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 Can Democracy Survive Global Capitalism? In addition to writing for the Prospect, he writes for HuffPost, The Boston Globe, and The New York Review of Books. 

Follow Bob at his site,, and on Twitter. 

Recent Articles

A Close-Run Thing

The Duke of Wellington, speaking to a colleague about his victory at Waterloo in 1815, which ended the Napoleonic wars, described it as a "the nearest-run thing you ever saw in your life." Historians have simplified the remark as "a close-run thing."

Watching what may or may not be a turning point in the Trump presidency this week, it occurs to me how often history is a close-run thing. Brett Kavanaugh may or may not go down, because of the almost random decision of Christine Blasey Ford to come forward and risk invasion of her privacy and public humiliation. 

Trump may or may not fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. That, in turn, may or may not prefigure the firing of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, which may or may not put some spine in a handful of Republicans and begin the march to an impeachment.

Watergate, similarly, was a close-run thing, beginning with the random discovery by a security guard of some tape over the lock on a door to the DNC Headquarters that Nixon’s plumbers were attempting to burglarize. The 2016 election, with its Watergate echoes of the theft of Democratic emails, was about as closely run an election as it gets.

History, we are reminded, is a blend of deep historical forces and random events, lucky or unlucky. In February 1933, when FDR was giving a speech in Miami, an anarchist got within several feet of the president-elect, fired several shots, and missed Roosevelt, hitting the mayor of Chicago instead. Had Giuseppe Zangara’s aim been true, and FDR’s vice president-elect "Cactus Jack" Garner assumed the presidency, the New Deal never would have happened. Conversely, if Lee Harvey Oswald had been a slightly worse marksman, JFK and the country would have been spared.

The deep historical force in the Kavanaugh affair is that women have finally had enough of a male privilege that goes back to King David. Powerful men get to have their way with women. Overturning that privilege is the most revolutionary force of our time. The random event is that Kavanaugh, who was apparently a drunk as well as a brute in high school, got picked for the high court rather than some other far-right court nominee, who might have sailed through. 

Another deep historical force is the decades-long corruption of the Republican Party, to the point where Republican leaders are willing to make common cause with an aspiring dictator if that serves their ends. The random event is the question of which way Senators Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins will vote. That, in turn, will depend largely on Dr. Ford’s credibility as a live witness: deep forces and random events.

As for Trump’s presidency, it is a big dose of random bad luck for the American republic. But it is also the result of a decades-long pattern of leaders of both parties turning their back on America’s working people, who were sufficiently aggrieved that they resorted to a fake populist crackpot tyrant. 

Based on some random events, American democracy may yet be spared—or not. Either way, a close-run thing.

Why Trump Doesn’t Go After Jeff Bezos

On several occasions in the last two years, Donald Trump has made blunt threats against The Washington Post and its multi-billionaire owner, Jeff Bezos . Since buying the Post from the Graham family in 2013, Bezos has reinvested handsomely in the newsroom, while keeping his hands off editorial matters. As the Post has done its job, becoming a thorn in Trump’s side, the president has issued dark warnings against the source of Bezos’s spare billions, Amazon, as a menace to local retailing. But curiously, Trump’s administration has not acted on these threats. And therein hangs a tale. Bezos made his massive fortune the old fashioned way, as a monopolist. Amazon has nasty, predatory habits of bullying sellers that don’t meet its terms, vacuuming up potential competitors, and of course keeping massive information on customers that give it an unfair leg up on its rivals. In the last few years, Amazon has decided that it wants to be the retailer of choice for...

Trump’s Bastard Children

Political scientists use the word legitimacy to mean a government that is broadly seen as having the right to govern. Consent of the governed was also a prime concern of America’s Founders. For most of America’s history, our government enjoyed broad legitimacy. It look a long time, of course, for the national government to regain legitimacy in Dixie. And if you scratch below the surface, many Southern whites still question its legitimacy. But for most of the post-World War II era, our government was seen as broadly legitimate. Alas, it has not been legitimate since 2000, when George W. Bush, with the complicity of five Supreme Court justices, stole the election. That means citizens might rightly question the legitimacy of policies enacted by Republican presidents and their Supreme Court appointees ever since. Under President Obama, Democrats soldiered on and sought to find common ground. But Republicans spat in their eye, and doubled down on their own claims that Obama...

Sweden Shows No Country Is Immune to Far-Right, Anti-Immigrant Backlash

Anders Wiklund /TT via AP Jimmie Åkesson, leader of the far-right Sweden Democrats, speaks at the election party in Stockholm. This article originally appeared at The Huffington Post. Subscribe here . Sweden has long been one of the world’s most generous and tolerant countries. Its outlays on foreign aid and relief efforts are among the world’s highest, and with just 9.9 million inhabitants, Sweden has taken in far more than its share of migrants and refugees. Sweden has also had one of the world’s most inclusive social contracts, allowing prosperity to be broadly shared. The Swedes have long had a secret sauce of dynamic entrepreneurship, strong labor unions, and a comprehensive welfare state. But in Sunday’s election, Sweden demonstrated that no country is immune from the anti-immigrant, far-right backlash. The neo-fascist Sweden Democrats gained 17.6 percent of the vote , upending the country’s traditional party system, and leaving both the...

How Democrats Can Make Race a Winning Issue

This article originally appeared at The Huffington Post. Subscribe here . A year ago, in my interview that cost Steve Bannon his White House job, Bannon said the following about race: The Democrats—the longer they talk about identity politics, I got ’em. I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats. Is Bannon’s dream and the Democrats’ nightmare about race coming true this election year? Or have Democrats found a way of talking about race that is both inclusive and effectively mobilizes the African American vote? They managed that balancing act, of course, in the era of Barack Obama. Candidate Obama took pains to run as a reformer who happened to be African American rather than as an African American candidate, though his identity and the racial significance of his election were inescapable. Obama’s greatest yearning as president was to bridge...