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

The Constitution, Radicalism, and the "Mainstream."

Over at Slate , Dahlia Lithwick and Jeff Shesol give us the lowdown on the latest in conservative creativity, a proposed amendment to the Constitution that would allow states to band together to repeal any federal laws they didn't like. So for instance, if legislatures in two-thirds of the states decided that $7.25 is just way too much for people to be paid, they could nullify the federal minimum wage. Sounds like a great idea! What I really love is that the website for the plan wants you to "join the movement to restore the Constitution," by dismantling the rather carefully crafted balance the Constitution strikes between state and federal power. What's new about this isn't that a bunch of cranks are coming up with new ways to free themselves from government's authority -- we've always had that. What's different is that some of these cranks have gotten elected to offices at the state and even federal level, and the rest of their party is too terrified of primary challenges to stand...

Losing Faith in Obama

Has the president finally gone a step too far in compromising with Republicans?

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
November 29, 2010, may be remembered as the moment when progressives stopped giving Barack Obama the benefit of the doubt. Some had long before, of course, whether because of compromises during the health-care reform debate, his continuation of Bush-era policies on civil liberties, or what some see as his obeisance toward Wall Street. But his announcement of a pay freeze on federal workers -- a move that managed to simultaneously validate a half-dozen disingenuous conservative arguments, make government service less attractive, harm the economy, undermine the progressive vision of government, and give Republicans a concession without getting anything in return, all while doing virtually nothing to address the problem Obama claimed to be attacking (the deficit) -- feels like a tipping point. Every president disappoints his supporters eventually, but it's hard to recall one who went through such dramatic swings so quickly. From the moment Obama emerged on the national scene, his ability...

Symbols Are for the Little People.

Both of our two great political parties are coalitions of groups with different priorities. Some of those priorities can be addressed in specific ways, while others are more amenable to gestures and symbols. Jonathan Bernstein argues that conservative demands tend not only to be more symbolic but also more all-or-nothing: ...most Democratic constituency groups have real policy demands, and that they’re very eager to have those demands fulfilled. My sense is that a lot of Republican constituency groups have more symbolic demands. Therefore, at the end of the day, a lot of Republican constituency groups are willing to go along with an all-or-nothing strategy on most issues, while Democratic constituency groups are perfectly willing to bargain for as much as they can get. Look: if you want universal health care, you are probably willing to settle for moving from 80% coverage to 95% coverage (or whatever the actual numbers are). If you believe that government involvement in health care is...

100 Percent Republicans.

Over at Slate , John Dickerson gets a pretty amazing statement out of Rep. Paul Ryan , the Republicans' supposed budget expert: Obama had said he could have done more to work with Republicans. Did the GOP share any of the blame? "No, it's all the Democrats' fault," Ryan said. "We're great. We have halos over our heads," he added sarcastically. "How do you want me to answer that?" he asked. I told him that truthfully would be fine. He seemed boxed-in. Even if he believed Republicans shared some blame, he couldn't admit it. "They had to make a decision," he said, referring to the president and Democratic leaders. "Do we work with these Republicans and do we meet in the middle? But we don't have to because we have all the votes. They made a choice to go it on their own, and that's when we had to protect ourselves." He said he tried to reach out to the White House early in the administration on a health care plan. "We sent a plan to the president, we sent them letters, we called people,...

The Fall of John McCain.

Not too long ago, John McCain was one of the most admired people in Washington. He was held in esteem by both Republicans and Democrats. His legion of admirers in the press painted a picture of a heroic figure working to clean up the political system, fighting against overwhelming odds, pushed on by courage and principle. But there was always another side to McCain. On a personal level, he was actually an enormous jerk, who could be petty, rude, and even cruel to those who got in his way (not for nothing was he once known as "Senator Hothead" ). He didn't really care much about policy. He was always more concerned with personal ambition and preening for the cameras than accomplishing anything. And over the last few years, McCain has fallen further than most politicians ever imagine they could. He ran an abysmal, losing campaign for president. He delivered Sarah Palin to the country. His sole meaningful legislative accomplishment in three decades in Congress -- the Bipartisan Campaign...

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