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


When the latest issue of The American Prospect came out -- with a picture of Barack Obama on the cover, and the headline, "Our Moment" -- occasional TAP contributor Spencer Ackerman wrote that although the headline referred to progressives in general, it might have referred to TAP itself. "Right now I think it's fair to say that the Prospect best captures the political zeitgeist of any opinion magazine out there." He's right. As much fun as it is shaking your fist at those who hold power, a magazine like the Prospect becomes even more important when the government is controlled by people who are more sympathetic its point of view. The Prospect incubates ideas, illuminates both the good and the bad in government and society, and helps set the terms of debate. And some very important people will be listening. In an alternate universe, progressive political magazines like the Prospect would be hugely profitable, paying their suffering editorial staff kingly salaries to do their essential...

Government Is Back

On Jan. 20 the Age of Reagan ends, and the Age of Obama begins. We don't know if it will last, but we do know that conservatives can no longer force everyone to play by their rules.

Years from now, we will look back on Jan. 20, 2009, as the day the era of conservative dominance we might call the Age of Reagan finally came to an end. Twenty-eight years ago, the 40th president looked out over the National Mall and proclaimed , "Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem." He went on, "It is no coincidence that our present troubles parallel and are proportionate to the intervention and intrusion in our lives that result from unnecessary and excessive growth of government." It was a message the country was ready to hear, and in the years that followed, Reagan's party and his ideology dominated our political life. But this year's election -- and what has happened since -- makes it clear that a new era is beginning. Obama has seized on the economic meltdown to propose not just tougher regulations but an aggressive program of federal spending to restore infrastructure, rebuild crumbling schools, and create green jobs. We don't know yet know...

Obama and Liberals' Fears

The 2008 election was defined as much by things that didn't happen -- from racism denying Obama the presidency to working-class men finding him too elitist -- as things that did.

It's quickly becoming a cliché to call the 2008 election "historic," and we haven't even seen the passel of books about the race that will no doubt be hitting shelves six months or so from now. But before we become consumed with the blizzard of activity that will accompany President Obama's first 100 days, it's worth taking a look back at, not just what happened in 2008 but what didn't happen (and I should note that the week after the election, Prospect editor Mark Schmitt graded some of the pre-election theories; some of what he discussed is mentioned here). In fact, there may be no election in memory in which so many predictions turned out to be so wrong. That's in part because there are so many more predictions swirling around the tornado of commentary that accompanies the modern campaign. But never have so many supposedly informed and knowledgeable people gotten so much wrong in a single election. Most of the misconceptions, it turns out, can be traced back to the fact that the...

Let the Conservative Whining Begin

During eight years of Republican rule, conservative talkers had to work hard to find people to blame for the nation's troubles. That won't be a problem anymore.

Over the last eight years, many conservatives, particularly the radio and television hosts who enjoy such loud and lucrative megaphones, have been forced to navigate some difficult rhetorical waters. When your side controls the White House, the Congress (as it did until two years ago), the judiciary, and the business world, how do you argue that you're part of an oppressed group being held down by The Man? It isn't easy, but they did it nonetheless. The "elite" they bellowed at day after day is not those who actually hold power. It's obscure college professors, Hollywood actors, the city council of a town you don't live in, and nonprofit organizations who advocate for things like poor people or the environment or civil liberties. That's the source of your problems, they would say, and that's who you should be mad at. So the coming transfer of power must make them feel light as air. Now when they begin their daily pity party, they'll actually be able to complain about the people in...

Can Obama Make Wonks and Hacks Work Together?

After eight years in the wilderness, the reality-based community is back in charge. Now they have a chance to prove that they know what they're doing.

A lot will change on Jan. 20, when George W. Bush takes one last wistful glance around the Oval Office before heading back to Texas, and a few thousand Republicans begin finding out whether having "former Bush administration official" on their resum é is a help or a hindrance in getting that next job. It's more than just a new set of policy goals and a round of executive orders undoing some of Bush's worst offenses. For the first time in eight long years, the federal government will be managed by people who have a clue about what they're doing. During the election, Barack Obama's Republican opponents liked to criticize him for not having actually run anything before. But the one thing he did run -- his presidential campaign -- was as well-organized, efficient, and effective as any in American history. When Obama's campaign started, some believed it would be a replay of Howard Dean's 2004 run -- inspiring, exciting, and doomed. But Dean's effort was held together with duct tape and...