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

Why Sarah Palin Won't Be President.

One of the criticisms progressives often make of Barack Obama is that he spends far too much time trying to make his opponents like him and not enough time worrying about what his supporters think of him. Sarah Palin , on the other hand, has the opposite problem: She spends all her time speaking to those who are already within her bubble of support, and no time thinking about how she can persuade those who aren't already on her side. Her reaction to the Gabrielle Giffords shooting has cast this tendency in stark relief. She had an opportunity to step outside of her normal way of doing things and could have actually begun to change the way people thought about her. Instead, she was true to form: defensive, snide, consumed by real and imagined slights. Her latest statement was an e-mail to Glenn Beck for him to read on the air: "I hate violence. I hate war. Our children will not have peace if politicos just capitalize on this to succeed in portraying anyone as inciting terror and...

The Free Market and Health Care.

In my ongoing campaign to get everyone involved in public debate to be specific about what they're talking about, I'll point to this argument , from The Economist : [the Affordable Care Act] is exactly the result of 30 years of liberals letting go of the idea of a simple, centralised government programme of national health insurance, and instead devising increasingly market-based, decentralised, Friedmanite or Hayekian systems to achieve universal access to health care through private health-insurance corporations. I literally cannot imagine a more market-based, private-sector system for universal health insurance than the one that the Democrats implemented last fall. In all the world, a world which contains many conservative-leaning countries beside the United States (Switzerland, Japan), there is no more private-sector-oriented universal health-insurance system than ObamaCare. When you ask conservatives these days what they'd like to do about health care if the ACA is repealed, they...

Taking, Not Placing, Responsibility

We're beginning to take a long overdue look at the state of our political debate. But that examination needs to be honest.

Members of Congress and staff observe a moment of silence for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and other shooting victims. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
In the wake of Saturday's tragic shooting in Tucson, Arizona, we're beginning to take a long overdue look at the state of our political debate. But that examination needs to be honest. There are times when both the right and the left are equally guilty of some sin or other, and the press' instinct to characterize every problem as the equal responsibility of both sides does no harm. This is not one of those times. The simple, unavoidable fact is that it is the right that has been purveying the rhetoric of violence in the last few years. Many conservatives have declined to participate in this festival of hate and rage, and we should be careful to give credit, as well as blame, where it's due. Everyone, though, has an obligation to look at what they've said and what they've tolerated. Conservatives are now arguing that they don't bear any responsibility for the horrific act of murder committed by Jared Loughner, because he seems so clearly disturbed. That, though, is precisely where the...

What If We Just Ignored the Westboro Baptist Church?

A number of blogs have linked today to the predictably despicable reaction of the Westboro Baptist Church, the "God Hates Fags" people, to the Arizona shooting. They're a particularly hateful group of maniacs, and it's tempting to point out their actions so people understand that that sort of thing exists within our country. But they're a tiny group that has no supporters anywhere, at least none willing to stand up and join them. They have a First Amendment right to say whatever they want -- indeed, they're a walking instruction in the price we pay for having freedom of speech -- and they're also very good at attracting attention. So what if we all agreed we were just going to ignore them? The next time there's a tragedy of any sort, the WBC will be there, proclaiming that God brought it down upon our nation, so angry is he at our tolerance of sin. The rest of us don't have to respond. We can't put them in jail, but we can deprive them of the attention they crave. -- Paul Waldman

On Debating Our Debate.

As we debate what kind of rhetoric is and isn't objectionable, it would help if we could make some specific distinctions and keep some important things in mind. To that end: Every gun metaphor is not created equal . Military metaphors infuse our talk about politics; the only thing that comes close is sports. The word "campaign" only relatively recently began to be used to refer to politics; its original use referred to military endeavors. But there is a difference between using metaphors that invoke violence ("We're going to fight this battle to the end!") and using rhetoric that invokes violence specifically directed at your opponents (like this ), or even speaks literally of people arming to take on your opponents or the government (like Sharron Angle 's infamous discussion of "Second Amendment remedies" to not getting the result you want at the ballot box). One is perfectly ordinary; the other ought to be condemned. The fact that someone criticizes your rhetoric doesn't mean they'...