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

Paul Ryan: The GOP’s Next Presidential Nominee?

The House speaker has said he’s not interested in the presidency, but he’s united his bickering party once before, and may do so again.

Rex Features via AP Images
Rex Features via AP Images House Speaker Paul Ryan at a weekly press briefing on March 3, 2016. H aving sat behind President Barack Obama during the State of Union Address in January, House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters afterward that he had done his best to maintain a poker face and avoid wincing, despite his objections to much of what Obama said, out of respect for the office. But Ryan’s real expression was closer to a smirk, and it hinted at another possibility. Ryan might have been telling himself, “That could be me up there a year from now.” It’s not as far-fetched as it sounds. In fact, amid a presidential primary that has broken all the rules and left the GOP at loggerheads, a Ryan nomination is not only possible— it might even be probable. Ryan has already emerged triumphant from the fray of another party fracas, when his House colleagues “drafted” him to be speaker after John Boehner resigned last fall. Similarly, if Donald Trump doesn’t arrive at the GOP convention in...

Nine Battleground States that Could Flip the Senate -- and the Supreme Court

A Democratic president needs a Democratic majority in the Senate to turn around the high court. Here are the states that could make the difference in 2016.

(Photo: AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
(Photo: AP/J. Scott Applewhite) Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, center, will not be seeking re-election this year. The race for the open Senate seat is likely to be a close one. W ithin hours of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s death on Saturday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that the Senate should not confirm anyone whom President Barack Obama nominates to fill the vacant seat, but wait until a new president is elected. McConnell’s comment put in bold relief the huge stakes, not just of the presidential election, but of who controls the Senate. If Democrats take back the Senate as well as the White House, a Democratic president could replace not only Scalia but also fill two and possibly three other Supreme Court seats likely be vacated in the next few years. Election watchers believe that there is a reasonable chance that the Democrats can gain four seats and take back the Senate. (Republicans currently have a 54-46 Senate majority. If Democrats win...

Frances Kelsey: The Government Bureaucrat Who May Have Saved Your Life

Kelsey's crusade for tougher drug regulations remains a powerful symbol of good government. 

Rex Features via AP Images
Rex Features via AP Images Frances O. Kelsey during Senate testimony about corporate pressure to approve the drug in spite of her concerns about the drugs safety, August 1, 1962. I n our current culture, the phrase “government bureaucrat” is often used as an epithet, but Frances Kelsey—who died on August 7 at age 101—was a career government bureaucrat who was also a genuine American heroine. In the early 1960s, Kelsey, a doctor and research scientist with the federal Food and Drug Administration, almost singlehandedly took on the pharmaceutical industry. She stood up to the manufacturer of a dangerous medicine—thalidomide—and saved tens of thousands of babies from birth deformities. If you are in your 40s or 50s, Kelsey, working quietly in her FDA office, may have saved your life, by making sure that your doctor didn't prescribe thalidomide to your mother. Kelsey's battle with the makers of thalidomide is an inspiring tale of how one individual's expertise and courage protected the...

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