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

Get Out the Hate

A lot of political participation is driven by simple dislike for the opposing party.

(Flickr/Jordan Davis)
As much as we bemoan our polarized politics, dislike for one's political opponents is one of the most powerful engines that drives political participation. It isn't necessarily wrong to be mad or think that the other side is nuts -- all of us do, at some point or another. But that belief can lead partisans to some places that don't do them any favors when it comes to making their case to the public. We saw how last week, when the most memorable moment of a Republican presidential debate came not from one of the candidates but from the audience. As part of a question to Rick Perry about Texas's administration of the death penalty, Brian Williams noted that during Perry's tenure, the state has executed 234 prisoners, more than under any governor in America since the death penalty was restored. At the mention of this statistic, the crowd of Republicans burst into applause. Some commentators saw this as an expression of bloodlust, the evidence of something dark and ugly within the souls...

Glory Days

Forget women voting, civil rights, workplace protection -- conservatives want to bring back the 19th century.

(Flickr/anyjazz65)
If Democrats and Republicans agree on anything, it's that the other side is radical. Each party looks at the other and sees people driven by a dangerous ideology that would prove disastrous were it to be realized. There may be no precise measure of radicalism that everyone can agree on, but there are a few clear markers. Radical ideas are, when introduced, usually supported by only a small minority of people. They propose to fundamentally alter things, not by making adjustments to the existing order but by transforming it. They would affect large numbers of people, if not everyone, and do so in profound ways. Radical ideas can be wise or foolish, and of course, they're a moving target; today's radical idea becomes tomorrow's mainstream position, or vice versa. The current Republican Party has embraced radicalism in full, adopting goals that just a few years ago many in their own party would have found shocking. A longtime GOP congressional staffer wrote last week upon retiring that...

I Welcome Their Hatred

Shooting a guy in the face, and other stories from Dick Cheney.

(AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Dick Cheney's In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir is a book as dull and unimaginative as its title. Readers wouldn't have expected the former vice president and his daughter Liz (his co-author) to be a pair of subtle prose stylists, and they won't be disappointed. Slog through the early chapters on Cheney's life growing up in Wyoming (he fished, he played football), and you'll eventually reach more momentous events, which Cheney is able to render equally lifeless. That's in part because of the way Cheney confronts the controversies that have attended so much of his public life. His descriptions of events tend to run as follows: Some things happened. Our critics said we were wrong. But they don't know what they're talking about, because we were right. Nevertheless, interesting tidbits pop up now and then, when scores are settled, enemies are skewered, and one can detect the occasional flash of something resembling human emotion. Herewith, some excerpts to relieve you of the...

Lucky Duckies In the Crosshairs

Ed Kilgore explains that the working poor have become the new "welfare queens": Underlying this assault, there seems to be a current of genuine anger at the working families who no longer receive "welfare as we knew it," but remain beneficiaries of some form of redistribution, even if it’s only progressive tax rates. You can debate back and forth endlessly about whether there is a racial element in this hostility, as there definitely was in the old "welfare wedge" politics. The iron-clad conviction of many conservatives that race-conscious federal housing policies caused the housing and financial meltdowns is not an encouraging sign, in any case. But it is clear that the social peace so many anticipated in 1996—after it had been established that no one receiving public assistance could be accused of refusing to work—has now been broken. Work is no longer enough, it seems, to avoid the moral taint of being a "welfare bum." The only thing that's missing is a pithy moniker to refer to...

Country Strong

Rick Perry is not pretending to be a cowboy. Will Americans be able to stomach the real thing?

(AP Photo/LM Otero) Texas Governor Rick Perry waits to be introduced at a gun shop in Dallas, Thursday, September 16, 2010.
In 1999, as he was preparing his run for the White House, George W. Bush made an important purchase. The son of a president and grandson of a senator, born in Connecticut and schooled at Andover, Yale, and Harvard, bought himself a ranch. Over the next ten years, he would repeatedly bring photographers out to document him clearing brush, always with Stetson atop his head and gigantic belt buckle firmly in place. Bush may not have been much for book learnin', but he appreciated the power of political iconography. The cowboy, he knew, is perhaps the most potent American archetype, the hero whose story speaks to everything many Americans want to believe about themselves and their country. And today, the newest star of the Republican party has more cowboy in his little finger than Bush had in his whole being -- for better and for worse. As a candidate, Texas governor Rick Perry will be enacting a particular performance of masculinity, one that will resonate powerfully with some people --...

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