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

Fixing Another Florida (and Michigan) Fiasco

If the Democratic race continues to be tight, a fair method for enfranchising Florida and Michigan Democrats will be vital to avoiding a tainted nomination.

Oh, no, it could be Florida again: a disputed election, a tainted result, and a Democratic fiasco. But this time, add Michigan to the mess. If the contest for the Democratic nomination continues to be close, there is a risk that the decisive issue will be a procedural question--the seating of the 366 delegates from Michigan and Florida at the Democratic Convention--and that whichever side loses, the nomination may be regarded as illegitimate. But unlike 2000, this year the Democratic Party itself--the Democratic National Committee, the two state parties in Michigan and Florida, and representatives of the Clinton and Obama campaigns--could negotiate a resolution to avert damage to the eventual party ticket. The resolution might include a round of caucuses in both states in early June to choose delegates whom the national party and all sides could accept as fairly chosen. And, if the race goes that far, those caucuses could tip the nomination one way or the other. As things currently...

The Democrats Could Blow It Again

After the first rounds of caucuses and primaries, the prospects don't look so rosy for the Democrats or so bleak for the Republicans. The presidential race now looks like a toss-up -- perhaps even with a Republican edge.

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Until recently, like most liberals, I was convinced that 2008 was going to be a Democratic year. While Republicans have been listless and divided, Democrats have been passionate and enthusiastic about their candidates for president. An unpopular war, a sinking economy, a general sense of conservative exhaustion: All pointed toward a Democratic triumph in November. A lot of conservatives had come to grudgingly agree and were preparing to spend four years in political rehab. But after the first rounds of caucuses and primaries, the prospects don't look so rosy for the Democrats or so bleak for the Republicans. The presidential race now looks like a toss-up -- perhaps even with a Republican edge. Especially after his win in South Carolina, Sen. John McCain has a plausible route to the GOP nomination, and he remains by far his party's best bet for holding onto the White House. The Republican field has been so preoccupied with appealing to the party's hard-core base that it seemed that the...


Ron Brownstein has a piece in National Journal arguing that the struggle for the presidential nomination in both parties could be protracted . Tomorrow's Michigan primary, however, may determine whether we have another surprise. If McCain wins there and in South Carolina, it's conceivable that he could effectively lock up the Republican nomination on February 5, while the fight between Clinton and Obama goes on into March and beyond. That's just the opposite of what most people were expecting earlier. It seemed like the Democratic race would be decided first. Which is why Democrats have a lot at stake in Michigan. It would not be a good thing for them if the Republicans were able to begin uniting around a candidate before the Democrats could. The longer and worse the fights are within a party for its nomination, the weaker that nominee tends to be in the general election. --Paul Starr

The Democrats' Strategic Challenge

If the Democrats win the election, can the next president and Congress make significant progress toward realizing liberal aspirations? Here's how -- a road map for the start of a new America.

We may be on the verge of one of those moments when the underlying currents in American politics change directions. The conservative agenda is exhausted, public opinion has unmistakably swung away from the right, and although there are no guarantees about the outcome of the election, 2009 may find Democrats in control of both the White House and Congress. But if ever there were a time when liberals needed to be strategic about their goals and the ways of achieving them, this would be it. In the past two years, anger against the Republicans has driven moderates and independents toward the Democrats and stirred an awakening among progressives. Yet all that energy will dissipate if after a Democratic victory at the polls, the new administration proves to be faltering and ineffectual. A durable shift in our politics will depend on what the new president and Congress are actually able to accomplish and whether they can frame those accomplishments as elements of a coherent vision. The way...

Hold that Tax

Social Security does not face an urgent crisis, and its problems do not need to be addressed now by a tax increase.

It seems so reasonable, particularly to many Democrats. To solve the long-term shortfall in Social Security, why not tax all earnings instead of just the first $97,500? Wouldn't taxing pay above that level be the economically progressive and fiscally responsible way to solve Social Security's problems? Prodded by Tim Russert at two Democratic presidential debates this fall, Joe Biden, Barack Obama, and John Edwards agreed that it was indeed the thing to do. None of them challenged Russert's premise that Social Security faces so dire a prognosis that only a big tax increase or cut in benefits can solve the problem. Let's think carefully about this. Do Social Security's problems need to be addressed now by a tax increase? How many tax increases can the next president expect to get through Congress? And what would be the impact of taxing all earnings on the long-term political viability of Social Security? Social Security does not face an urgent crisis. It will be solvent through 2041...