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

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

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

Chief 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 administration to resume accepting asylum claims from migrants. Robert’s response was cool and temperate. “We do not...

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.

The 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 the 1965 Voting Rights Act led to a significant upsurge of black office holders. By 1970, the number of blacks in the House had grown to ten and by 1990 it...

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)
On 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 military, but players...

Mutiny in the White House

The Times’s anonymous op-ed calls to mind the World War II tale of a ship’s captain losing his marbles and seeking revenge.

If you haven't seen the 1954 film The Caine Mutiny , now's a good time to watch it. Humphrey Bogart plays Phillip Queeg, a navy captain who shows signs of mental instability that jeopardizes the ship. To save the crew, the first officer relieves him of command. When Queeg gets word of the mutiny, he broadcasts this message over the ship's intercom: This is the captain speaking. Some misguided sailors on this ship still think they can pull a fast one on me. Well, they're very much mistaken. Since you've taken this course, the innocent will be punished with the guilty. There will be no liberty for any member of this crew for three months. I will not be made a fool of. Do you hear me? Fast-forward to the current occupant of the White House. A high-ranking Trump administration official has written an anonymous op-ed column in The New York Times entitled, "I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration." Many Americans are wondering if this is a game-changer. Trump is...

The Queen of Feminist Soul

Aretha, “Respect,” and the rise of second-wave feminism

(Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)
Aretha Franklin, the greatest of singers, who died Thursday at 76, was indisputably the “queen of soul.” But she also should be acknowledged as a feminist pioneer. Several popular songs, including Aretha’s “Respect,” can be seen as early anthems of second-wave feminism. Otis Redding first recorded “Respect” in 1965, but Aretha re-interpreted it as a feminist song in 1967. Redding’s version was a plea from a man for respect from his wife for bringing home the money. Aretha’s version was a feminist declaration of independence by a woman who demands (not begs for) respect from her man. Aretha’s version added the chorus that spelled out “R-E-S-P-E-C-T,” which punctuated its feminist message. A number of Aretha’s other big hits, including “A Natural Woman” (1967), “Chain of Fools” (1967), “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man (1967),” and “Think” (1968), merged gospel...