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

Destroying the Village

Just how far will Republicans go in opposing Obama?

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
When the International Olympic Committee announced last October that London would host the 2016 Olympics, the reaction on the right was truly remarkable. America's bid for Chicago to host the event -- for which President Barack Obama had personally lobbied -- fell short. Anything that could be seen as a defeat for Obama, even if it was also a defeat for America, was cause for celebration. According to a writer for The Weekly Standard , "Cheers erupt[ed]" in the magazine's offices when the news was announced. And these are the serious conservatives, the ones with a direct line to Republican leaders. The spirit on the right that says anything that is bad for Obama must be good has only grown stronger in the year since. Now that Republicans will be holding one house of Congress, they have to decide how far to go in undermining the president. Early signs are not encouraging. It is the opposition's job to oppose, of course, and a political party must balance two sets of motivations. On one...

Elite Rhetorical Agenda-Setting.

How does an argument move from the "fringe" to the mainstream? The easiest way is if those already considered mainstream figures in good standing begin making it. Right now, people on the left are making an argument -- that Republicans are intentionally doing everything they can to sabotage the American economy (at least by standing in the way of efforts that might improve it) in order to maximize their chances of winning the White House in 2012. Let's put aside for the moment the question of whether Republicans are, in fact, doing this. As of yet, this argument hasn't moved into the mainstream. Kevin Drum explains : But here's what's really remarkable: virtually no one in any position of authority has picked up on this since [Stan] Collender first suggested it. On the Republican side, practically everyone from the party leaders on down is thoroughly convinced that Barack Obama is one or more of: a socialist, an appeaser, a Chicago thug, a racist, a would-be killer of grandmas, and a...

Smackdown 2012: Republican Establishment vs. Palin.

Back in 2003, when the Howard Dean campaign was building up extraordinary momentum and capturing the fascination of the press, in large part because it harnessed this new-fangled thing called "the Internet," a movement among establishment Democrats popped up to stop this interloper. It was thought that he was too brusque, his politics were too far left (not only had he opposed the Iraq War, which all of the other candidates had supported, he even signed a bill providing civil unions for gay people!), and if he won the Democratic nomination, he would surely go down to defeat. So they started attacking him, and some even went so far as to raise money and run ads in Iowa against him. David Frum, keying off an evisceration of Sarah Palin in The Weekly Standard of all places, sees something similar happening: Politicians love to present a narrative in which they and their band of outsiders battle an entrenched party establishment. In most cases, the stories are self-serving myths: party...

Why Goolsbee's Good.

Today brings us another of Austan Goolsbee's white-board presentations, this one about the GM turnaround: This combination of the current (a top White House aide in his shirtsleeves taping a web video) and the low-tech (a white board) is fairly compelling not merely because of the juxtaposition, or because of Goolsbee's smoldering charisma. It shows that he has a pretty good understanding of how to present data persuasively, at least in the first half of the video. Because creating data visualizations is so easy these days, we get both good and bad. There are oodles of tools out there that allow designers to create fascinating and informative visualizations, and an entire culture has grown up around data visualization. There are many sites that celebrate it -- see here , here , here , here , or here . On the other hand, many people don't realize that you don't actually have to use the default chart settings on Excel, which have brought the world enough ugly charts to reach to Pluto...

Olympia's Choice.

Let's say you're a moderate New England Republican senator, and you're up for re-election in 2012. What looks to be your biggest political problem? Well, looking at what just happened to some of your colleagues, you've got a strong incentive to avoid, or if that's not possible, overcome, a primary challenge. That means doing stuff like this : She was once considered the most likely Republican to vote for health care reform. Now, Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) is joining scores of Republicans and conservatives in support of the Florida health care lawsuit's plaintiffs, challenging the Constitutionality of the law. Yesterday, she and 30 other Republicans signed an amicus brief in the case. You may remember the extraordinary amount of energy that Barack Obama and Harry Reid and Max Baucus put into courting Snowe during the health-care debate. She played footsie with them for months, always maintaining the idea -- which turned out to be fantasy -- that with the right combination of tweaks to...

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