Paul Waldman

Paul Waldman is a weekly columnist and senior writer for The American Prospect. He also writes for the Plum Line blog at The Washington Post and The Week and is the author of Being Right is Not Enough: What Progressives Must Learn From Conservative Success.

Recent Articles

Why the Republican Candidates Are Obsessed With "Political Correctness"

(AP Photo/John Locher)
(AP Photo/John Locher) From left, Republican presidential candidates Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, and Chris Christie participate in the CNN Republican presidential debate on Dec. 15 in Las Vegas. L ike most people over a certain age, I first heard the term "politically correct" when I arrived at college (this was a couple of decades ago). At my small liberal arts school where almost everyone was a liberal, the PC folks were the ones who took things farther than the rest of us had the energy to go, turning their belief in social justice or environmentalism into a public performance of earnestness and commitment. At worst, they inspired guilt—sure, you tossed your soda can in the recycling, but if you really cared about the planet you'd be weaving napkins out of hemp—but back then nobody talked about being "politically incorrect" because the idea of bravely standing up to the politically correct was absurd. You can't rebel against people who have no power...

The Irony in Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz's Argument Over "Amnesty"

(Photo: AP/John Locher)
(Photo: AP/John Locher) Ted Cruz, far right, speaks during an exchange with Marco Rubio, far left, during the December 15 GOP Debate. T ed Cruz and Marco Rubio are for now the only real candidates with a chance to become the Republican nominee for president (granting that Donald Trump, whatever his chances, is an utterly unreal candidate), and to Rubio's chagrin, they are engaged in a dispute over immigration that grows progressively more venomous. This complex policy challenge has been reduced to the question of which of them is more fervently opposed to "amnesty" for undocumented immigrants, but the debate obscures an odd fact. Though Cruz is getting the better of the argument, the substance of Rubio's position on the issue—which he is now desperately trying to justify—is actually more popular with Republican voters. But in this atmosphere, when fear and resentment are the order of the day, even that isn't enough to help him. A brief bit of background. In 2013, Rubio joined with a...

The Republican Presidential Primary Is About Only One Issue

AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall An audience member holds a sign during a campaign rally for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, Friday, December 11, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa. N ot long ago, immigration was supposed to be the key issue of the Republican presidential primary, where even though the differences between the candidates are small, they all have to show voters that they're better on the issue than their opponents. And "better" isn't about having a superior policy solution, it's about reflecting the voters' feelings back to them in the most compelling way. But then there was a terrorist attack in California, and everything changed. Immigration is no longer so important on the campaign trail; instead, the discussion is all about who's tougher on terrorism. But while it looks like Republicans are talking about something completely different, the truth is that it's the same discussion and the same emotions, just with a different group of foreigners as the main target...

Terrorism Truths No Politician Will Admit

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin President Barack Obama addresses the nation from the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, Sunday night, December 6, 2016. H ere's a truth that no politician, Democrat or Republican, is going to tell you: There is absolutely nothing that our government could have done to prevent the attack that took 14 lives in San Bernardino last week. If you're looking for a lesson we can learn from it, that's the one you ought to take. Universal background checks for gun purchases is a good idea, but it wouldn't have stopped that couple from killing those people. Starting a new war in the Middle East is a terrible idea, but it also wouldn't have stopped it. We can't stop an attack like the one in San Bernardino before it happens because our ability to do that is dependent on the plot coming to the government's attention. In order for that to happen, knowledge of the plan has to leak out in some way—to someone who overhears the planning and tells the authorities, to...

Fear Wins, Obama Loses

AP Photo/Evan Vucci
AP Photo/Evan Vucci President Barack Obama delivers remarks during the COP21, United Nations Climate Change Conference, in Le Bourget, outside Paris, on Monday, November 30, 2015. B arack Obama's critics—a bit on the left, some on the right, but mostly in the press—often say that he's too cerebral, has too much faith in reason and logic, and fails to tap into the public's emotions when trying to convince them of something. He may have rode into office on a wave of hope and inspiration, but he sometimes seems to lack a feel for the more negative emotions, or at least the desire to exploit them. Anger, fear, outrage—these are not for him. So it was that Obama has failed to convince the public that taking 10,000 refugees from Syria would be part of a long American tradition of aiding those in need. Depending on how you ask the question, between 50 and 60 percent of Americans will tell pollsters that we shouldn't accept the refugees, and the House in its wisdom already passed a bill to...