Jim Sleeper

Jim Sleeper is a lecturer in political science at Yale, a former columnist for Newsday and The NY Daily News, and author of The Closest of Strangers: Liberalism and the Politics of Race in New York.

Recent Articles

By Gradual Paces

If some of us anti-Bush Americans seem on the verge of a nervous breakdown in these final days, it's not necessarily because John Kerry is our heart's desire or even because George W. Bush and Co., under cover of fighting terrorism, are spending the country into crushing debt that will drive the social compact back to the 1890s. Nor are we wrought up because a Republican ticket led by two former draft dodgers (as defined by every conservative Republican since the late 1960s, when both men did their dodging), has savaged war heroes like Max Cleland, John McCain, and Kerry himself. The republic has survived excesses like that, if barely. What really scares some of us is the foreboding that, this time, it won't outlast the swooning and the eerily disembodied cheering at those Bush revival rallies. Something has happened to enough of the American people to make some warnings by this country's own Founders leap off the page as never before. As soon as King George III was gone, the Founders...


It was during the national stock-taking and spiritual inventory accompanying the obsequies for Ronald Reagan that I finally figured out how the war in Iraq differs from the one in Vietnam. The Iraq War's champions have always insisted it's different, of course. Before the first shot was fired last year, they assailed "deja-vu" dissenters who predicted reruns of Vietnam's trumped-up pretexts, massive overkill, and bottomless quagmires. But this time the warriors squelched or deflected dissent so effectively that they've made this war different in ways they didn't intend. This time, they'll have no one to blame but themselves if, instead of convoying through grateful, flower-strewing throngs on June 30, Paul Bremer III has to be helicoptered out of his compound -- or his successors out of their embassy a year or so later -- with the desert equivalent of Vietnamese "boat people" clinging to their heels. This time, no antiwar movement will have "forced us to fight with one hand tied...

Race, Liberalism, and Affirmative Action (II)

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The Limits of Indignation

Three widely discussed works are helping to heat up the debate about race again. But the limits of a politics of racial conscience should be all too apparent.

Late one June night in 1982, Willie Turks, a thirty-four-year-old New York City transit employee coming off his shift, was surrounded and beaten to death by a mob of fifteen to twenty young whites in the mostly Italian-American, Brooklyn neighborhood of Gravesend. "There was a lynch mob that night," the judge remarked in sentencing one assailant for manslaughter. "The only thing missing was a rope and a tree." Indeed, four years later, when whites in nearby Howard Beach chased Michael Griffith onto a highway where he was struck and killed by a car, New York Newsday columnist Murray Kempton would note that "direct homicide was clearer cut in Turks' case than in Griffith's." Yet Turks's awful death prompted nothing like the national outpouring of condemnation and concern that would descend upon Howard Beach in 1986. Though the Howard Beach case was flawed, it riveted the national media, drew protest marchers from far and wide, and even inspired a TV docudrama. I have often puzzled over...