Paul Waldman

Paul Waldman is a contributing editor for the Prospect and the author of Being Right is Not Enough: What Progressives Must Learn From Conservative Success.

Recent Articles

Mommy, What's a Caucus?

If you want to challenge your pedagogical skills, try explaining the Iowa caucuses to a child. "You see, Billy, in America, we get to choose our presidents, and every citizen gets to participate. So to start the process off, everyone who wants to be president spends months in the state of Iowa, personally meeting as many Iowans as they can. And then one Tuesday in January, those Iowans go to their local schools and community centers, hang around for an hour listening to boring speeches, then cast their votes. Then the media tell us that the candidates who didn't come in first or second are unworthy of any more attention from people in the other 49 states, so those candidates drop out of the race. And then somebody gets to be the party's nominee, and that person will run against President Barack Obama in the fall. Does that make sense, Billy?" Billy will quite reasonably reply: No. It makes no sense at all. But in case he has some follow-up questions, let's try to have some answers...

What? We Won?

If there's one thing liberals know about their representatives in Washington, it's that those Democrats are a bunch of wimps. All Republicans have to do is draw back their fists, and Democrats will flinch. "What if they criticize us???" they whine, as they cave in on progressive principles again and again. That's the story liberals tell, and much of the time it's true. But nothing is true in politics one hundred percent of the time, and so yesterday we saw Republicans cave in on the payroll tax cut extension. There's a lot of technical parliamentary hoop-jumping involved, but basically the House is going to pass the two-month extension, and in exchange there will be a conference committee that attempts to work out a one-year extension. So we get to go through this all over again in two months. Which is probably just fine with Democrats. After all, they finally found an issue on which they could make Republicans knuckle under. Republicans don't seem to like this tax cut, and it's hard...

Alas, Poor Seamus, We Knew You Too, Too Well

I try to avoid being an advocate of the eat-your-peas model of campaign coverage. If the campaign were nothing but competing position papers, it would be terribly boring. Politics is compelling because it affects all of our lives, but also because it features interesting characters engaged in furious conflict. All that being said, however, a focus on trivia can be taken too far, and it usually is. Which is why I'm glad that NPR's David Folkenflik did a story on New York Times columnist Gail Collins' bizarre obsession with Mitt Romney's dog. In case you're unfamiliar with the story, in 2008 it came out that Romney once took his family on a vacation with the dog strapped to the roof of the car. The dog was in a carrier, but it still struck many dog owners as a little crazy. So what does this reveal to us about Romney? That he's indifferent to the risk of animal injury in high-speed crashes? Or what? Here's an excerpt from the story: "I don't know what it is about that factoid that...

Trust Exercise

Although the first vote has yet to be cast, conventional wisdom has it that the primary race is down to two candidates, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. Since both Romney and Gingrich have changed positions on issues large and small in recent years, it seems all but certain that whoever the nominee is, next fall's campaign will feature extended charges and defenses around the idea of flip-flopping. We'll hear about which flips were flopped, which flops were flipped, and what each says about the character of the flopper. So before that gets started in earnest, it’s worthwhile to step back and ask just what a history of position changes is actually supposed to tell us about a candidate, and what insight such a history might—or might not—offer to a presidency. Despite the charge of flip-flopping making regular appearances in general elections, the primary campaign is the place where it ought to matter. Primary voters are the ones judging the candidates on ideological fealty. They want to...

Primary Campaigns: Very Predictable, But Still Fun

When Newt Gingrich began his presidential run, he said that he was such a transformative and revolutionary figure that a regular kind of campaign just wasn't capable of containing and advancing his unique brand of awesomeness. He proved this by going away on a two-week cruise to Greece, whereupon most of his staff quit in frustration. But just a few weeks ago, it began to look like Newt may have been right, and that his unusual way of running for president -- starting with being a uniquely unpopular figure, then eschewing the normal things candidates do, like raising money and organizing supporters -- might not stop him from becoming the Republican nominee. But alas, now Newt seems to be coming back down to earth. A number of polls in the last week have shown him falling both nationally and in Iowa, where the caucuses are two weeks away. So what does this, and everything that has come before, tell us? I think what it tells us is that even the craziest campaign often has the most...

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