Paul Waldman

Can 'Reformicons' Save the Republican Party?

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
New York Times Cover of the July 6, 2014, New York Times Magazine T he conservative reformers are about to have their moment—or so it would appear, if you're a reader of some publications predominantly read by liberals. A small band of thoughtful conservatives has been saying, for some time, that if the Republican party is going to survive—and, more specifically, win a presidential election in the next decade or two—it has to change. It has to get serious about policy again, grapple with contemporary economic and social realities that simple appeals to free markets and small government don't address, and find a way to attract voters from outside the demographic of old white people. This weekend, the "reformicons," as E.J. Dionne dubbed them in a recent essay in Democracy , were the subject of a cover article by Sam Tanenhaus in the New York Times Magazine. (If you want to learn who they are, read Tanenhaus' piece; if you want to learn about their ideas, read Dionne's.) The natural...

Searching for the Next Great Conservative Novel

Lots of room on this shelf. (Flickr/Luis Guillermo Pineda Rodas)
Conservatives often complain that the machinery of entertainment and popular culture is controlled by liberals, which is basically true. So periodically, one of them tries to encourage the rest to get behind a project to produce a right-wing culture, to get conservative ideas into the collective consciousness in more subtle and lasting ways than another "Why Liberals Are Destroying America" book from Ann Coulter or Brent Bozell. The latest of these pleas is an essay by publisher Adam Bellow in the National Review , which has the distinction of offering fiction, in the form of books(!), as the most important means of doing so. While the essay is overwrought at many points and self-contradictory at others (he says of the left, "Political power eludes them," then later laments their "decades-long march through the institutions of government, academia, and popular culture"), Bellow makes some interesting points even as, I think, he shows why this is such an uphill climb for his...

Who Supports the Hobby Lobby Decision? Old People, That's Who

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Yesterday, in a post about the political implications of the Hobby Lobby case, I said: "Though I haven't seen any poll that released breakouts by demographics, I'll bet that the populations that support this decision are the ones firmly in the Republican camp already, particularly older white evangelicals." As someone helpfully alerted me on Twitter, there is such a poll, from the Kaiser Family Foundation , taken in April. And while they didn't ask about religious affiliation, it turns out that age shows the starkest differences other than party identification in how people view the contraception issue. Let's look at some numbers, then we'll discuss what they might mean. Kaiser asked the question two ways: first in a simple way, and then by giving a bit more information about each side's perspective. The first question was, "In general, do you support or oppose the health care law's requirement that private health insurance plans cover the full cost of birth control?" When presented...

15 Major Decisions This Year From a Partisan Supreme Court

AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais Kristin Hughs, right, announces to supporters the Supreme Court's decision on the Hobby Lobby case in Washington, Monday, June 30, 2014. The Supreme Court says corporations can hold religious objections that allow them to opt out of the new health law requirement that they cover contraceptives for women. S ince Monday's dramatic Supreme Court decisions, I've seen a few people recall that back in 2000, a lot of liberals justified voting for Ralph Nader (or not voting at all) on the basis that there wasn't a dime's worth of difference between George W. Bush and Al Gore. Bush appointed John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the high court, and it's safe to say that Gore's nominees would have been somewhat different, so it's unlikely we'll be hearing that argument again. Wherever you place your priorities in terms of the actions of the executive branch, at this point in history, the nominating of Supreme Court justices has become extremely partisan, in a way...

Watch Paul Waldman on Washington Journal

C-SPAN
The American Prospect 's contributing editor appeared on the June 29, 2014 edition of C-SPAN's Washington Journal .

Why the Fight Over Executive Authority Will Define the Rest of Barack Obama's Presidency

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza President Barack Obama returns to the Oval Office after giving interviews in the Rose Garden of the White House, May 6, 2014. I t's axiomatic to the point of cliché that in their second terms, presidents turn their attention to foreign affairs, where they have latitude to do what they want without having to get Congress's permission. By the time they've been in office for five or six years, they're so fed up with wrangling 535 ornery legislators that they barely bother anymore, and without an election looming (and with approval ratings often sliding down), they concentrate on what they can do on their own. But faced with an opposition of unusual orneriness—perhaps more so than any in American history— Barack Obama has made clear that he won't just be concentrating on foreign policy. He'll be doing whatever he can to achieve domestic goals as well, even if Republicans have made legislating impossible. The conflict over the actions he has taken...

What Americans Think of the Poor

Pew Research Center
The Pew Research Center has released one of their periodic Political Typology studies , and as usual it contains a wealth of fascinating data on what people think about a whole range of issues. One of the most useful things about it is that instead of just asking people whether they consider themselves liberals or conservatives, it constructs a typology based on a series of questions, enabling them to divide people in a more fine-grained way that doesn't rely solely on self-identification (they divide Americans into two strongly conservative groups, one mostly conservative group, one mostly liberal group, and three more strongly liberal groups). When I went through the survey, one question jumped out at me, the one represented here: Those of you who read my writing regularly know that I make an effort to understand where people who disagree with me are coming from. That doesn't mean I'm any less likely to disagree with them, or even that I don't use barbed language sometimes in...

Can the U.S. Stop Drones From Creating a More Dangerous World?

