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

Taking, Not Placing, Responsibility

We're beginning to take a long overdue look at the state of our political debate. But that examination needs to be honest.

Members of Congress and staff observe a moment of silence for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and other shooting victims. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
In the wake of Saturday's tragic shooting in Tucson, Arizona, we're beginning to take a long overdue look at the state of our political debate. But that examination needs to be honest. There are times when both the right and the left are equally guilty of some sin or other, and the press' instinct to characterize every problem as the equal responsibility of both sides does no harm. This is not one of those times. The simple, unavoidable fact is that it is the right that has been purveying the rhetoric of violence in the last few years. Many conservatives have declined to participate in this festival of hate and rage, and we should be careful to give credit, as well as blame, where it's due. Everyone, though, has an obligation to look at what they've said and what they've tolerated. Conservatives are now arguing that they don't bear any responsibility for the horrific act of murder committed by Jared Loughner, because he seems so clearly disturbed. That, though, is precisely where the...

What If We Just Ignored the Westboro Baptist Church?

A number of blogs have linked today to the predictably despicable reaction of the Westboro Baptist Church, the "God Hates Fags" people, to the Arizona shooting. They're a particularly hateful group of maniacs, and it's tempting to point out their actions so people understand that that sort of thing exists within our country. But they're a tiny group that has no supporters anywhere, at least none willing to stand up and join them. They have a First Amendment right to say whatever they want -- indeed, they're a walking instruction in the price we pay for having freedom of speech -- and they're also very good at attracting attention. So what if we all agreed we were just going to ignore them? The next time there's a tragedy of any sort, the WBC will be there, proclaiming that God brought it down upon our nation, so angry is he at our tolerance of sin. The rest of us don't have to respond. We can't put them in jail, but we can deprive them of the attention they crave. -- Paul Waldman

On Debating Our Debate.

As we debate what kind of rhetoric is and isn't objectionable, it would help if we could make some specific distinctions and keep some important things in mind. To that end: Every gun metaphor is not created equal . Military metaphors infuse our talk about politics; the only thing that comes close is sports. The word "campaign" only relatively recently began to be used to refer to politics; its original use referred to military endeavors. But there is a difference between using metaphors that invoke violence ("We're going to fight this battle to the end!") and using rhetoric that invokes violence specifically directed at your opponents (like this ), or even speaks literally of people arming to take on your opponents or the government (like Sharron Angle 's infamous discussion of "Second Amendment remedies" to not getting the result you want at the ballot box). One is perfectly ordinary; the other ought to be condemned. The fact that someone criticizes your rhetoric doesn't mean they'...

GOP Still All-Or-Nothing on Health Care.

You may recall that longtime conservative advocate and former Bush II speechwriter David Frum was excommunicated from the conservative movement after he suggested that implacably opposing the Affordable Care Act was strategically misguided (he argued that the GOP would have been better served by negotiating to make the bill more conservative). Frum landed on his feet , and now has some more advice for his fellow conservatives on health care. Once their silly theatrical presentation on repealing the ACA is done, Frum writes , they ought to try doing some things to improve the law: If Republicans cannot repeal the healthcare law, and they cannot, they should fight at least to make that law’s costs as visible as possible. How about a health care VAT? Every time you go to the store, you'd pay the full cost of health care subsidies, right up front, where nobody can miss them. Suddenly that abstract talking point in the president's speeches — the one about spending 17 percent of national...

Fix the DMV, Raise Trust in Government.

Every day, we interact with government in multiple ways, most of which are invisible. Because of that, we don't give it much credit. I'll bet you've never driven to the supermarket, gotten out of your car, and said, "Wow -- it would have taken me a heck of a lot longer to get here if there wasn't a paved road to drive on. Thanks, government!" Or settled into bed at the end of the day and said, "I sure am glad none of my kids was poisoned by tainted meat today. Thanks, government!" Unfortunately, when we interact with government in a visible way, it's a lot more likely to be unpleasant. As an example, Keith Humphreys relates his DMV horror story , and it's painful. You may have experienced something similar. At the very least, chances are that your DMV experience has been less than a joy. It may be that California's system is, at the moment, particularly horrible. My last experience with a DMV was actually pretty good -- they had a person at the front whose job it was to ask you what...

Pages