Julian E. Zelizer

Julian E. Zelizer is a political historian at Princeton University and a fellow at New America. His new book, published by Penguin Press, is The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the Battle for the Great Society.

Recent Articles

In Search of Obama

Jonathan Chait lays out a case for Obama as a transformative president. 

Pete Souza/The White House/Sipa via AP Images
Audacity: How Barack Obama Defies His Critics and Created a Legacy That Will Prevail By Jonathan Chait HarperCollins This article appears in the Spring 2017 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . Jonathan Chait’s Audacity is the perfect book for anyone in search of a robust defense of President Barack Obama. Taking aim at Obama’s critics on the right and the left, the New York magazine columnist offers a full-throated defense of the former president. In his quintessentially punchy style, Chait provides a thoughtful and compelling case as to why Obama was a transformative president. The book feels as if it were written at the height of the Democratic primary in March or April of 2016, when Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton were engaged in a brutal left-right competition for the soul of the party, rather than in early 2017 when the world is trying to make sense of President Donald Trump. While Chait spends a good amount of time punching holes in the...

When Liberalism Came Apart

Two new books about the late 1960s provide grist for thinking about political turbulence today. 

AP Photo/stf
This article appeared in the Summer 2016 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . American Maelstrom: The 1968 Election and the Politics of Division By Michael A. Cohen Oxford University Press Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon By Larry Tye Random House The raucous rallies for George Wallace in 1968 revealed that something had gone terribly wrong in America. As the presidential candidate of the American Independent Party, the racist Alabama governor who had defied federal efforts to desegregate his state attracted the support of many white working-class Democrats, who now angrily rejected their old liberal allies. Outside a rally at Madison Square Garden, as Michael Cohen recounts in his new book American Maelstrom , there were “shoving matches and fist fights” as “Confederate battle flags were flown, then wrested away and set aflame to chants of ‘Burn, baby, burn.’ Cries of ‘Sieg Heil!’ were matched by chants of...

When Liberals Were Organized

Progressives seeking a model for an effective Congress could learn from the nearly forgotten history of the Democratic Study Group.

(AP Photo, File)
This article appears in the Winter 2015 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . When Republicans took control of the House of Representatives in 1994 for the first time in 40 years, one of Speaker Newt Gingrich’s earliest moves was to end the public funding for the Democratic Study Group (DSG), a caucus of liberal Democrats that had been created in 1959. It was one of Gingrich’s shrewdest maneuvers. As Kansas Republican Pat Roberts, a staunch conservative then and now, wrote in an internal memo, “The demise of the DSG severely damages the power structure of the House Democrats.” Roberts was right. The DSG is almost forgotten today, but its history suggests lessons for the current generation of Democrats. Since 1994, congressional liberals have failed to replicate a powerful, independent organization like the Democratic Study Group. They have been dependent on a House leadership that is sometimes but not always sympathetic to their goals. The...

How Congress Got Us Out of Vietnam

Since January 10, when President Bush proposed a "troop surge" in Iraq, the administration has responded to legislative critics by stating that Congress cannot handle the responsibility of conducting an effective war. "You can't run a war by committee," Vice President Richard Cheney told FOX News on January 14. But Democrats are no longer willing to trust presidential decision-making. "You don't like to micromanage the Defense Department," responded Congressman John Murtha, "but we have to, in this case, because they're not paying attention to the public..." In the debate over whether the legislature can play a constructive role in shaping national security policy, the president's challengers have history on their side. Congress has often played a significant, albeit underappreciated, role in wartime politics. One of the best examples for current Democratic legislators is that of their Vietnam-era counterparts. Ironically, both the left and the right have criticized the performance of...

How Congress Helped End the Vietnam War

Since January 10, when President Bush proposed a "troop surge" in Iraq, the administration has responded to legislative critics by stating that Congress cannot handle the responsibility of conducting an effective war. "You can't run a war by committee," Vice President Richard Cheney told FOX News on January 14. But Democrats are no longer willing to trust presidential decision-making. "You don't like to micromanage the Defense Department," responded Congressman John Murtha, "but we have to, in this case, because they're not paying attention to the public..." In the debate over whether the legislature can play a constructive role in shaping national security policy, the president's challengers have history on their side. Congress has often played a significant, albeit underappreciated, role in wartime politics. One of the best examples for current Democratic legislators is that of their Vietnam-era counterparts. Ironically, both the left and the right have criticized the performance of...