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

Extreme Makeover, Health-Care Edition

Both liberals and conservatives are upset about how Obama has handled health-care reform. Do Americans expect too much?

President Barack Obama pauses during a health-insurance reform rally in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)
Barack Obama spent much of last year's presidential campaign trying to shake off the "elitist" label. He took pains to play down his Ivy League education and play up the more working-class elements of his background: "I wasn't born into a lot of money. I didn't have a trust fund. I was raised by a single mother with the help of my grandparents." Michelle Obama told the public that her husband snored and forgot to pick up his socks. At a photo-op in a blue-collar bar in Pennsylvania, the candidate ordered a Yuengling and asked, "Is it expensive, though? ... Wanna make sure it's not some designer beer or something." During campaign season, it seems American voters want politicians -- presidential hopefuls in particular -- who are "just like us," people who don't dwell in an elite, Ivy League realm or possess other-worldly arrogance. Folksy connections are the medicine of those days. But as soon as we've elected someone, we expect that person to transform into a super-human. No longer...

The Imperfection and Redemption of Ted Kennedy

Because of the mistakes of his youth, Ted Kennedy felt he had something to prove in the Senate. And we're all better off as a result.

(AP Photo)
As Sen. Edward Kennedy was put to rest this weekend, cable news networks filled airtime by exhausting every angle of his life. They waxed poetic about his leadership style, debating who would be the Senate's next "lion." They delved into the history of America's most beloved and, many would argue, most doomed first family. They looked forward, wondering how the senator's death might serve as motivation in the ongoing debate over health-care reform. There was one topic that every producer and biographer struggled to integrate with the whole: the so-called "Chappaquiddick incident." In July of 1969, a much younger Kennedy drove his car off a bridge, and his passenger, a former campaign worker for the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy named Mary Jo Kopechne, was killed. Ted Kennedy pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident and received a suspended sentence. I'm less interested in the incident itself, which indeed is horrific and casts serious doubts on Kennedy's integrity, than I am...

Keeping Up With the Clintons

The world still isn't accustomed to a husband and wife who both have a lot of official power.

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
The Clintons have long been America's Rorschach test for married life and all its complications -- infidelity, money, power-sharing, partnership, support, and yes, blow jobs. In the latest chapter of their very public love story, Hillary's political career, Bill has been asked to do something potentially even more difficult than keeping his pants on: zip his lip. Sometimes he's failed miserably. More often than not, he's done a decent -- albeit not great -- performance as the adoring husband. In fact, the image of his teary, red-faced standing ovation for her at the Democratic National Convention struck me as refreshingly authentic. Hillary is six months into her position as secretary of state -- traveling to Asia, the Middle East, Europe, Central America, Canada, Mexico, India, and now Africa, where she announced a bold new plan to stop the epidemic of rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo. There's no legitimate question about her preparedness for the job; her effectiveness, of...

Questioning Journalistic Objectivity

There's a case to be made for reporters collaborating with the people they write about.

(Flickr/Tiago Ribeiro )
Journalism, as we've known it, has been mourned deeply over the last few years. The Internet has changed everything. "Citizen journalism," a phrase that still inspires dirty looks at most journalism conferences, has blurred the lines between objectivity and subjectivity, paid and unpaid labor, news and opinion. It gives veteran journalists agita to imagine totally untrained people messing around in their exclusive, albeit hardscrabble, club. With all this reshaping and shifting of our industry, all this talk about changing financial models and publishing structures, now is an opportune time to question one of the field's most defended values: objectivity. This issue has been particularly present for me as I'm on the final stages of writing a book -- a collection of profiles of ten people under 35 who are doing interesting social justice work. It's been necessarily intimate; these are 8,000 word, very in-depth, largely psychological profiles. They require a level of openness, on the...

Lessons for Feminists from Sarah Palin

Ultimately, our discomfort with Sarah Palin is more about us than it is about her.

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin answers questions after signing three budget bills into law in Anchorage, Alaska in this June 29, 2007, file photo. (AP Photo/Al Grillo, File)
I almost heard the crinoline and ruffles crunching as Alice Paul turned over in her grave when Sarah Palin jubilantly shouted, "Life is about choices!" during her resignation speech a couple of weeks ago. It's not that "choice" was a framing device embraced by the suffragists -- really, it was more of a second-wave buzz word -- it's that the feminism Paul propelled with her starvation campaign and years on the picket line seems to have been reincarnated in a very strange form. When Palin parachuted onto the national scene, she landed smack dab on the fault lines of gender and politics, shaking contemporary feminism to the core. Now that the dust has settled from her oh-so-sudden resignation, it's time for feminists (the alive kind, of course) to pick our jaws up off the floor, take a deep breath and really think through what we've learned from her year or so in the spotlight. (Even though I'm under no delusion that Palin is truly retreating into the Alaskan wilderness.) After some...