Paul Waldman

Paul Waldman is a contributing editor for the Prospect and the author of Being Right is Not Enough: What Progressives Must Learn From Conservative Success.

Recent Articles

Next in Line for 2012.

You've probably heard before that when they're looking for a presidential candidate, Republicans tend to nominate whoever is "next in line"-- either a sitting VP, or the person who came in second last time. There are a few good examples: John McCain in 2008, Bob Dole in 1996, George H.W. Bush in 1988, and Ronald Reagan in 1980. All had run for president before, and all seemed to everyone, at least when the campaign started, like the logical choice. The only exception in the last 30 years was George W. Bush in 2000. On the Democratic side, the "next in line" theory might apply to Al Gore in 2000 and Walter Mondale in 1984, but not to Barack Obama , John Kerry , Bill Clinton , or Michael Dukakis . By this logic, Republicans will nominate Mitt Romney in 2012, or maybe Sarah Palin , depending on how you're scoring. Jonathan Bernstein contends , however, that this theory is largely bunk. Essentially, he argues that there were lots of other reasons Reagan and Dole got the nod, Bush Sr...

The Difference Between Democrats and Republicans.

If you've noticed a strange unanimity among Republicans over the last few days about what a bad idea it is for the Fed to inject some money into the economy, well, it's no accident. Take a read at this article (via Kevin Drum ) from The Wall Street Journal this weekend: A group of prominent Republican-leaning economists, coordinating with Republican lawmakers and political strategists, is launching a campaign this week calling on Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke to drop his plan to buy $600 billion in additional U.S. Treasury bonds. ... Last Tuesday evening, about 20 economists and others met over sea bass at the University of Pennsylvania Club in Manhattan and hashed out a broad strategy. Mr. [ Paul] Ryan , who has gained notice for a plan to balance the federal budget through deep spending cuts, joined the group as they discussed ways to encourage the GOP's new House majority to unite behind what they describe as a "sound money policy." "We talked about the importance of the right being...

Scapegoating Federal Workers

As conservative deficit hawks go looking for new targets, expect to hear a lot about outsized federal paychecks.

(AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
In late 2008, as the government began debating whether to save General Motors and Chrysler from bankruptcy, conservatives saw an opportunity to open a new front in their decades-long war on labor unions. So a new talking point emerged, repeated first by representatives of conservative think tanks, then by conservative talk-show hosts and columnists, then by Republican members of Congress. The Big Three auto companies had been crippled, they said, by greedy United Auto Workers members whose absurd union contracts had them making an astonishing $70 per hour on average. You won't be surprised to learn that the figure was utterly bogus -- the average pay of an auto factory worker at the time was actually around $28 an hour, or a decidedly middle-class salary of $58,000 a year. But even as a little-remembered component of a short-lived debate, it is a good case study in why the right is so effective. An idea like the mythical $70-an-hour autoworker can be created out of whole cloth, then...

On Not Creating Your Own Reality.

By now it seems pretty certain that President Obama and congressional Democrats will cave to Republicans and extend all the Bush tax cuts, even for billionaires. After all, as David Axelrod recently said, "We have to take the world as we find it." Compare that to the Bush aide who told Ron Suskind, "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors ... and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do." But before the capitulation is made final, it's worth taking a moment to contemplate what might have been if the administration had decided not to accept the world as they found it, but instead created their own reality. What if instead of accepting that there would be a debate on whether to extend the Bush tax cuts, they had fashioned a new debate on the Obama...

Meet the New Congressmembers, Most of Whom You'll Never Hear From Again.

Today's New York Times takes up something I've been pointing out for a while, the fact that many of the newly elected Tea Partiers have no experience in elected office: But his perseverance intersected with incumbent disenchantment and now Mr. Schilling, who owns a pizza restaurant, is among roughly 35 incoming members of the House — and four new senators — who have never been elected to anything. "I'm a story that never should have happened," said Mr. Schilling, 46, soon to represent a giant squiggle of west Illinois. The new class of lawmakers will contain the highest number of members with no experience of elective office in decades, likely since 1948, when there were 44 such House members elected, according to Gary C. Jacobson, a professor of political science at the University of California, San Diego, and probably above 1952, when there were 34 such members. In 1994, the last big citizen revolution led by Republicans, there were 30 political-novice House members elected. The...

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