Paul Waldman

Paul Waldman is the Prospect's daily blogger, and a contributing editor. He also blogs for the Plum Line at the Washington Post, and is the author of Being Right is Not Enough: What Progressives Must Learn From Conservative Success.

Recent Articles

The Ideology Gap

The current financial crisis reveals how inadequate McCain's conservative ideology is and gives Barack Obama a chance to build a progressive consensus not seen since FDR.

As the economic meltdown of 2008 continues, some are hearing echoes of the Great Depression. And if this is another 1929, the next president could well be another Franklin Roosevelt. That's what Barack Obama seemed to be aiming for when he said last Friday, "This is not a time for fear. It's not a time for panic. It's a time for resolve and a time for leadership. I know we can steer ourselves out of this crisis, because we have done it before. That's what we do as Americans." The financial crisis is affording Obama the opportunity to emulate that greatest of Democratic presidents in an important way: It has led him to put ideology at the heart of his argument to the public. Obama seems to have realized that the crisis has created a unique ideological moment, one in which the differences between progressivism and conservatism can be made clear even to those who ordinarily have only the fuzziest notion of what those differences are. Until now, most Democrats haven't exactly been eager...

How to Win a Presidential Debate

The debates, for better or worse, may decide the outcome of the election. Here's how the press will decide who won.

It's beginning to look a lot like 2004, and 2000 before that: a presidential election that is, as Dan Rather used to say, "as hot and tight as a too-tight bathing suit on a too-long car ride back from the beach," with pressure building for the debates that begin Sept. 30. Given how many people watched the conventions, it's a good bet that this year's debates will reverse the downward trend in viewership seen over the years (the last Kennedy-Nixon debate was watched in 61 percent of homes, while only one of the three debates in 2000 cracked 30 percent) and pull in a huge audience. That means that the outcome of the race could actually hinge on what happens when the presidential candidates (and, to a far lesser degree, the vice-presidential candidates) meet face to face. So Barack Obama, John McCain, Joe Biden, and Sarah Palin are no doubt devoting an increasing portion of their schedules to debate prep -- studying briefing books, practicing with supporters portraying their opponents,...

The Politics of Contempt

John McCain is declaring war on the media, the elites, really, anyone who's not you. The Republicans' thirst for contempt is limitless.

When John McCain secured his party's nomination at the beginning of this year, many of his admirers in the media offered assurances that because the Republicans had chosen a man of such impeccable integrity, so different from every other politician, this campaign would not be like those we have gotten used to. It would be respectful, it would be substantive, it would be so high-minded and civil as to make Pericles himself weep with joy. Oh well. "Cultural affinities," wrote the Los Angeles Times at the end of the Republican convention, "are now central to the campaign strategy of GOP presidential nominee John McCain." No kidding. But it's more than just cultural affinity, the standard issue "Our candidate is one of you, their candidate isn't" routine (after all, John McCain's life, from being the son and grandson of admirals to dumping his first wife for the beer heiress with the $100 million fortune, isn't really "like" anyone's). The real focus of the Republican convention, and the...

Character Study

What Obama did so well in his convention address was taking the raw material of policy and turning it into an indictment not just of what John McCain wants to do but of who John McCain is.

Barack Obama has given lots of great speeches -- about his personal story, about hope, about change, and about race, to mention a few of his topics. Last week, I asked whether Obama would use his convention speech to offer an argument for progressivism and a critique of conservatism, pointing to a commencement address he gave in 2005 at Knox College as a model. I have to confess that I wasn't expecting him to take the advice, given that he has carefully eschewed ideological argumentation in favor of high-minded talk of bipartisanship. But it turned out I was wrong. Not only did he make an ideological case, Obama did something even more important to his electoral fortunes. For the first time, he devoted a significant portion of a speech to directly critiquing the character of John McCain. Twenty-three centuries ago, Aristotle wrote that there are three modes of persuasion: logos (facts and logic), pathos (emotion), and ethos (argument based on the good character of the speaker). The...

The Speech Progressives Have Been Waiting For?

Let's hope in his acceptance speech Obama includes a full-throated endorsement of progressivism.

It's hard to think of a speech that was more eagerly anticipated and subjected to as much prior commentary as the one Barack Obama will deliver tomorrow night at Invesco Field in Denver. Given the track record of Obama and his speechwriters, chances are that the speech will be eloquently written and skillfully delivered, and as it reaches its climax, hearts will swell, goosebumps will rise, and Democrats will find themselves putting aside their cynicism (at least for a while) and hoping for grand things from the next presidency. But there's something else worth hoping for in Obama's speech, something that has been glimpsed only occasionally in his presidential campaign: a full-throated defense not just of his candidacy or of the vague ideas of change and progress but of progressivism as an ideology. And while he's at it, he could offer an attack not just on the actual failures of George W. Bush or the potential failures of John McCain but on the failure that is conservatism. Fat...

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