Paul Waldman

Paul Waldman is the Prospect's daily blogger and senior writer. 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 Left and the Living Dead

In the event of a zombie apocalypse, will progressive ideals win out?

The popularity of each resident in our cultural stable of monsters rises and falls as the years pass. Presently, vampires are at the top of the heap, with HBO's True Blood and Stephanie Meyer's unbelievably successful Twilight book series (22 million copies sold in 2008 alone) leading the way. The last few years saw a glut of ghost stories, many adapted from Japanese horror films. Werewolves are in a bit of a rut right now, but perhaps they'll make a comeback sometime soon. All of these menaces can be presented in the context of campy fun, genuinely frightening horror, or even highbrow (or at least upper-middlebrow) entertainment. But then there's the zombie. There are no highbrow zombie movies or novels, and admitting you love them amounts to a declaration that your tastes are unrefined. In truth, zombies should be boring. There are only so many things you can do with them, narratively speaking. They can't charm you, like vampires, or make you pity them as they relate their torment...

The Numbers Game

We ought to be in a golden age of data. So why are so many of the statistics we hear just fuzzy math?

A macro of a graph in Edward Tufte's The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, which considers the graphic design of data displays. (Flicker/ Kevin Dooley)
Travelers are often advised to avoid certain places when a big holiday comes -- New Orleans on Mardi Gras might be too bacchanalian for you, and midtown Manhattan on New Year's Eve can get awfully crowded. So if you're thinking of visiting Japan, you might want to avoid Oct. 18. It's Statistics Day, and it gets pretty crazy. OK, maybe not -- to be honest, I have no idea whether the Japanese treat Statistics Day with the solemnity it deserves or as just another excuse to blow off work and barbeque burgers. But the fact that they have an actual holiday whose purpose is celebrating the collection and analysis of data speaks of a culture that values precision and holds numbers in high esteem. When Statistics Day had its 30th anniversary in 2002, the Japanese government sifted through 2,934 entries to choose the winning slogan, "Statistical Surveys Owe You and You Owe Statistical Data." Not exactly "It's the real thing" or "I ♥ New York," but kind of sweet all the same. If we in America...

Judicial Abstraction

Republicans talk so much about "judicial activism" because it's a dog whistle to the base. Too bad that base is increasingly small and irrelevant.

It is becoming clear that conservatives will be unable to torpedo Sonia Sotomayor's nomination to the Supreme Court. What is also becoming clear is that they're losing an opportunity to convince the public that their vision of the courts is superior to that of progressives. And they have no one to blame but themselves. Even before President Barack Obama nominated Sotomayor, conservatives became incensed when Obama said that "empathy" was a key virtue he looked for in a justice. Empathy, they charged, was nothing but a "code word" masking Obama's true agenda. And these people know from code words. In fact, their biggest problem in this debate is that so much of the time, they themselves speak in code. Granted, some of the attacks aimed at Sotomayor are straightforward, albeit idiotic and tinged with the eternal grievance of the subjugated white male. But these are mere sidelights and considered by most of the Republicans in the Senate with the power to actually hold up Sotomayor's...

It's Gingrich Time

The return of the former House speaker is not only due to the leadership vacuum in the GOP. Republicans are back in opposition, and nobody opposes quite like Newt.

You just can't escape him. He's on Meet the Press , detailing the Democrats' unconscionable perfidy. He's on the op-ed page of The Washington Post , explaining why an anti-Obama backlash is about to sweep across the country. He's on The Daily Show , telling jokes to Jon Stewart. He's profiled in an 8,000-word opus in The New York Times Magazine . The man is positively everywhere. It's Gingrich time. Sane Republicans have to be a little nervous when the two most visible representatives of their party are the reviled former vice president and the disgraced former speaker of the House. But while Dick Cheney is likely to slither back to his subterranean lair sometime soon, it seems that we'll be seeing more and more of Newt. This is Newt's time again not only because there's a leadership vacuum in the GOP but because the Republicans are back in opposition, and nobody opposes quite like Newt. He is a master of the contemptuous sneer, the over-the-top insult, the apocalyptic warning. He...

The Health-Care Time Warp

With the health-care debate underway once again, Republicans are dusting off the same rhetorical playbook they used during the Clinton years.

For all the partisan back-and-forth over the measures Barack Obama has taken to address the economic crisis, the biggest battle of his first term -- and the one that could determine whether he gets a second -- is just now ramping up. If Obama can reform this disaster of a health-care system and do what Bill Clinton couldn't, then his place in history will be assured. It already appears that the administration has studied the failures of 1993. But what will really determine health care's outcome is what reform opponents do, and the contours of their campaign are starting to take shape. To put it simply: Republicans hope to kill Obama's health-care reform, just like they killed Clinton's 15 years ago, and their current playbook looks remarkably similar to the old one. But they have some serious weaknesses that they didn't suffer from the last time around. In 1993, the Republicans were unified under a single congressional leader -- Newt Gingrich -- and a single, simple strategy: oppose,...

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