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

This Is Not a Welcome Trend.

If you're living where there's a contested election or two, you're probably getting a lot of mailers from candidates. Maybe you don't like them, but it isn't that big a deal -- give it a glance, toss it in the recycling. But just you wait. Yesterday I noted an article in The New York Times discussing how some experiments have shown that prompting people to feel disgust -- say by showing them something gross or even just putting them next to a container of hand sanitizer, which prompts them to think of germs -- can push people to support conservative candidates. That article discussed a mailer New York governor candidate Carl Paladino sent during his primary that smelled of garbage, to demonstrate the corruption in Albany (or something). Well Van Tran , a Republican candidate for Congress in California, must have heard about it : Republican Van Tran, the upstart challenger to Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.), is betting on voters sniffing out his opponent's struggles -- literally. Tran...

Mitch McConnell Tells the Truth.

Democrats are probably hoping they can turn this latest Kinsley gaffe (which is when a politician inadvertently tells the truth) from Mitch McConnell into this year's "I voted for the $87 billion before I voted against it": "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president." Should this make you mad? Well...maybe, maybe not. McConnell is supposed to say that the most important thing Republicans want to achieve is to turn the economy around. Saying that it's more important to deny Obama re-election sounds like nothing more than partisan gamesmanship. But the truth is that from McConnell's perspective, having a Democratic president means that each day brings new miseries upon this great nation of ours. The awfulness of living through an administration of the other party surely outweighs, say, extending the recession a bit longer by blocking this or that measure designed to address it. He genuinely feels that an extra four years of...

What Campaign Cash Buys

Just how much will the unprecedented amount of corporate money poured into ad buys this election matter?

Citizens United President David Bossie outside the Supreme Court after it ruled on the campaign-finance reform case (AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke)
"If men were angels," James Madison wrote in Federalist #51 , "no government would be necessary." And if Americans were attentive and informed about the workings of government and current debates about policy, campaigns would barely be necessary. We could just peruse the documents on candidates' websites, read their résumés, perhaps watch a debate or two, and we'd all know for whom to vote. Contemplate that fantasy world for a moment, then turn on your TV for the 6 o'clock local news if you happen to be in a state with a contested Senate or governor's race this year. What you'll see, of course, is a deluge of advertising, telling you why a person seeking office is either the embodiment of all human virtue or a vile character quite possibly spit out from the very fires of hell. What's different this election season is the sheer volume of ads, driven higher than ever by the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision issued earlier this year. In striking down the McCain-Feingold campaign-...

No Retreat, No Surrender.

If Democrats end up losing the House next week, as seems likely (though not certain), it's obviously going to bring a period of calm, reason, and cooperation to Washington. Just kidding, of course -- as I argued last week, the Republicans who get elected are going to be even more conservative than the already extremely conservative caucus, and less willing to compromise. Not only that, the ones who've been around for a while will be terrified of getting a primary challenge from the right, and so will be even more likely to give in to their base's demands. And what will they be demanding? No compromise with the administration on anything, which in practice will mean shutting down the government. As Jon Chait pointed out on Friday, the Republican leadership presumably knows that shutting down the government is a really bad idea, but they may not be able to resist the demands from their base not to sign on to any Obama-approved budget. And that's what shutting down the government means...

Disgust and Democrats.

Yesterday's New York Times contained an interesting article by a couple of psychologists detailing some experiments they've done on the political effects of disgust: In an experiment conducted recently by Erik Helzer, a Cornell Ph.D. student, and one of us (David Pizarro), merely standing near a hand-sanitizing dispenser led people to report more conservative political beliefs. Participants who were randomly positioned in front of a hand sanitizer gave more conservative responses to a survey about their moral, social and fiscal attitudes than those individuals assigned to complete the questionnaire at the other end of the hallway. In another experiment one of us (Dr. Pizarro) was involved in, a foul ambient smell — emitted, unbeknownst to test subjects, by a novelty spray — caused people answering a questionnaire to report more negative attitudes toward gay men than did people who responded in the absence of the stench. Apparently, the slightest signal that germs might be present is...

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