Peter Dreier

Peter Dreier teaches politics and chairs the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College. His latest book is The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame (Nation Books, 2012).

Recent Articles

Jackie Robinson: A Legacy of Activism

January 31 is the 100th birthday of the great ballplayer who set the standard for athletes who protest social injustice.

AP Photo Jackie Robinson, Brooklyn Dodgers infielder, is photographed during spring training at Vero Beach, Florida, March 1956. B efore there was Rosa Parks, there was Jackie Robinson. On July 6, 1944, Robinson—a 25-year army lieutenant—boarded a military bus at Fort Hood, Texas with the light-skinned wife of another black officer and sat down next to her in the middle of the vehicle. “Hey you, sittin’ beside that woman,” the driver yelled. “Get to the back of the bus.” Robinson refused, knowing that buses had been officially desegregated on military bases. When the driver threatened to have him arrested, Robinson shook his finger in the driver’s face and told him, “quit fucking with me.” Two military policemen soon arrived and escorted Robinson away. He faced trumped-up charges of insubordination, disturbing the peace, drunkenness, conduct unbecoming an officer, insulting a civilian woman, and refusing to obey the lawful orders of a superior officer. Unlike the routine mistreatment...

The Last President of the Old Ruling Class

George H.W. Bush, 1924-2018

AP Photo/Ron Edmonds, File President George H.W. Bush talks to reporters in the Rose Garden of the White House after meeting with top military advisors to discuss the Persian Gulf War. From left are Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, Vice President Dan Quayle, White House Chief of Staff John Sununu, the president, Secretary of State James A. Baker III, and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Colin Powell. O ne of the more annoying aspects of Donald Trump’s presidency is that he makes every previous occupant of the White House seem reasonable by comparison. Most of the obituaries about and tributes to George H.W. Bush, who died on Friday at 94, focused on the former president’s basic decency. As many journalists and historians have described him, Bush was a courteous and well-mannered individual. Their focus on Bush’s patrician reserve and quiet self-assurance is understandable in comparison to Trump’s thin-skinned temperament, arrogance, and megalomania. Yet lost in those remembrances is a...

John Roberts (the Tortoise) Is Outrunning Trump (the Hare)

To advance the conservative agenda, Roberts invokes the fiction of a nonpartisan judiciary. 

AP Photo/Nick Perry Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts attends an event at the Victoria University of Wellington in Wellington, New Zealand. C hief Justice John Roberts is a much smarter politician than Donald Trump. Because he has a lifetime appointment, and a consistent conservative ideology, Roberts understands that his job can help reverse the gains of the consumer, feminist, civil rights, gay rights, environmental, and labor movements through a series of incremental court rulings. But to carry out his reactionary agenda, he knows it helps if Americans view the Supreme Court as a neutral arbiter of the law rather than a partisan body, much less a tool of the current occupant of the White House. That is why he issued a statement last week rebuking Trump for attacking a federal judge who ruled against his administration’s asylum policy as “an Obama judge.” That was Trump’s characterization of Judge Jon Tigar of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, who ordered the...

The Nine New Democratic Black Congress Members Come From Heavily White Districts

And will boost the Congress’s African American membership to a record-high of at least 55.

AP Photo/Teresa Crawford Democratic Representative-elect Lauren Underwood, who defeated of four-term Republican incumbent Randy Hultgren on November 6, campaigning in Lindenhurst, Illinois. T he blue wave had some black riders. Every African American Democrat in the House running for re-election in this year’s midterms won his or her race. In addition, voters sent nine new black members, all Democrats, to Congress. As a result, the number of black House members will grow to an all-time peak of 55, even if, as appears possible, both black Republicans(Utah’s Mia Love and Texas’ Will Hurt) lose their seats. What’s unusual about the nine new members is that all of them prevailed in predominantly white and mostly suburban districts. Five of the nine are women. For most of the 20th century, there were few black members of Congress. In 1950, only two African Americans (William Dawson of Chicago’s South Side and Adam Clayton Powell of Harlem) served in the House. The civil rights movement and...

Nike Tells Kaepernick: Just Do It

The former quarterback’s new deal with Nike could have mixed effects on social justice.

(AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
(AP Photo/Eric Risberg) A Nike store billboard in San Francisco on September 5, 2018 O n September 3, former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick signed a multi-year advertising deal with Nike—a move that could both legitimatize Kaepernick’s racial justice activism, but also paper over the company’s shoddy human rights record. The deal makes Kaepernick, who has remained an unsigned free agent since 2016, a face of Nike’s 30th anniversary “Just Do It” campaign. Nike will unveil a new product line of Kaepernick clothing, including a shoe and a T-shirt. It will also donate to Kaepernick’s “Know Your Rights” campaign that instructs young people—particularly in communities of color—in how to deal with law enforcement officials. I admire Kaepernick as an athlete and as a courageous political activist who in 2016 catalyzed a movement with his bold act of taking a knee during the national anthem prior to NFL games. Trump has tried to twist the protest as being against the anthem and against the...