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

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...

Goodbye and Good Riddance

After eight years of President Bush, we almost don't know how to function without him -- almost. But before we move on, we should pause to remember just what we're leaving behind.

Just over two years into George W. Bush’s presidency, The American Prospect featured Bush on its cover under the headline, "The Most Dangerous President Ever." At the time, some probably thought it a bit over the top. But nearly six years later, it's worth taking a moment to reflect on the multifaceted burden that will soon be lifted from our collective shoulders. Since last week, I have stopped short and shaken my head in amazement every time I have heard the words "President-elect Obama." But it is equally extraordinary to consider that in just a few weeks, George W. Bush will no longer be our president. Let me repeat that: In just a few weeks, George W. Bush will no longer be our president. So though our long national ordeal isn't quite over, it's never too early to say goodbye. Goodbye, we can say at last, to the most powerful man in the world being such a ridiculous buffoon, incapable of stringing together two coherent sentences. Goodbye to cringing with dread every time our...

Why We Vote

Whatever problems our politics have, Election Day is a moment when we hope for the future and revel in the solemnity of the democratic process.

For years, some economists and political scientists have scratched their heads in bewilderment at what they call "the paradox of voting," which states that going to the polls is a profoundly irrational act. If the only reason we do anything is because the material benefits of an action outweigh its costs (an assumption embedded in this theory, among others), there's no reason at all to vote. The odds that the election will be decided by one vote -- and therefore your vote will be decisive -- are vanishingly small. Therefore, whatever benefits you will derive from your favored candidate's policies must be multiplied by that infinitesimal chance that your vote will decide the election, to ascertain the return on the investment of voting. On the other side is the effort, time, and possibly the expense of walking or driving to the polling place, or filling out an absentee ballot. No matter how you calculate it (and many intrepid scholars have tried), the costs clearly outweigh the...