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

McConnell’s Misstep -- and Obama’s Backbone

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made a big mistake when he declared that Republicans would not confirm any Supreme Court nominee appointed by President Obama in this election year. For starters, it makes Republican senators, several of whom are defending closely contested seats in purple states, look purely obstructionist and opportunist. The same goes for the GOP presidential candidates who are treating the question of who will succeed conservative Justice Antonin Scalia as nothing but political.

More importantly, Republicans are missing an opportunity to lock in a center-right justice before a Democrat gets elected president. If McConnell and Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley were shrewd, they would play to Obama’s vanity and signal that they could live with a moderate. That way the seat, instead of going to a liberal who would deliver progressives a long-awaited 5-4 liberal high court majority, would go to another Anthony Kennedy-style moderate conservative. That would create an alignment of three conservatives, four liberals, and two swing votes.

Would Obama have the nerve to resist this? As companion pieces in the Prospect by Peter Dreier and Margo Schlanger suggest, the court’s current 4-4 deadlock actually helps liberals, because so many lower court rulings cut in a more liberal direction. They would have been struck down by a 5-4 majority had Scalia lived through the end of the current Court term in June. But now the lower court rulings, which tackle issues ranging from affirmative action to union representation and abortion rights, will stand.

That leaves Obama with the upper hand, if he will use it. He should be in no rush to appoint a centrist. Any nominee embraced by McConnell and his GOP allies would almost certainly disappoint progressives. Obama would do better to appoint a highly-qualified progressive, split the GOP Senate caucus, and dare Republicans to be obstructionist.

Generation Sanders

Maybe it's time to stop being so dismissive of Sanders and the mass frustration that he is channeling. 

AP Photo/The Christian Science Monitor, Ann Hermes
AP Photo/The Christian Science Monitor, Ann Hermes At left, Jonas Hall-Andersen, a volunteer from Denmark, helps regulate seating at a Bernie Sanders Get Out the Vote Rally at Franklin Pierce University Fieldhouse on February 4, 2016 in Rindge, New Hampshire. This article originally appeared at The Huffington Post . F or more than a year, my pragmatist friends and colleagues have underestimated the appeal of Bernie Sanders. As a big Sanders win approaches in the New Hampshire primary, they insist that this will be Sanders's last hurrah and urge his supporters to get real and get with the program—which is to unite behind Hillary Clinton as the Democrat best positioned to be nominated and to win in November. Many of my political friends are simply missing the import of the Sanders campaign. Much of his appeal is a blend of generational and economic. The millennial generation has gotten the worst economic screwing since the generation that came of age in the Great Depression. In some...

In Praise of Unrealistic Ideas

AP Photo/Evan Vucci
AP Photo/Evan Vucci Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders speaks during a campaign rally at Grand View University, on Sunday, January 31, 2016, in Des Moines, Iowa. This article originally appeared at The Huffington Post . T he core blockage of American politics today is that nothing in mainstream debate is radical enough to fix what's broken in the economy. Today, the vast majority of Americans are being left far behind a halting economic recovery. The typical American family has not gotten a raise in more than three decades. The Sanders campaign on the populist left and the Trump campaign on the populist right are both emblematic of the fact that large numbers of Americans have concluded that the system is not serving them, and they want radical change. The Trump voters, more likely to be older white males, working class or lower middle class, are sick of the fact that they seem to be losing ground every year. The question of whether they are losing ground to...

How Michael Bloomberg Complicates the Election

(Photo: AP)
(Photo: AP) Michael Bloomberg at the World Climate Change Conference in Paris on December 4, 2015 A s you have doubtless read or seen, Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York, has put out the word that his minions are testing the waters for an independent candidacy . Bloomberg is supposedly the sensible moderate that the county needs, the one that political polarization has kept from the ballot of either party. But that’s not an obstacle that a few billion dollars from the candidate’s own fortune can’t fix. Bloomberg is center-right on economics and finance, and liberal on social issues and gun control. He’s not likely to get elected. There is no mass clamoring for such a combination, except among fellow rich people. Yet Bloomberg’s entry could tip the race—more likely to the Republican than the Democrat. Investment banker Peter G. Peterson made an absolute fool of himself imagining that there was a mass groundswell of public opinion waiting for a leader to step forward urging...

Get Ready for a Three-Way Race in November

AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt
AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt Republican presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump participates in the spin room after the Fox Business Network Republican presidential debate at the North Charleston Coliseum, Thursday, January 14, 2016, in North Charleston, South Carolina. This article originally appeared at The Huffington Post . T his could well be the first election since 2000 with an independent candidate. In the past century, that happened in 1912, 1948, 1980, 1992 and 2000. In three of these elections, the independent probably changed the outcome. This year, a three-way—or even a four-way race—would be a wild card in an election that is already a doozie. It could take any of several forms, with different partisan winners and losers. Consider: Suppose Donald Trump is the Republican nominee and Hillary Clinton is the Democrat. Establishment Republicans will be convinced that their party has been hijacked by a bizarre rabble-rouser; GOP elites will be unsure which is worse—the...