are 50 Democratic senators, 40 of whom can mount a filibuster. But will the Democrats be as unified and as tough as the Republicans? We will get a preview of the Democrats' resolve when the Senate takes up the nomination of Ted Olson as solicitor general. Olson, who was less than candid with the Senate Judiciary Committee about his role in the Clinton-bashing Arkansas Project, would be the most partisan solicitor general ever. Orrin Hatch, the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, now wants to make it harder for home state senators to delay court nominations with so-called blue slips. Coincidentally, it was Hatch, in 1995, who hardened the blue-slip policy to allow a single senator to block a nomination indefinitely. Republicans used this system to block dozens of Clinton nominations, which were...

Bush Paid Dearly For Arrogance

Senator Jim Jeffords left the Republican Party just as the Senate was completing action to approve President Bush's tax cut with only slight modifications. While Jeffords's switch will help the Democrats slow down Bush's juggernaut, it comes too late to block his single most revolutionary victory. Bush will now pay dearly for governing as if he had a mandate to move the country hard right. Democrats, in gaining control of Senate committees, will gain the immensely useful power to run hearings. This will enable them to set agendas and shed light on abuses that Republicans and their corporate allies would rather ignore. It will help Democrats promote liberal legislation and slow Republican alternatives. And it will make it harder for Bush to appoint wall-to-wall conservative judges. But Jeffords's shift is not without complications for the Democrats as well. Now a single Democratic senator has the power to hold the whole Democratic caucus hostage by threatening to bolt their party just...

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