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

Reclaiming the Air

This spring, if all goes according to plan, a new radio network with programs modeled after Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart will make its debut. The viewpoint of the venture is the big news. Air America Radio, as it's now being called, promises to be the first commercial network with a liberal political outlook in a medium that for years has been dominated by conservatives. Of all the media, radio has undergone the most decisive shift to the right during the past two decades. Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and other conservative talk-show hosts do not merely outdraw and outnumber liberals; they have hardly any progressive competition at the national level. Although public-radio stations broadcast liberal voices, they do not offer a counterweight to the hard-right slant of talk radio and the express support that its biggest stars provide the Republican Party. Limbaugh played a critical role in the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994 and in George W. Bush's...

Judicial Overreach

(February 10, 2004) It's not clear who should have been celebrating when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in early February that the state has to provide gay couples the right to marry and nothing less. The decision barred the Massachusetts legislature from adopting a law authorizing "civil unions" in which "spouses" would have "all the same benefits, protections, rights and responsibilities under law as are granted to spouses in a marriage." Not enough, the judges declared, guaranteeing that Massachusetts legislators would put before the state's voters a constitutional amendment reversing the court's decision and galvanizing conservatives across the country to add a ban on gay marriage to the federal constitution. Meanwhile, New Jersey enacted a law allowing same-sex (and other) couples to enter into "domestic partnerships" that carry most of the rights and obligations of a marriage. The New Jersey statute isn't actually as broad as the Massachusetts civil-union...

Afterword: Troubled Amendments

This article is a February 17 update of Paul Starr's earlier column 'Judicial Overreach' . Even if Massachusetts legislators pass a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage when they reconvene on March 11, their initial failure to reach an agreement in February points to a more general impediment in the way of a constitutional amendment at the national level. But that impediment by no means ensures that such an amendment will fail. In Massachusetts, according to The New York Times , the 199 members of the legislature have split three ways. About 40 support same-sex marriage, roughly 90 oppose same-sex marriage but approve of civil unions, and 60 to 70 conservatives reject both alternatives. Although the advocates of civil unions are still expected to prevail, they were initially unable to win enough support from either of the other sides to command a majority. A similar division over civil unions among opponents of gay marriage is already evident in Congress. The amendment...

Judicial Overreach

It's not clear who should have been celebrating when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in early February that the state has to provide gay couples the right to marry and nothing less. The decision barred the Massachusetts legislature from adopting a law authorizing "civil unions" in which "spouses" would have "all the same benefits, protections, rights and responsibilities under law as are granted to spouses in a marriage." Not enough, the judges declared, guaranteeing that Massachusetts legislators would put before the state's voters a constitutional amendment reversing the court's decision and galvanizing conservatives across the country to add a ban on gay marriage to the federal constitution. Meanwhile, New Jersey enacted a law allowing same-sex (and other) couples to enter into "domestic partnerships" that carry most of the rights and obligations of a marriage. The New Jersey statute isn't actually as broad as the Massachusetts civil-union legislation would have been...

The Republican Lock

The 2004 election is really only about one question: whether the Republican Party will enjoy thorough and unchecked power in all branches of the federal government. Despite the virtually even split in the American electorate, conservatives have every reason to expect that November will bring them total political control. Four years ago, America had what I described in these pages as a "parliamentary election." So close was the political balance that either party had the chance to take the legislative and executive branches at the same time. And because of the surpluses built up during the preceding years of divided government, the winning party would come into office with the resources to carry out an ambitious program. It was a moment of rare historic opportunity -- and the Republicans seized it. They won the House, Senate and presidency, each by a hair, and immediately enacted a radical program of tax cuts. In retrospect, 2000 was also a tipping-point election. Once in power, the...

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