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

Which Are Good? Which Are Bad?

I teach a class at a local university, and in preparing for this week's session on health communication campaigns, I came across this bizarre public service announcement from Canada from the 1980s, which appears not to be a parody. The refrain of the song goes, "Drugs, drugs, drugs. Which are good, which are bad? Drugs, drugs drugs. Ask your mom or ask your dad!" The somewhat mixed message is that there are some drugs we get from the doctor, which are good and help us feel better when we're sick. Then there are other drugs which are bad, because they might get you in trouble with the law -- as evidenced by the world's friendliest cops, who apparently will punish you if they catch you with any by dancing around with you. If your mom or dad aren't around to tell you the difference, you can identify the bad drugs, because they'll be in black and white. We learned yesterday that the California initiative to legalize marijuana for recreational use in the state has qualified for November's...

The Future of Health Care Misconceptions.

In today's New York Times , Brendan Nyhan cautions Democrats not to convince themselves that now that health-care reform has passed, people will stop believing in death panels and socialist takeovers. "While some of the more outlandish rumors may dissipate, it is likely that misperceptions will linger for years, hindering substantive debate over the merits of the country's new health care system. The reasons are rooted in human psychology." He points to some compelling research that he has performed, indicating that people continue to believe untrue things even in the face of correction. And sometimes, telling them the truth actually increases their certainty about the false thing they believe (e.g. that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, or that Bush's tax cuts decreased the deficit). The most plausible explanation is that, faced with a refutation that undermines a belief in which they're ideologically invested, people exert cognitive effort to argue against it and...

Don't Count Romney Out Yet.

Mitt Romney is in a bit of a pickle. The Democrats just passed a health-care reform bill that all Republicans agree will transform America into a freedomless hellscape. Yet it's almost identical to the one Romney pushed through in Massachusetts when he was governor. He's even on record defending the individual mandate, which is the least popular part of the reform, and therefore the one on which Republicans are hanging their attack. From the standpoint of today, it looks like the 2012 GOP primary may be fought on the ground of who hates "Obamacare" the most, an argument that Romney can't possibly win. Not that he won't try -- when it was passed, he issued a statement calling it "an unconscionable abuse of power" (how dare the Democrats pass legislation!) and said, "President Obama has betrayed his oath to the nation." This has led some to assume that there's no way Romney can win the Republican nomination. Josh Marshall , for instance, calls Romney "toast" and says , "Unless Health...

Democracy -- Deal With It.

Republicans have had many different reactions to the passage of health-care reform. But there seems to be a common strain running through them that might be described as "This can't be happening!!!" Just as so many of them couldn't bring themselves to see Barack Obama as a legitimately elected president, many can't bring themselves to see a piece of legislation they so vehemently opposed as having been legitimately enacted into law. So they're continuing to complain about procedural details and trying to come up with new procedural rationales to undo it. Among them, the absurd claim that the fixes couldn't be passed through reconciliation because through some tortured logic they might affect Social Security (the Senate parliamentarian quickly ruled against them on that one). They're filing lawsuits to try to get the Supreme Court to declare the reform unconstitutional. They say over and over again, with increasing desperation, that the American people are opposed to the reform -- as...

The Value of Journalistic Introspection.

We all have a tendency to justify our mistakes, convincing ourselves that either it wasn't a mistake at all or that we did the best anyone could have done given the exigencies of the moment. We throw good money after bad and good energy after bad, all in the service of convincing ourselves that we thought and acted properly. So it's refreshing when someone comes out and says, "I was wrong." Along those lines, Josh Green of the Atlantic has something interesting to say about Nancy Pelosi : In 2005, I wrote a short, fairly negative profile of Pelosi and Harry Reid called "The Odd Couple." My contention was that Democrats, then at their Bush-era nadir, needed revolutionaries to lead a comeback, and that Pelosi and Reid, ineffectual party lifers, didn't fit the bill. ("The vapid response team," Charlie Cook dubbed them in my piece.) "Both apprenticed as whip," I wrote, "a job that requires corralling and cajoling fellow congressmen to support the party line." I thought they lacked the...

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