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

So Long, Alex P. Keaton

The millennial generation could pull American politics even further to the left, and for a longer time, than the Reagan generation pulled our politics to the right.

A quarter-century ago, political observers marveled at a new phenomenon: an enormous wave of conservative young people. Instead of tuning in, turning on, and dropping out, they were donning polo shirts, keeping their hair cut short, and waxing eloquent on the wonders of the free market. Their exemplar was Alex P. Keaton, the hero of the television show Family Ties , whose ex-hippie parents shook their heads at their son's affection for Ronald Reagan. The series ran from 1982 to 1989; in its finale, Alex leaves home to take a job on Wall Street. In 1984, 59 percent of the nation's Alex P. Keatons voted for Reagan, an extraordinary percentage for a Republican (and just over his proportion of the popular vote as a whole). What was going on? As E.J. Dionne, then a reporter for The New York Times , wrote near the end of Reagan's tenure in the fall of 1988, "Academics and political consultants who have studied the youth vote have many explanations for their movement toward the Republicans,...

The Tiny Battles of a Has-Been Candidate

Back in November, John McCain lost the presidential election by a significant margin. So why are we still paying attention to him?

Even though his mishandling of the economic crisis in September may have cost him the election, Sen. John McCain has been one of the most vocal critics of the stimulus package. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Imagine that you pick up your copy of The New York Times and see a front-page article proclaiming that John Kerry is now such the linchpin of debate in Washington that he has taken "center stage." Then you surf over to one of the Sunday morning talk shows to find George Stephanopoulos or Bob Schieffer interviewing Michael Dukakis. Then you turn your radio and hear a story on NPR about Bob Dole's objections to the president's latest legislative initiative. You'd probably ask yourself, What is going on here? Why am I being forced to listen to these people? Such a thing would never happen, of course. Once somebody loses a presidential campaign, he may continue in elected office and may even have some interesting things to say about policy. But unless he drops hints about running for president again, the media will ignore him. Unless, that is, he's John McCain. For some reason, as we are now learning, "John McCain objected to the president's plan" is supposed to be news. That front-page...

Believe It or Not, He's Walking on Air

Obama is looking more and more like a progressive Reagan. What does that say about the progressives who rallied to elect him?

If you go into a chain bookstore these days, you're likely to see an entire wall devoted to books about Barack Obama. Some are collections of photographs from the campaign, some are aimed at kids ( Meet President Obama! ), some are meant to be a little more thoughtful (answering the question, "What does Obama mean ?"), and a few are warnings about the road to disaster he's leading us down. You can see it online as well; search Amazon.com for "Obama" in the books section, and you receive 4,388 results. Among the seven books in the "Cooking, Food and Wine" section are The Obama Menu , and books like The Atlas of American Artisan Cheese , which apparently mentions him somewhere in its pages. Even excluding the cheese references, that's an impressive output, particularly considering that the man has been president for all of six weeks. Let me make a prediction: Before this presidency is over, there will be more tomes written about it than any in decades. Obama hasn't yet inspired the kind...

There Is No Social Security Crisis

Critics of Social Security have long perpetuated the myth that the system will eventually go bankrupt. It's time to dispel that claim once and for all.

There's a time-tested way to curry favor with the permanent Washington establishment. That is, having David Broder praise you for being "responsible" and being considered a Very Serious Person by the Sunday shows. All you need to do is proclaim ominously that entitlements are a ticking time bomb, a looming storm on the horizon, a hungry beast ready to devour our nation's finances, or whatever metaphor you find most frightening. The more unpleasant the solution you propose -- tax increases are good, but benefit cuts are even better -- the more the Beltway Brahmins will approve. So yesterday's White House entitlement's summit, which appeared, when announced, to repeat the conventional doomsday wisdom, wasn't too much of a surprise. And indeed, at various times over the past couple of years, President Obama has seemed to suggest that he will be addressing this thorny long-term problem, leading to no end of heartburn among progressives who view Social Security as one of the cornerstones...

The Tyranny of the Centrists

You'd think passing a $787 billion stimulus bill would count as a victory for Obama. But it was the centrists who got what they wanted from the stimulus bill, and what they wanted was for the entire nation to beseech them for their favor.

Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, talk about the Senate's work to pass the economic stimulus bill Friday, Feb. 6, 2009, in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
If six months ago you had said that within three weeks of taking office, President Obama would pass a $787 billion stimulus bill with billions of dollars for food stamps and schools, infrastructure and energy modernization, health care and broadband, anyone would have said it would be an extraordinary victory for the president, his party and his ideology. Yet now that it has actually happened, the administration is hardly acting triumphal, while some other people are imagining themselves the true winners. The Republican minority, calling in from some alternative universe, is convinced that by achieving lockstep opposition to a popular economic-recovery plan pushed by a popular president in a time of economic crisis, they've laid a firm foundation for future electoral gains. For the moment, they seem more delusional than dangerous. But the people we should really worry about are the "centrists," that merry band of legislators who determined the fate of the legislation. It was the...

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