Robert Kuttner

Robert Kuttner is co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect, and professor at Brandeis University's Heller School. His latest book is Debtors' Prison: The Politics of Austerity Versus Possibility. He writes columns for The Huffington Post, The Boston Globe and the New York Times international edition. 

Recent Articles

Opposition as Opportunity

With Republicans in narrow control of Congress, Democrats should think big.

At this writing, there is a chance that the courts may yet order a Florida rerun, but the next president is likely to be George W. Bush. Where does this leave progressives? The task of a political opposition is to prevent damage in the short run and rebuild for the long term--and this could be a more propitious moment than it seems. For starters, Bush's win would be the shallowest mandate in more than a century. Gore's issues did a lot better than Gore did. Conservative themes, such as tax cutting, limits on reproductive choice, the privatization of Social Security, and the voucherization of Medicare, simply did not resonate with voters. Instead of being angry at government, the public was dismayed by the assaults of the market. Voters plainly agreed with progressive Democrats on most policy questions, and Democrats in Congress are now freed from the crosscurrents of Clintonism to be a more progressive party. So the challenge for progressives and...

Comment: Civics as Politics

V oting turnout is very likely to decline again this year. Some of the decline reflects the fact that both candidates are widely seen as boring. But dwindling voter interest also represents a long-term trend. In this issue of the Prospect , "Rousing the Democratic Base" by Robert Dreyfuss underscores what political scientists have long observed: The mobilization of voters is not a generic civic process but rather the work of engaged political organizations committed to a particular viewpoint and candidate. In this case, the labor movement and the NAACP are working hard to get out the vote, presumably for the Democrats and Al Gore. If Gore should win, it will not be because working- and middle-class voters suddenly grasped the value of Gore's program, but because activist groups took the trouble to organize prospective Gore supporters. Oddities of our tax laws and campaign finance system do not quite require these worthy groups to...

Two Bad Calls: The Faulty Ballots, The Bumbling Process

Americans will be asking questions about the 2000 election for some time to come. Here are two big ones: How could the world's most secure democracy have ended up with a balloting system in which millions of votes routinely get lost, miscounted, stolen, or spoiled? The premise seems to be: What the hell, it's close enough for politics. There is nothing more fundamental to a free and fair election than an accurate count. But on the way to the 21st century we belatedly realized that we're stuck with 19th-century voting technology. Actually, it's worse than that. The voting machine that recorded my ballot, using a technology invented in the 1890s, is more reliable than the punch-card technology contrived in the 1950s. Voting machines have nice, clearlevers, splendid bells to chime in the vote, and no hanging chads. The antique technology, in turn, reflects an 18th century conception of what is properly local and what is necessarily national...

The Lynching of The Black Vote

Many books will be written about the stolen presidential election of 2000. And when they are, one prominent factor will be the Republicans systematic and extra-legal effort to reduce black voting, details of which are just now being pieced together. Black turnout was way up this year, and nowhere more dramatically than in Florida. Black voters there were upset with Governor Jeb Bush's retreat on affirmative action. They were mobilized by effective registration and get-out-the-vote drives by civil rights groups and black churches. Jesse Jackson spent weeks in Florida, speaking to large African-American crowds, with a punchline that became a familiar refrain: Stay out of the Bushes! Although black turnout tends to slightly lag white turnout, this year 16 percent of registered voters in Florida were black, up from 10 percent in 1996. And blacks, loyal to Clinton-Gore and unhappy with the brothers Bush, gave Gore-Lieberman a striking 90 percent...

The Two-Party System is Letting us Down

This year voting turnout could fall to a record presidential low. The decline partly reflects two dreadful candidates but also the long-term impoverishment of politics. Membership organizations have been displaced by professional fund-raisers and TV spots. The time squeeze leaves no leisure for ordinary people to go to meetings. Civic values are crowded out by entertainment, celebrity, and marketing. If the Bush-Gore show has to compete as entertainment, it loses, and so do we. But so much that affects our private lives is inherently and irrevocably political. Either we embrace political questions as a free people or decisions get made for us. And this year, most of the big questions are off the political radar screen. Start with kids. The new, 24-7 economy operates at the expense of children, especially children from families not affluent enough to buy their way out. Did you and your spouse have a spat this week about who had to juggle work...

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