About me

Hello! My name is Zeeshan Aleem, and I’m a journalist who writes about politics and society. This is a poorly maintained website where I jot down notes between articles and periodically link to my published work.

Short bio

I’m a political columnist and editor at MSNBC, and the publisher of a politics newsletter called What’s Left. My writing has also been published in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Atlantic, The Nation, Esquire, GQ, Politico, The Intercept, VICE, HuffPost, The Chicago Tribune, The American Prospect, In These Times, GEN, Mic, and other publications. Previously I’ve been a staff writer or editor at Vox, HuffPost, Mic, and Politico. I’ve worked as an adjunct professor at the New School, and lectured or moderated discussions at Harvard University, Columbia University and elsewhere in academia. I was born in Washington, D.C. and educated at George Washington University, Oxford University, and the University of Chicago.

Long bio

I’m a political columnist and editor at MSNBC, and the publisher of a politics newsletter called What’s Left.

My writing has also been published in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Atlantic, The Nation, Esquire, GQ, Politico, The Intercept, VICE, HuffPost, The Chicago Tribune, NBC News, The American Prospect, In These Times, GEN, Mic, Pacific Standard, and other publications.

I’ve appeared as a commentator on The New York Times podcast “The Daily,” BBC Radio, CBS News, ABC News, Brian Lehrer’s weekly television program, Vox’s “Worldly” and “The Weeds” podcasts, VICE’s “Bernie Blackout” documentary, and many other radio shows and podcasts.

I’ve worked as an adjunct professor in the media department at The New School, and I’ve delivered lectures or sat on panels at Harvard University, Columbia University, Royal Holloway University, George Washington University, the Newseum, Brooklyn for Peace, and elsewhere.

For most of my career I’ve written primarily about American politics. I’ve reported on the ground from presidential campaign trails, mass protests, terrorist attack scenes and Washington’s most insufferable cocktail parties. I’ve also spent a fair amount of time writing about foreign affairs, and have reported from scenes like a socialist village in the Andes mountains, an automated factory in Beijing, an anarchist commune in Copenhagen, and a North Korean government-run restaurant in Shanghai.

As a journalist my curiosity is indiscriminate, and I write about a wide variety of topics under the umbrella of politics, a term I tend to think of in a very broad sense. A major theme in my thinking is contemplating the history, social science and real-world experiments of the left, whether in policy or protest or electoral ambition. Some of my writing interests include the Democrats, the radical left(s), political economy, political culture, free speech, class, social movements, foreign policy, the welfare state, political culture, the formation of identity, and film.

Prior to joining MSNBC, I worked for almost three years as a freelance journalist. During this stint I served as a contributing writer to Vox and wrote reportage and essays for over a dozen publications. I reported from New York and several different countries, and I also used that time to develop my politics newsletter. My newsletter was featured on The New York Times podcast “The Daily,” and some of my writing there was republished by The Chicago Tribune and cited by publications like HuffPost. Additionally I taught a course at the New School as an adjunct professor. 

Before that I was a foreign affairs staff writer at Vox, where I was tasked with explaining the unraveling of the global order in the Trump era. I reported from New York, Washington, and abroad, covering the personalities and policies of the Trump administration. I also reported on major international stories, such as the rise of China’s digital economy, the collapse of Venezuela, and the hidden incentives underlying the Saudi-led blockade of Qatar. During my time at Vox I made appearances on Vox‘s explainer videos and flagship policy podcast, “The Weeds.”

Prior to that, I was a senior politics staff writer at Mic, where I wrote columns on public policy issues, covered the 2016 primaries and interviewed leading political figures like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez, and acclaimed scholar Cornel West. I also covered Black Lives Matter protests, the Fight for 15, and broke news on student debt strikers. One highlight of my time there was when I broke news by prompting Warren to admit that she wouldn’t rule out serving as vice president to Hillary Clinton.

Before that, I served as a writer for Arianna Huffington, then editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, handling her public commentary on politics and international affairs. I also worked with her on a book that debuted at No. 1 on a New York Times best-seller list.

Earlier, I was a co-columnist, politics and foreign affairs blogger, and web producer at Politico, where I interviewed heads of state, broke news on congressional races and tracked the lobbying sector. One highlight of my time there was prodding Newt Gingrich into confessing that he believed that there was no humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip in 2010.

Before my full-time jobs, I interned at The Atlantic, BBC News, and the U.S. House of Representatives. I’ve also worked as a door-to-door knife salesman, a server at IHOP, a librarian, a caterer, and a soccer referee. (I do not share my secrets on how to sell unreasonably expensive knife sets with anyone.)

During my years as a student and prior to becoming a professional journalist I spent a great deal of time involved in various kinds of political activism, and I have fair amount of experience dealing with batons and tear gas. I also co-wrote and co-directed a play with Tom Costello at the Burton Taylor Studio in Oxford, England.

I was born in Washington, D.C. and attended the Sidwell Friends School. I attended George Washington University on a Presidential Scholarship and received my bachelor’s degree in American Studies. I spent a year of that degree studying critical theory, history and politics at Oxford University. I earned my master’s degree in sociology from the University of Chicago, where I was awarded a University Scholarship.