Articles by Robert Zaller
Dec. 8, 2017
George Ciccariello-Maher has free speech rights
The Constitution guarantees the right of free speech. That’s only the beginning of the story. People and institutions try to shut us up all the time, or make us pay a price with our pocketbooks, our livelihoods and our persons for saying things they don’t like.
Dec. 1, 2017
The decline of America’s century of influence
Donald Trump returned recently from his 12-day Asian trip, delighted to have been generally wined, dined and humored, while the Chinese were gleefully stepping up — without his apparent notice — to eat America’s lunch. It was yet another critical area of the world, together with Europe and the Middle East, where America’s former power and influence was in clear retreat.
Nov. 17, 2017
The Russian Revolution changed politics
This Nov. 7 saw, by the Gregorian calendar, the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution. By any measure, it was the most important political event of the 20th century, and it shapes world history to the present day. Yet, no one today wants to own it. Boris Yeltsin, the first leader of post-revolutionary Russia, called Communism an experiment that should have been performed on a smaller country. Vladimir Putin, the ex-KGB colonel, has ostentatiously put as much historical distance as possible between present-day Russia and the revolution that made it a superpower. To be sure, the People’s Republic of China still calls itself Communist, as does Cuba. Neither, especially China, bears any resemblance to what Karl Marx would have recognized as Communism.
Nov. 10, 2017
Frank Rizzo’s statue is a reminder of racism
Putting up a statue to Frank Rizzo in a plaza named after Tom Paine wasn’t as bad as putting up a statue of the Devil in the Sistine Chapel would have been, but it did come in a close second. Tom Paine was the most celebrated pamphleteer of the American Revolution, and he still talks straighter about the values of freedom and democracy than anyone else ever has. Frank Rizzo, as Philadelphia’s police commissioner in the turbulent 1960s and as mayor from 1972 to 1980, was an unabashed, brass-knuckle white supremacist who terrorized the city’s African-American population for two decades, not to say waged war on it, and left a legacy of brutality and injustice that long outlasted him and is still deeply ingrained in the city’s police culture today.
Nov. 3, 2017
Obama’s role in the 2016 election
We thought we knew what there was to know about the 2016 election. Then it turned out that we didn’t. Now it seems increasingly clear that only the tip of the iceberg has yet appeared.
Oct. 27, 2017
Playing a bad game of Russian roulette
We live in a deeply, perhaps uniquely dangerous moment.
Oct. 13, 2017
Fighting against the Vietnam War
Photograph courtesy of Lyndon B. Johnson Library at Wikimedia
Oct. 6, 2017
Higher education in the age of Trump
This has not been a good fall for Harvard University, and its failures reveal much about the state of higher education in the Age of Trump.
Sep. 29, 2017
How Trump really beat Clinton
Few of us may be inclined to wade into what happened in the election of 2016 when our energies are so urgently on call to deal with the reality of 2017. But we can’t properly understand the mechanics of our situation without getting a better idea of how we got here, and for that we need to understand not only Donald Trump but also his defeated opponent.
Aug. 11, 2017
Why democracy is failing
The two famous comments about democracy in the last century were made, respectively, by America’s 28th president, Woodrow Wilson, and by Winston Churchill. Wilson declared as his primary diplomatic objective a desire to make the world safe for democracy. He was a more than slightly dubious advocate. After all, Wilson had backdoored us into a world war he promised to avoid and had thrown those who protested the war into prison under an unconstitutional sedition act. Differently, Churchill’s own more world-weary comment was that democracy was the worst of all political systems, except for all the others.