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

Unfortunately, We Don't Have Enough Cynicism

Noted Republican apostate David Frum has a long essay in New York magazine entitled "When Did the GOP Lose Touch With Reality?" that liberals will nod their heads at vigorously, but this one point is worthy of note: When contemplating the ruthless brilliance of this system, it’s tempting to fall back on the theory that the GOP is masterminded by a cadre of sinister billionaires, deftly manipulating the political process for their own benefit. The billionaires do exist, and some do indeed attempt to influence the political process. The bizarre fiasco of campaign-finance reform has perversely empowered them to give unlimited funds anonymously to special entities that can spend limitlessly. (Thanks, Senator ­McCain! Nice job, Senator Feingold!) Yet, for the most part, these Republican billionaires are not acting cynically. They watch Fox News too , and they’re gripped by the same apocalyptic fears as the Republican base. In funding the tea-party movement, they are ­actually acting...

The Importance of Process

I just read Theda Skocpol and Vanessa Williamson's soon-to-be-released book The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism , and this passage stuck out as particularly notable. It ought to give some pause to both liberals and conservatives: Midway through our interviews on the Middle Peninsula of Virginia, we were struck by a telling contrast. Between us, the two authors have attended many meetings of highly educated liberals in and around academic communities. In those meetings, detailed knowledge of public policies is common. People know exactly what is in Obama's health reform law, exactly how all kinds of taxes work, and can tell you who pays for and benefits from government expenditures. They can debate the intricacies of cap and trade versus carbon taxes. But even liberal Ph.D.s are often extremely vague about how U.S. politics actually works. People will proclaim in meetings that President Obama should just give a speech on a particular priority — and act as if that...

What Happened to the Tea Party?

When the 2012 Republican nominating contest was getting underway earlier this year, it was widely predicted (I predicted it myself) that the race would eventually come down to a contest between an establishment candidate like Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty, and a Tea Party candidate more appealing to the party's base. It seemed perfectly reasonable at the time; after all, the Tea Party had energized the GOP and propelled it to the historic 2010 congressional election victory. With its anti-Obama fervor, the Tea Party was the focus of all the GOP's grassroots energy, to such a degree that nearly every Republican felt compelled to proclaim him or herself a Tea Partier. Once the Tea Party's champion was selected, we would discover just how much strength the party establishment still held in our decentralized political age. Yet with the Iowa caucus just six weeks away, it appears that there will be no grand battle between the establishment and the insurgents, the old guard and the new. There...

Crazy People Running for President

AP Photo/Andy Dunaway
Every four years, many people decide to run for president. You don't hear about most of them, because the news media decide, and reasonably so, to ignore folks like the immortal Charles Doty . Even among those who have held major political office, however, some are deemed serious and some are not. For instance, Buddy Roemer — a former member of Congress and governor of Louisiana — is considered not serious, as is Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico. Both are running for the Republican nomination, but neither gets invited to debates or has journalists reporting on their campaigns. Yet Michele Bachmann is considered one of the "real" candidates, even as she languishes in the mid-single-digits in polls. Of course she won't be president, but I think it's worth pointing out that someone like Bachmann can still be treated as a real candidate. Since we've almost gotten used to her, at times one has to step back and marvel at just how incredibly nutty this person is, and the fact...

Has Grover Norquist Made Himself Unnecessary?

You should read Tim Dickinson's long article in Rolling Stone about how the GOP became the party of the one percent. Essentially, the story is that while there was once a real substance to the idea of "fiscal conservatism"—that Republicans really did care about balancing the books and being good stewards of the public's tax dollars—the last 20 years have brought the Republican Party to a much different place. While they once saw taxes as simply the way to pay for the things government does -- they shouldn't be too high, since conservatives want limited government, but they shouldn't be so low that we run up deficits -- they now see them as an outright evil that really has nothing much at all to do with deficits. Deficits are a handy tool to use when there's a Democrat in the White House to force spending cuts, but not much more. Dickinson puts Dick Cheney at the center of this story, which one could quibble about, but there's something here that I think calls for some discussion: In...

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