Peter Dreier

Peter Dreier is the E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics and founding chair of the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College. 

Recent Articles

'You're Being Ridiculous'

The Bernie-or-bust crowd makes up a small percentage of Sanders delegates, but could inflict disproportionate damage on Hillary Clinton if the Philadelphia convention’s progressive stars don’t knock some sense into them.

AP Photo/John Minchillo
dem_convention_icon.jpg Bernie Sanders, Michelle Obama, Elizabeth Warren, Corey Booker, and others gave inspiring speeches at the Democratic Party's convention on Monday evening, but actress and comedian Sarah Silverman delivered the night's best one-liner, an ad-lib from her prepared remarks: “To the Bernie-or-bust people, you're being ridiculous.” Sanders is backed by 1,893 delegates at the convention compared with 2,814 pledged to Hillary Clinton. Silverman was speaking to the handful of Sanders delegates—perhaps 200 at most—who refuse to accept the reality that Clinton will be the Democratic nominee, and that either she or Donald Trump will be the next president of the United States. They disrupted Silverman's address by booing when she mentioned Clinton's name and shouting “Bernie,” making it difficult for her to be heard in the conventional hall and on TV. Even Sanders was booed by that small but vocal group of Bernie-or-busters when he urged...

Hillary Haters’ Fixation on Saul Alinsky

Conservatives have exploited the life and legacy of community organizer Saul Alinsky in a bid to demonize Hillary Clinton, but they misrepresent his actual influence and writings.

(Photo: AP)
Forty-seven years after she graduated from Wellesley College, Hillary Clinton is still having to defend her senior thesis. That’s because right-wing activists and their media allies are assailing Clinton’s research paper on Saul Alinsky, a key figure in the world of community organizing whom conservatives have labeled a dangerous radical and a diabolical influence on both Barack Obama and Clinton. Ben Carson kicked off the Saul Alinsky hatefest on the second night of this year’s Republican convention in Cleveland, declaring during his primetime speech: “Now, one of the things that I have learned about Hillary Clinton is that one of her heroes, her mentors, was Saul Alinsky. And her senior thesis was about Saul Alinsky. This was someone she greatly admired and let me tell you something about Saul Alinsky.” Alinsky “wrote a book called Rules for Radicals ,” Carson continued. “It acknowledges Lucifer, the original radical who gained his own...

Caught on Camera: Police Racism

A recent wave of police violence against African Americans isn’t anything new. It’s just been caught on video.

(Photo: AP/Max Becherer)
This article was originally published in The American Prospect on July 30, 2015, and has been updated in light of recent events. A string of highly publicized police murders of black citizens in Louisiana, Minnesota, and around the country has prompted news reports of an “epidemic” of police violence against African Americans. But the harsh reality is that there has been no sudden upsurge of racial profiling, arrests, beatings, and killings of African Americans at the hands of law enforcement officers. Rather than an abrupt recent rise in police mistreatment of black Americans, we are seeing a surge in awareness of the problem due in part to the use of hidden body cameras and citizen videos. Because more incidents of police abuse are now being captured on camera, white Americans are waking up to how different black lives can be. These videotaped incidents are now part of the political terrain, making it harder for police to hide abusive behavior and easier for community...

Song for an Unsung Hero

In his revelatory biography of community organizer Fred Ross Sr., Gabriel Thompson traces the roots of today’s progressive movement.

Bob Fitch/Special Collections and University Archives, Stanford University
America’s Social Arsonist: Fred Ross and Grassroots Organizing in the Twentieth Century By Gabriel Thompson University of California Press In 2014, California Governor Jerry Brown inducted community organizer Fred Ross Sr. posthumously into the California Hall of Fame, where he joined a long list of other luminaries that includes the likes of Amelia Earhart, César Chavez, Steve Jobs, and Jackie Robinson. Ross may be the least-known figure among the inductees, but he is certainly one of the most influential. This anonymity was intentional on Ross’s part. He believed that organizers should always be behind the scenes. As organizer and journalist Gabriel Thompson explains in this fascinating biography, Ross “spent his life pushing people to lead—in living rooms, in union halls, on picket lines—and in doing so he pushed himself right out of the spotlight.” Ross was an “unsung hero,” according to author Carey McWilliams, the former...

Three Strategies to Beat the NRA

Gun safety advocates who until now have relied largely on traditional lobbying need to broaden their strategy to include partnerships with gun owners and civil disobedience.

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
On Wednesday, Georgia Congressman John Lewis, a civil rights hero, led a sit-in of fellow House Democrats on the House floor to demand action on gun control legislation. Lewis strode to the lectern and called on his colleagues to “occupy this floor.” Soon, about two-dozen lawmakers gathered around him as he spoke. As more Democrats came into the House chamber, including Senator Elizabeth Warren, they joined him, sitting with their legs crossed on the blue-carpeted floor. They carried picket signs with photos of the victims of gun violence and sang “We Shall Overcome,” changing the words to include “We shall pass a bill someday.” Some members cried. The protest lasted 25 hours. By sitting down, they were standing up to the National Rifle Association. House Speaker Paul Ryan tried to shut down the insurrection, even going so far as to declare a recess to cut off the official television feed. But the protesters used Twitter’s Periscope service to...