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

Reckless Predictions

You had no reason to notice it, but The American Prospect was totally Y2K-free this past year. We didn't run a single article about the disasters that were supposedly going to befall the world after the clock struck midnight on New Year's Eve. We also didn't run any articles giddily anticipating all the wonders that human ingenuity would bring in the twenty-first century. We are a sober lot. We don't make reckless predictions one way or the other. Now I propose to spoil that spotless reputation by speculating about the outcome of the 2000 presidential election. First speculation : Although Bill Bradley refused to acknowledge it, Al Gore effectively ended the race for the Democratic presidential nomination in New Hampshire. Gore might not have won there if John McCain hadn't corralled the majority of the independents. But immediately afterward, Gore soared to a huge advantage in national polls (40 points, as I write a week later),...

Damage Report

T he past two years have humbled both liberals and conservatives—or should have. The 1992 election, liberals hoped, would set in motion a new cycle of progressivism. It didn't. After the 1994 election, the new conservative leaders of Congress expected to stage a revolution. They didn't. First President Clinton failed to secure the bolder aspects of his program, notably health care reform and public investment; then the Republicans failed to enact most of the Contract with America and their seven-year budget plan. Clinton miscalculated on health care; the congressional leadership miscalculated on the government shutdown. Conservatives still have control of the national agenda, and they have won a big victory on welfare reform. But the collapse of public approval for Gingrich and the Congress—down to about 26 percent since January, according to a Wall Street Journal /NBC poll—has deflated their claim to a historic mandate. Thus the 1996 election comes at a curious juncture. Juggernauts...

The Betrayal

N othing about the 2000 election matters nearly as much as the ugly means by which it was brought to an end. Throughout our history, with the terrible exception of 1860, every party has been able to live with the victory of an opposing candidate for president. One reason is our confidence in a legal system that is supposed to stand apart from politics and limit the consequences of political defeat. The presidency of George W. Bush may not be the republic's happiest era, but it will be endurable. What is not so easily endured is the Supreme Court's betrayal of our trust. No one would feel that sense of betrayal if the majority of the Court had acted consistently with its judicial philosophy. Suppose the facts had been reversed and Al Gore had been leading by a small margin in Florida when he appealed to the Supreme Court to stop a recount requested by Bush. Suppose he had also argued that differences among counties in standards for judging ballots represented a...

Of our Time: Democracy v. Dollar

D emocracy, many people have said, is a matter of faith, but why, dear Lord, must our faith be tested so often? Lately, the role of money in political campaigns has been mocking our civic creed. "Here the people rule," we are taught, and we would like to think so. But if the voters (and nonvoters) seem disbelieving, they may merely be acquainted with the material facts of political life. Congressional candidates in this last election cycle raised $1.3 billion, which is a lot of money to change hands with pure intentions. Fiorello La Guardia, New York's reform mayor of the 1930s and '40s, once said that politics requires "supreme ingratitude." That's just the problem. Among those who run for office, ingratitude may not be common enough. In many respects, the United States is positively fastidious about the influence of money on public officials. Federal employees cannot legally accept even trivial gifts from the public. They risk prosecution if they allow someone to pay for a meal or...

A Reform That Doesn't

L et's say we decided to build a dam along a river. If we merely agreed to erect a small barrier that the river would run around, flowing easily through new channels and old ones, no one would celebrate our plan as a great achievement. But that is how editorialists have hailed the Senate's passage of the McCain-Feingold bill, despite the scant likelihood that the partial barriers it erects will stem the flow of big money or seriously diminish its influence in politics. As passed by the Senate, McCain-Feingold virtually invites circumvention. The bill bans unlimited soft-money donations to the parties and bars advocacy-group advertising that mentions candidates during the 30 days before a primary and 60 days before a general election. I don't expect the limits on advocacy-group advertising to survive a trip to the Supreme Court, nor do I think they should (as I wrote in "The Loophole We Can't Close," TAP, January–February 1998). But even if the Court upholds this restriction on...

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