Paul Waldman

Paul Waldman is the Prospect's daily blogger and senior writer. 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

Democrats' Gay-Marriage Problem

The electorate is increasingly pro-marriage equality. Democrats should stop straddling the issue.

White House senior political adviser David Axelrod. (Flickr/Talk Radio News)
When Judge Vaughn Walker ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in Perry v. Schwarzenegger , the case challenging California's Proposition 8, which outlawed same-sex marriage in the state, plenty of people predicted Democrats would feel a backlash this fall. After all, many believe the events of 2003 and 2004 -- when the Massachusetts Supreme Court declared that gays be allowed to marry in the state, and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome started issuing marriage licenses to gay couples -- helped George W. Bush win re-election by mobilizing conservatives to vote for state bans on gay marriage. (Scholars who have studied the question have concluded that the issue probably had a small but real effect on the presidential election.) An alternative to the backlash narrative would say that, like immigration, same-sex marriage is an issue that is good for Republicans in the short term but better for Democrats in the long term. On immigration, it's a demographic fact that puts the Republicans in a...

Conservatives Feeling Blue About Gay Marriage

Ross Douthat 's job as a New York Times columnist, like that of his colleague David Brooks , is basically to be a conservative liberals will listen to. Douthat is famously conflicted about same-sex marriage; he's opposed to it, but he has trouble articulating exactly why in a way that doesn't come down to religious dogma. "I am not comfortable making arguments against gay marriage to my gay friends," he once told Mother Jones , "And if you're not comfortable making arguments against gay marriage to your gay friends, you shouldn't be comfortable making them to anybody, probably, so I don't tend to make them." But today he gives it his best shot , and it's one that's almost sad. He quite forthrightly details the weaknesses in the case most people make against marriage equality -- for instance, the false idea that marriage has "always" been between one man and one woman -- and concludes with this note of resignation: If this newer order completely vanquishes the older marital ideal, then...

Straight Judges to Recuse Selves From Prop. 8 Appeal?

One of the arguments conservatives have made in their criticism of the Prop. 8 decision ( see here , for instance) is that, according to some reports, trial judge Vaughn Walker himself is gay, which obviously means he can't be impartial in this matter. But this has uncovered a problem that could lead to a serous legal stalemate. As opponents of marriage equality often say, letting gay people get married will undermine traditional marriage. How, exactly, they aren't quite sure, but they're sure it will. Which means that straight judges have as much of an interest in this case as gay judges -- after all, it's their marriages that are at stake too. One of the subsidiary arguments is that marriage is for the purpose of procreation. So how could staunch procreator Antonin Scalia (who has nine children) possibly be impartial? He obviously has to recuse himself when the case reaches the high court, as do most of the other justices, who have been engaged in opposite-sex marital conduct at one...

Our Better Natures, Or Not.

When Barack Obama ran for president in 2008, he said, in ways both explicit and implicit, that we could transcend what divided us -- our racial, religious, geographic, or political differences -- and unite in a common national purpose. This rubbed some people the wrong way. Some found it naïve, some even found it cynical. But whatever else you might say about all that happy talk, even conservatives would have to admit that it appealed to our better natures. We'd all like to believe that even if it doesn't happen very often, we should aspire to find our commonalities, allow our diversity to make us a stronger country, and treat each other with respect even when we disagree. Don’t we believe that? Just something to think about, as the people who like to call themselves "the party of Lincoln" undertake as their latest cause the repeal of the 14th Amendment, so that we might deny citizenship to children born in America based on the immigration status of their parents. This happens while...

Future of Marriage Now Up to One Guy

As you've no doubt heard, yesterday a federal judge struck down California's Proposition 8, which outlawed marriages between same-sex couples. This is the first step in a process that will ultimately lead to Anthony Kennedy deciding whether gay people can get married. This decision wasn't a surprise to anyone who followed the trial -- the side defending Prop. 8 put on a pathetic case, calling only two (not particularly compelling) witnesses and making arguments they seemed to have no idea how to defend when those arguments were cross-examined. Their biggest problem was that in order to justify constraining the rights of gay people, they had to explain the harm done to straight people's marriages when gay people are allowed to marry. And they just couldn't do it. This ended up being the factual basis on which the decision rested. And all their talk about how important and wonderful marriage is only reinforced the fact that denying it to gay people was a serious harm done to them, one...

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