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

The Three Curses Faced By Democrats -- And How to Lift Them

Lou Oates/Shutterstock
Lou Oates/Shutterstock T he Democrats are now cursed in three ways that they can overcome only with a new boldness and determination. Ever since the mid-1990s, we have been writing at The American Prospect about an “ emerging Democratic majority ” as a result of demographic and generational change. That support has materialized. Votes from Latinos and other growing minorities, as well as the young more generally, have contributed to Barack Obama’s victories and rising hopes for the future. But those groups are also the source of the first curse facing the Democrats: Their new majority comes from low-turnout constituencies. When voting participation drops, as it typically does in midterm elections, the decline tends to be especially sharp among minorities and the young. While Republicans are blessed with a reliable base, Democratic turnout depends on their voters’ fluctuating interest and enthusiasm. The Democrats’ second curse stems from Republican entrenchment in the states and the...

Health Reform's Next Test

AP Photo/Jim Mone
AP Photo/Jim Mone In St. Paul, Minnessota, for shoppers scramble to finalize health coverage before the new year. F ailure, flop, fiasco—however you describe it, the Obama administration’s rollout of will go down as one of the most embarrassing episodes of public mismanagement in recent history. In principle, the defects of the website have nothing to do with the merits of the Affordable Care Act. As a practical matter, however, the two have become intertwined, and the big question is how much damage the flawed rollout will do to the political survival of the ACA as well as those in Congress who voted for it. In the short run,’s problems have undermined trust in both the law and liberal government. They have created a general impression not just of incompetence but of failed promises, obliging the president to adopt an apologetic tone and shaping the media narrative about the ACA. Public approval of the law has dropped significantly as support has fallen...

Let's Shut Down the Filibuster

AP Images/Evan Vucci
H ow you think about many immediate issues facing the country should hinge on your expectations about the future. Consider the battle shaping up this fall over the confirmation of President Barack Obama’s judicial nominees, particularly the three he has nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit—Patricia Millett, Cornelia Pillard, and Robert Wilkins. Control of the D.C. Court is important in itself, but the bigger issue is the willingness of Senate Democrats to restrict use of the filibuster and revamp the ground rules in an institution that has often obstructed liberal reform. The D.C. Court is particularly significant for national policy because it rules on federal regulations affecting labor, environmental protection, financial reform, and other key matters. Refusing to consider any of the president’s three nominees on their merits, Senate Republicans want to reduce the number of judges on the court to eliminate the three current vacancies and preserve conservative...

Bad Faith and Budget Politics

Obama has to do business with people who cannot be trusted to own up to their side of a deal.

AP Images/Jacquelyn Martin
Compromise is often an unhappily revealing art. “Ideals may tell us something important about what we would like to be. But compromises tell us who we are,” the philosopher Avishai Margalit writes. In finding compromises with Republicans on the federal budget, Democrats need to remember not only who they are but who the voters depend on them to be. From that standpoint, the start of the budget battle in early April did not go well. Acceding to Republican demands for cuts in Social Security and Medicare, the president’s budget left his party open to a cynical but predictable response. Without the least acknowledgment of a contradiction, the chairman of the House Republicans’ campaign arm, Representative Greg Walden, immediately went on television to denounce Barack Obama’s “shocking attack on seniors.” We’ve seen it before. Many of the House Republicans who voted in 2008 for the bank bailouts called for by the Bush administration denounced the bailouts in the 2010 election as if they...

Did Republicans Lose the Election?

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Last November, Democrats seemed to be justified in believing that their party had won a victory of genuine significance. The ideological differences between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney were clear-cut, and Obama was re-elected. Despite the advantage that Republicans initially enjoyed in Senate races, Democrats increased their majority to 55, and that new majority is more liberal than the old one. In races for the House, more voters cast ballots for Democratic than for Republican candidates, though Republicans kept their majority thanks in large part to gerrymandered districts. But if you step back now, look at government as a whole, and think about the likely course of politics in the next several years, things look different. In what was a bad year for Republicans, they emerged with enough power to stymie major Democratic legislative initiatives and to advance key items on their own agenda through the arms of government that they continue to control. In other words, the United States...