Courtney Martin

Courtney E. Martin is a Prospect senior correspondent. She is the author of Do It Anyway: The New Generation of Activists (Beacon Press). You can read more about her work at

Recent Articles

As Politics Evolves, Punditry Stalls

Obama has made a point of appointing a diverse group of thinkers to his cabinet. But what about the diversity of opinion outside the White House?

Christmas came early last week for progressives across the nation. As I watched the press conference where President-Elect Barack Obama officially announced his security team, I was giddy to count the number of women that he'd chosen (1-2-3) and the first African American to head the Justice Department -- as if they were long-awaited gifts under the tree. But like that kid on Christmas, I found that getting a few gifts only made me want more. Especially when I heard Obama say the following during the press grilling that followed: "I assembled this team because I'm a strong believer in strong personalities and strong opinions. I think that's how the best decisions are made. One of the dangers in the White House, based on my reading of history, is that you get wrapped up in group think and everybody agrees with everything and there's no discussion and there are no dissenting views. So I'm going to be welcoming a vigorous debate inside the White House." But what about outside the White...

Michelle Obama and Military Families

The incoming first lady is poised to make veterans' affairs one of her top issues -- and we could all take a cue from her.

Last July I sat across the picnic table from my cousin Lang, sipping iced tea and watching the Colorado sun set over the mountains as we talked about what veterans face upon coming home. Lang, 27, served in the Marines from 1999 to 2003 and had two tours of duty in Iraq, as well as a stint protecting the U.S.S. Cole. He is remarkably reflective, a man with soft eyes and a tenacious curiosity about the world. Among other things he said that evening, one sentence has echoed in my head: "The ones who really survive the transition home are those who are able to compartmentalize their lives into before and after." Lang was one of the survivors. After returning home, he managed to navigate the complex system of Veterans Affairs to get his GI benefits and go to college. When he graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles last May with a degree in political science, our entire family was overjoyed. He seems a beacon of mental and physical health, but I worry about his word choice...

Why American Youth Will Vote

Though we are sometimes too cool for our own good, the youth of America are also naive enough to hope. That's a good thing.

Let's just clear the air. There are a lot of reasons to be skeptical about electoral politics. Especially if you, like me, have only voted in two presidential elections that were both highly contested, dragged out affairs involving hanging chads, smug Bushes, and a cowardly Congress. And even if you didn't have the opportunity to vote in those deflating, hang-over inducing debacles, you watched it happen. You were a greasy-faced adolescent, part of a generation raised on "save the world" rhetoric and compulsory community service. You stole your mom's "I Voted" sticker and stuck it on your messenger bag. You dreamed of going behind those secret curtains and pulling the lever yourself. And then you learned about the electoral college and voter fraud and it all seemed like a whole lot of hype. But this, all you hipsters and hip-hop heads, Rock Band addicts and radical libertarians, 18- and 28-year-olds, is why we will vote today. We will vote because we were raised on a lot of rhetoric...

The Political Power of the Coffee Klatch

It's not campaign ads or talking heads that have the greatest power to reach undecided voters who flip on the TV. It's five women who chat on comfy couches every morning.

With at least 8 percent of American voters still undecided and less than a month left in the most watched, worried, and wild-card election cycle in decades, it's apropos to consider which TV outlets might have the power to push those coveted "uncommitted voters" to one side or the other. Campaign ads? Perhaps. The economy is in shambles and the candidates disagree sharply on everything from national security to health care, so they're well-served to discuss the issues. But their position papers have been available online and their talking points unchanged for months, and that 8 percent of voters remains undecided. The network news? Maybe. Although it seems like the initial fervor to see Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin stumble over the vaguest answers in electoral history was exhausted by her interviews with Katie Couric. A lot of Americans, especially the undecided type, are sick of Q-and-A's with the candidates that don't amount to much. The partisan shows like The O...

The Misrepresented Middle Class

It's almost refreshing to have the media and our elected leaders finally focus on average Americans' biggest concern -- not terrorism or the culture war, but meeting basic financial needs.

Last week, as Wall Street's biggest institutions dissolved, John McCain and Barack Obama seized the opportunity to appeal to the most coveted and elusive cohort of voters: the middle class. "Now more than ever we've got to have the kind of broad-based middle-class tax cut that I talked about for 95 percent of working families," Obama said. McCain, who just a week ago said the economy was fundamentally sound, changed his tune, commenting: "Most Americans feel very strongly this isn't their fault. It's Wall Street and Washington and the cozy insider relationships that have caused a great part of the problems." A $700 billion bailout for the country's richest is being framed by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson as a gift for the country's most average. The middle class, he and the Republican fear-peddlers argue, will have to suffer the slings and arrows of a desolate economy if the big banks aren't restored to royalty. True, credit must be repaired so that students and small business...