Paul Waldman

Paul Waldman is the Prospect's daily blogger, and a contributing editor. He also blogs for the Plum Line at the Washington Post, and is the author of Being Right is Not Enough: What Progressives Must Learn From Conservative Success.

Recent Articles

On Debating Our Debate.

As we debate what kind of rhetoric is and isn't objectionable, it would help if we could make some specific distinctions and keep some important things in mind. To that end: Every gun metaphor is not created equal . Military metaphors infuse our talk about politics; the only thing that comes close is sports. The word "campaign" only relatively recently began to be used to refer to politics; its original use referred to military endeavors. But there is a difference between using metaphors that invoke violence ("We're going to fight this battle to the end!") and using rhetoric that invokes violence specifically directed at your opponents (like this ), or even speaks literally of people arming to take on your opponents or the government (like Sharron Angle 's infamous discussion of "Second Amendment remedies" to not getting the result you want at the ballot box). One is perfectly ordinary; the other ought to be condemned. The fact that someone criticizes your rhetoric doesn't mean they'...

GOP Still All-Or-Nothing on Health Care.

You may recall that longtime conservative advocate and former Bush II speechwriter David Frum was excommunicated from the conservative movement after he suggested that implacably opposing the Affordable Care Act was strategically misguided (he argued that the GOP would have been better served by negotiating to make the bill more conservative). Frum landed on his feet , and now has some more advice for his fellow conservatives on health care. Once their silly theatrical presentation on repealing the ACA is done, Frum writes , they ought to try doing some things to improve the law: If Republicans cannot repeal the healthcare law, and they cannot, they should fight at least to make that law’s costs as visible as possible. How about a health care VAT? Every time you go to the store, you'd pay the full cost of health care subsidies, right up front, where nobody can miss them. Suddenly that abstract talking point in the president's speeches — the one about spending 17 percent of national...

Fix the DMV, Raise Trust in Government.

Every day, we interact with government in multiple ways, most of which are invisible. Because of that, we don't give it much credit. I'll bet you've never driven to the supermarket, gotten out of your car, and said, "Wow -- it would have taken me a heck of a lot longer to get here if there wasn't a paved road to drive on. Thanks, government!" Or settled into bed at the end of the day and said, "I sure am glad none of my kids was poisoned by tainted meat today. Thanks, government!" Unfortunately, when we interact with government in a visible way, it's a lot more likely to be unpleasant. As an example, Keith Humphreys relates his DMV horror story , and it's painful. You may have experienced something similar. At the very least, chances are that your DMV experience has been less than a joy. It may be that California's system is, at the moment, particularly horrible. My last experience with a DMV was actually pretty good -- they had a person at the front whose job it was to ask you what...

Winning by Not Losing.

Ed Kilgore warns Democrats to get ready for a long stretch of misery ahead: "Even if Obama wins reelection by a comfortable margin, it’s most likely that the House will remain in Republican hands and Democrats will lose seats in, and perhaps control of, the Senate—and beyond that, Republicans will probably do fairly well in 2014. In other words, we could be looking not at two years of damage control, but six." True -- it won't be easy to take back the House, and Democrats will be defending 23 of the 33 Senate seats contested in 2012, meaning they could win most of them and still lose control of the chamber. It's worth noting, then, that negative accomplishment can still be meaningful. Stopping Republicans from doing the things they want may not get you a triumphant signing ceremony, but the effects on people's lives can be just as profound. Imagine if you could go back in time and stop George W. Bush 's tax cuts or the war in Iraq. That'd be something. And if Democrats successfully...

Term Limits for Columnists?

Brendan Nyhan asks whether we shouldn't have term limits for columnists, which is what most of us probably think about columnists we don't care for. Do people still read Richard Cohen and say, "That really gives me a new perspective on things"? Or maybe the question is, "Do people still read Richard Cohen?" Thing is, they probably do. Even at a time when it isn't exactly difficult to find opinions, having a column in a big newspaper still makes you a big deal. Despite the decline of newspapers, there's been little decline in the influence of the likes of Tom Friedman or Charles Krauthammer (I explored this a year ago in an article for the print magazine). But the question of whether we really need opinion columnists at all is worth asking. As a practitioner of this particular craft, I'd like to think that my column profoundly shapes the worldviews of thousands of people who are not actually my mother, but it's hard to know for sure. I have been surprised, however, by the fact that I'...

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