Paul Waldman

Paul Waldman is the Prospect's daily blogger, and a contributing editor. He also blogs for the Plum Line at the Washington Post, and is the author of Being Right is Not Enough: What Progressives Must Learn From Conservative Success.

Recent Articles

Are Republicans Just Idiots?

It's natural to vilify one's political opponents, but Republicans do it whether they're in power or not.

(AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)
You may have had this experience recently: As you watch someone from the opposing party on television saying something you know isn't true or holding fast to some plainly immoral position, you ask yourself, "Just what is wrong with them? Are they stupid, or do they just not care?" "Happy families," Tolstoy wrote, "are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." And people who agree with us politically are all alike as well: They're right. We don't concern ourselves much with their psychology, their motives, or their intelligence. Was their reasoning sound, did they rationally evaluate the evidence, were their conclusions based too much on emotion? To these questions, we're likely to answer: Who cares? Once they've arrived at the right destination, their journey is beside the point. Our opponents, on the other hand, provide much richer ground for analysis. Why are they so wrong? Are they idiots, are they liars, do they hold different values than we do? Are they mentally...

Crushing the Democrats' Base

Republicans aren't just attacking Democrats' policies -- they're attacking the fundamentals of what it means to be a Democrat.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (AP Photo/M.P. King, Wisconsin State Journal)
Both Democrats and Republicans tend to believe that their opponents are more efficient, organized, and ruthless than their own side is. This may partly be a result of each side's belief that, in a fair fight, they wouldn't lose -- the American people must surely vote for their opponents only when manipulated into doing so. But the fact that the left and the right are each envious of the other side's skills doesn't mean that both sides are, in fact, equally skilled. The unending battle between the two parties isn't only a matter of who can devise a clever argument or air the most memorable ads. It's also about conflicts that take years or even decades to play out, ones more lasting and fundamental than the outcome of today's legislative debate. And on that score, it's clear that even as they fight over the budget and health care, Republicans are taking a longer view. The presidential race of three years ago was the first in many years in which Democrats showed themselves superior at...

Compromised Position

Why political negotiations are harder than ever

Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin represents the new right's unwillingness to compromise. (AP Photo/Harry Hamburg)
You may recall from your junior high history textbook that Henry Clay, who served as a senator from Kentucky, secretary of state, and speaker of the House of Representatives during the early and mid-19th century, was known as "the Great Compromiser." This honorific was bestowed upon Clay in recognition of his role in a series of legislative compromises that delayed the Civil War by a few decades. In the end, of course, the war happened anyway. Fortunately for Clay, he was already dead, no doubt having departed for the great deliberative body in the sky, secure in the knowledge that his carefully wrought compromises had spared the country a bloodbath. It's hard to imagine a politician being called "great" for engineering a compromise today. Compromises still happen, of course, but few find them heroic. Much of the time, politicians can gird themselves for the criticism from their own side, swallow hard, and take the inevitable pain that compromise entails. But as Republicans and...

Reading Red

What the new books by Republican presidential hopefuls tell us about the state of the conservative movement

In 1852, Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote The Life of Franklin Pierce about his friend and Bowdoin College classmate who was running for president. If they wished, Hawthorne wrote, Americans could elect Pierce's opponent and "retard the steps of human progress," or they could "put their trust in a new man, whom a life of energy and various activity has tested, but not worn out, and advance with him into the auspicious epoch upon which we are about to enter." The biography might not have caused quite the sensation of Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, published two years earlier, but the book about Pierce, which arrived in the heat of the campaign, no doubt persuaded at least some voters that Pierce was just the kind of man to guide the country into that auspicious epoch. In the ensuing years, presidential aspirants who lacked celebrated novelists to write their biographies took matters into their own hands -- or at least their ghostwriters'. John F. Kennedy's Profiles in Courage may have won a...

Shutdown Showdown

How much will a government shutdown cost Republicans before they call it quits?

House Majority Leader John Boehner last year(AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
Late last week, we heard that Republicans and Democrats in Congress may have an agreement to delay -- at least for two weeks -- the looming shutdown of the federal government. To keep the government running, the two parties will have to come to an agreement on the budget for the remainder of the year. But things don't look good, since the fundamental disagreement between the parties remains unchanged: Republicans want radical cuts to the programs Democrats like, and Democrats don't want them. If those two weeks run out without an agreement, hundreds of thousands of workers will be furloughed, government offices will close, and services will be curtailed. Given that a shutdown is still more likely than not, this becomes the most important question: How will it end? The factors leading us toward a shutdown are precisely those that will make ending it so difficult. It's safe to say that House Speaker John Boehner doesn't want a shutdown; he was around in 1995 and 1996, when Republicans...

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