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

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...

Oh, To Be a Mobile-Phone Customer in India.

Here in America, we tend not to think too much about other countries. We're the global hegemon, so why should we care? And no one can possibly have it as good as we do, right? Well, not always. A new report from the New America Foundation examining mobile phone, text, and data service shows that not only is your cell-phone company charging you an arm and a leg, if you were living somewhere else, it probably wouldn't be so bad: In other countries it appears that a significantly more competitive market than what exists in the United States has resulted in innovative offerings and lower pricing for consumers. In contrast, in countries where competition is less and regulation more lax, higher prices and a limited choice of plans prevail. Let's go to the data: Whaddya know -- less regulation translates into fewer choices and higher prices. As if you needed another reason to hate your mobile-phone company. -- Paul Waldman

Talking About Lying Liars and Their Lying Lies.

Our local public radio station here in Washington recently booted one of my favorite shows, On the Media , off their regular schedule and relegated it to 5 a.m. on Saturdays, on one of their HD channels that I'm sure almost no one listens to even at times when people are awake. Which is too bad, because On the Media is a terrific program. How terrific? So terrific they actually invite me on every once in a while. Here's an interview I did with them that aired over the weekend, talking about this column , about what kinds of lies get candidates in trouble. And I'd encourage folks to listen to the show on their website, if it doesn't air in your town. -- Paul Waldman