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

Yes, Virginia, There Is a Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy.

Today's New York Times has an interesting story about a periodic meeting conservative über-donor David Koch organizes, where he and other masters of the universe plan how to advance the cause of "freedom," i.e. remove themselves from the burden of paying taxes and obeying regulations on things like the environment and worker safety: A secretive network of Republican donors is heading to the Palm Springs area for a long weekend in January, but it will not be to relax after a hard-fought election — it will be to plan for the next one. Koch Industries, the longtime underwriter of libertarian causes from the Cato Institute in Washington to the ballot initiative that would suspend California’s landmark law capping greenhouse gases, is planning a confidential meeting at the Rancho Las Palmas Resort and Spa to, as an invitation says, “develop strategies to counter the most severe threats facing our free society and outline a vision of how we can foster a renewal of American free enterprise...

One More Thing the Administration Did Wrong.

Ben Smith has an article in Politico that tells us quite a bit about what has happened in the last couple of years. The basic thesis is that in 2008, Obama actively discouraged donors from giving to the outside groups that were forming to help him get elected, and now he's paying the price. Here's an excerpt: That active discouragement began in earnest in May 2008 as Democratic fundraisers began joining hands to try to take back the White House. A first effort, a 527 called the Fund for America, had boasted in March that it would spend $150 million. As it fizzled, a new nonprofit group called Progressive Media USA announced in April that it would raise and spend $40 million from anonymous donors to attack John McCain. Then, in early May, in a conference call and at a meeting of Obama's national finance team, Finance Chairwoman Penny Pritzker told donors and fundraisers that Obama didn't want them helping outside groups. The money stopped so abruptly that Progressive Media was left...

Prostitutes and the Audacity Gap.

There are certain things we expect of politicians. They're supposed to kiss babies, and wear flag pins, and care deeply about whatever is most important to the person they are talking to at a particular moment. Also, when they get caught with hookers, they're supposed to slink off shamefacedly, never to be heard from again. But it doesn't have to be that way, as probably soon-to-be-reelected Sen. David Vitter has shown us. Matt Yglesias makes the contrast with Eliot Spitzer : I think the contrasting fates of Spitzer and guys like Clinton or Senator David Vitter (R-LA) shows that Spitzer’s problem was much simpler than that—he resigned. When a reasonably popular public official is hit with a scandal of a personal nature, the natural immediate first reaction of his same-party colleagues is to want to get rid of him. After all, no reason this guy should be a millstone around all of our necks. That leads to an initial torrent of criticism from friendly-ish sources and a wave of pressure...

Graph of the Day.

If you're like me, you get pretty infuriated when you see some Republican candidate say that health-care reform is the greatest threat to individual liberty since the Nuremberg Laws, when that same person was unconcerned about things that constitute actual threats to personal liberty, like warrantless wiretapping. Well it isn't just the politicians. Look at this remarkable graph from Gallup (via John Sides ): What happened to send the line for Democrats and the line for Republicans in opposite directions? Oh yeah -- a Democratic president took office. This really shouldn't be all that surprising. Our partisan predispositions affect not just what we think about candidates, or about policy proposals, but how we think about the objective facts of the world. People rate the economy as doing better when their preferred party is in power, for instance. Elites also play an important role here -- they cue people as to what conservative or liberals are supposed to believe. And since Barack...

How Congress Became Polarized

Come Nov. 2, the parties will continue their decades-long shift away from each other.

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (AP Photo)
Certain congressional classes can be said to have a particular character -- the Democratic reformers who came in after the post-Watergate election of 1974 or the Republican bomb-throwers who arrived in 1994, for instance. When the dust settles on the night of Nov. 2, we're likely to be left with a uniquely polarized Congress. The Republican caucus will be more conservative -- perhaps radically so -- but the Democratic caucus will probably also be more liberal. If you think the two parties can't get along now, just you wait. A "polarized" Congress is one where relatively few members occupy the ideological center and most cluster near the ideological extremes. Everyone agrees Congress has become increasingly polarized in recent decades, most importantly because of the realignment that occurred in the wake of Lyndon Johnson's signing of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts in the mid-1960s. Until then, the Republican Party included a substantial number of Northeastern moderates (and...

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