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

Freeze-Dried Policies.

Even though Jamelle and Tim already discussed President Obama's mind-boggling decision to push a pay freeze for federal workers, I have to put my two cents in, particularly because just a week before last, I wrote a column about how conservatives were gearing up to begin a campaign to vilify federal workers and blame all our problems on their allegedly generous pay.

The Royal "We"

Politicians make strong statements about what "the American people" think, but the electorate doesn't speak in one voice.

Voters at the polls on Election Day (AP Photo/Tuscaloosa News, Robert Sutton)

"There is no such thing as society," Margaret Thatcher memorably said; instead, "there are individual men and women and there are families." We could cut through a lot of pabulum with our own version: There is no such thing as "the American people."

But don't tell politicians that. If there's one thing elected officials from both parties agree on, it's that "the American people" want certain things and don't want other things. It just so happens that they want whatever the person speaking wants, and they are horrified by the things he doesn't want. If you watched C-SPAN for a day, you'd hear dozens of invocations of "the American people," with nary a whiff of ambiguity.

That Thing You Said Once Proves Who You Are.

A tremendous proportion of the political case partisans make against the other side's leaders comes down to, "He said something terrible." Think about how many times you've seen a campaign ad keyed off of an offhand remark a candidate made. "Congressman Winklebrain says strangling puppies is 'acceptable.' Do we want a puppy-strangler in Congress?" Barack Obama said people cling to guns and religion! John McCain said "Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran"! John Kerry said he voted for the $87 billion before he voted against it! Al Gore said he invented the Internet!

Your Very Serious New Congress.

The Wall Street Journal tells us today that around a dozen of the incoming freshman class of Republican House members plan to sleep in their offices, perhaps in some kind of a contest for who can come up with the dumbest piece of symbolism to present to the voters back home:

It's the ultimate I'm-not-a-professional-politician statement, reminiscent of the 1994 midterm elections, when a GOP House takeover led to a surge in House sleepovers.