Paul Waldman

Paul Waldman is a weekly columnist and senior writer for The American Prospect. He also writes for the Plum Line blog at The Washington Post and The Week and is the author of Being Right is Not Enough: What Progressives Must Learn From Conservative Success.

Recent Articles

It's Only Going to Get Worse

By claiming credit for the $38.5 billion cut in federal spending, President Obama has bought into Republicans' government-gutting agenda.

President Obama at the White House after averting a government shutdown last Friday (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
When you listen to Barack Obama these days, it sometimes seems as though his words are crafted with the intention of driving those who were once his most passionate supporters crazy. So after agreeing under threat of a government shutdown to painful cuts to domestic programs, he goes in front of the cameras and hails "the largest annual spending cut in our history," as though that were a good thing. And before the deal was worked out, Obama said repeatedly that the controversy represented "the usual Washington politics" -- in other words, just some partisan bickering, of which one can assume both parties are equally guilty. But there is nothing "usual" about the project Republicans have undertaken, as unwilling as the president and many Democrats are to say it out loud. The truth is that we are witnessing something consequential. Two years ago, the GOP adopted a brand of unprecedented procedural radicalism by filibustering any and every piece of legislation in the Senate, and now they...

It Gets Harder and Harder to Be a Republican

With an ever-expanding list of Republican dogmas to adhere to, it's not just harder to stay in the party -- it's harder to win a general election.

Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
In 1986, a young anti-tax activist had an idea. What if instead of just encouraging legislators not to raise taxes, you made them promise never to do so? And made them actually sign their names to such an agreement? After all, if they accepted, they would be bound by the promise (at least politically), and if they refused, they could be accused of harboring secret pro-tax fantasies, something no good Republican would want. And so, that young activist -- Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform -- unveiled The Pledge , a campaign asking legislators to sign a document promising that they would "ONE, oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses; and TWO, oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates." Yes, you read that last part right -- they even had to swear not to eliminate loopholes. Twenty-five years later, The Pledge is going strong...

Elitism Is for Real

The question shouldn't be whether politicians are elite. It's what they do that matters.

The most popular book in America right now is the inspiring true story of a 4-year-old boy who visited heaven during his emergency appendectomy. Upon recovering, young Colton Burpo told his parents about how he had met Jesus, who rides on a "rainbow horse." His father, an evangelical pastor, was astonished. The boy's story couldn't possibly be the product of a dream or his imagination -- after all, there are "rainbow colors described in the book of Revelation, which is hardly preschool material," and Colton described Jesus as having marks on his hands and feet. How would a 4-year-old living in a pastor's house have picked up that information? Heaven Is For Real is No. 1 both on Amazon and on The New York Times bestseller list of combined print and e-book nonfiction lists. Apparently, millions of Americans find the story so compelling that they will gladly hand over 10 bucks or so to pore over all its 163 large-type pages revealing glorious truths about the nature of existence. If I...

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...