Paul Starr

Paul Starr is co-founder and co-editor of the The American Prospect. and professor of sociology and public affairs at Princeton University. A winner of the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction and the Bancroft Prize in American history, he is the author of seven books, including most recently Remedy and Reaction: The Peculiar American Struggle over Heath Care Reform (Yale University Press, revised ed. 2013). Click here to read more about Starr.

Recent Articles

Squeak or Sweep?

A year ago in these pages, I described the 2000 contest as a "parliamentary election." With both the House and Senate so near the tipping point, the legislature and executive are genuinely at stake at the same time, as they typically are, though in a different way, in parliamentary systems. Indeed, with the Supreme Court so closely divided, all three branches are in play. The 2000 election could give Republicans control of the entire federal government for the first time since 1932, and it could give Democrats the same span of control without crushing economic and fiscal pressures for the first time since the 1960s. Despite tight polls as the campaign heads into the home stretch, either party could still sweep the election in the sense of ending up with at least nominal control of all the levers of power. But several possible squeaker scenarios could produce some strange political dynamics after November 7. A close...

War, Peace, and the Election

T he presidential debates this year were a failure by the standard we use to measure our public entertainments: their ratings were abysmally low. It was not really the candidates' fault. Boredom with elections is one of the luxuries of our time. Not only have long prosperity and a seemingly unthreatened peace lulled us into political somnolence; many people believe that the government in general and the president in particular have had nothing to do with America's good fortune. Technology alone has supposedly given us the new economy, and the collapse of the Soviet Union has seemingly removed the perils of war. So why pay close attention to what the candidates say? That sense of a world so secure that neither major-party candidate will endanger it may explain the near-total lack of interest this year in matters of war and peace. Those of us who are old enough may remember this as a subject that once got Americans stirred up. When Hubert Humphrey was vice...

Bush's Luck, Clinton's Dilemma

T he final indignity of the Clinton presidency may bring yet another piece of good fortune to the man who just won the White House while getting fewer votes than his opponent. Although the Independent Counsel Act is defunct and will therefore never cause the least trouble for George W. Bush, the office created under the act to investigate Bill Clinton still survives and continues to trouble him. Indeed, Robert Ray, Kenneth Starr's successor, has been extremely busy of late and shows every sign of intending to indict Clinton for perjury in the Monica Lewinsky case after the president steps down. If Al Gore had won the election, Clinton's indictment would have presented Gore with an excruciating political choice. Not so for Bush. People in public life rarely have the chance to appear magnanimous, compassionate, high-minded, and bipartisan all at once. This is just the sort of opportunity that will fall into Bush's hands--that is, if Clinton does not preempt...

Mr. Bush Gets His Honeymoon

B efore the election, I wrote in this column that "several possible squeaker scenarios could produce some strange political dynamics after November 7" [ TAP, November 6, 2000]. Of course, I had no idea just how strange the outcome would be, though I started off with the possibility of "one candidate winning the electoral college and another winning the popular vote" and speculated that the Senate might end up tied 50-50. But where I really went wrong was in saying that if the popular vote went one way and the electoral college another, there could be a "crisis of presidential legitimacy." Perhaps the strangest aspect of the election's aftermath is that none of what happened, nationally or in Florida, seems to make any difference now. George W. Bush had, among winning presidential candidates, the biggest losing margin in history (more than half a million votes), and he almost certainly would have lost the electoral college too if the intentions of Florida voters were...

Damage Report

T he past two years have humbled both liberals and conservatives—or should have. The 1992 election, liberals hoped, would set in motion a new cycle of progressivism. It didn't. After the 1994 election, the new conservative leaders of Congress expected to stage a revolution. They didn't. First President Clinton failed to secure the bolder aspects of his program, notably health care reform and public investment; then the Republicans failed to enact most of the Contract with America and their seven-year budget plan. Clinton miscalculated on health care; the congressional leadership miscalculated on the government shutdown. Conservatives still have control of the national agenda, and they have won a big victory on welfare reform. But the collapse of public approval for Gingrich and the Congress—down to about 26 percent since January, according to a Wall Street Journal /NBC poll—has deflated their claim to a historic mandate. Thus the 1996 election comes at a curious juncture. Juggernauts...

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