A drone launches from the USS Lassen (U.S. Navy photo)
In an op-ed in today's Washington Post , retired Army general John Abizaid and Rosa Brooks, a former Defense Department official, warn that "[t]he United States' drone policies damage its credibility, undermine the rule of law and create a potentially destabilizing international precedent—one that repressive regimes around the globe will undoubtedly exploit." Their argument, which comes from a report they produced for the Stimson Center together with a task force of former defense and intelligence officials, is essentially that unmanned aerial vehicles make the use of lethal force across borders too easy, and we need to establish strict policies limiting their use. True enough. But the question I'm left with is, how much will the United States' policies really determine the worldwide future of drones and their use? Before we get to that, we should acknowledge that President Obama has declared his intention to establish rules restraining his own and future presidents' use of drones. In...

In Dramatic Pointless Gesture, Boehner to Sue Obama

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden meet with the bipartisan, bicameral leadership of Congress to discuss the fiscal cliff and a balanced approach to the debt limit and deficit reduction, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Nov. 16, 2012. Participants included: House Speaker John Boehner at left, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Chief of Staff Jack Lew, Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, and National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling. P retty much since the moment Barack Obama finished speaking the oath of office in January 2009, Republicans have been charging that he was abusing his power, exceeding his authority and acting like a tyrant. You might remember that for a time in those early days, conservatives (led by Glenn Beck) were obsessed with the idea that Obama had appointed a group of "czars" who were wielding unaccountable power...

Thad Cochran Runoff: For Once, Republican Outreach Works

Flickr/Sparky
For some time now, Republicans have expressed a desire to "reach out" to voters who aren't the prototypical Republican. If their party is made up almost entirely of white Christians, and largely older white Christians at that, they can continue to win congressional elections but have no hope of winning the White House any time soon in a country that grows less white and less Christian by the day. Well, yesterday we had an example of a Republican successfully reaching out to voters who aren't traditionally Republican. Sen. Thad Cochran, who has been in Congress approximately since mastodons roamed the Gulf Coast, won his runoff election against angry Tea Partier Chris McDaniel in part by convincing Democrats to vote for him in the run-off election. And in Mississippi, Democrats means black voters (in 2008, the last presidential election for which we have Mississippi exit poll data, 88 percent of the state's whites voted for John McCain). So we had the rather unusual spectacle of a...

Annals of Hillary-Hating: What's Wrong With Ambition?

Flickr/Paxson Woelber
If I asked you to describe the things you dislike about a prominent politician from the other party, you could surely come up with a long list, and "I disagree with him on issues" would be only one. You'd doubtless be able to describe a series of character flaws and disturbing tendencies that could in theory could apply to even members of your own party. But certain traits that we sometimes associate with politicians generally—pathological ambition, dishonesty, ruthlessness—we almost always ascribe to the those in the other party, while forgiving them in those who seek the same goals we do. To a degree, that's natural and almost everyone does it. But it becomes analytically problematic when you convince yourself that everything a particular politician does or says is a lie, nothing they say can be taken at face value, and their every motivation is dark and sinister. For instance, here's something Charles Krauthammer, who gets more admiration for his intelligence and insight from his...

Hillary Clinton Gets Tripped Up By the Blue-Collar Imperative

AP Photo/Steven Senne
AP Photo/Steven Senne HiIlary Rodham Clinton holds a copy of her new book "Hard Choices," at the start of a book signing at Harvard Book Store, Monday, June 16, 2014, in Cambridge, Mass. W e—and by "we" I mean both journalists and voters—ask politicians to do and say a lot of preposterous things. But few are as absurd as the requirement that every candidate, no matter who they actually are, pretend to be a regular fella or gal. Sure, she may walk with the wealthy and powerful now, but rest assured, she grew up amidst the common people, so she understands their travails. Not only that, she retains her love of the simple pleasures enjoyed by all—woe be to the candidate who sips wine or takes in a classical music concert instead of downing a Bud and watching football. If she is actually wealthy, the candidate must wear that wealth so lightly you barely know it's there. Any mention of it must be accompanied by a furious denial that she is actually one of those snooty rich people who do...

How Many Gun Deaths Are There In Your State?

Your charty goodness is inside.
Since Washington is a fetid swamp of moral compromise and soul-sucking humidity, my family and I sometimes debate where we might go if we decided to move elsewhere. One of the possibilities that comes up is Colorado, since we have friends there and the state features lots of opportunities for outdoor recreation. But I'm given pause by the fact that Colorado seems to have more than its share of gun massacres, and even if statistically speaking they aren't something to spend too much time worrying about, it's natural to have it weigh on your mind. Americans increasingly want to live around people who think like them , and that can extend beyond political beliefs to politically-tinged behaviors, particularly those meant to terrify people who have opinions different from yours. Like many a bleeding-heart liberal, I'd prefer to be able to stop in at my local Target and not have to share my shopping experience with a bunch of nutballs toting AR-15s . Call me crazy. If you're considering a...

Epic! Cheney Made to Answer to Paul Waldman's Assessment of Iraq Record

Fox News
Fox News host Megyn Kelly yesterday put former Vice President Dick Cheney on the spot, reading to him the words of Prospect Contributing Editor Paul Waldman, and demanding a response. In his other gig at the Washington Post , Waldman wrote a searing assessment of Cheney's recent attack on President Barack Obama's Iraq policy, offered in a Wall Street Journal op-ed he co-authored with his daughter, Liz, who served in the Bush administration's State Department. In her interview of Dick and Liz Cheney, Kelly read this bit from Waldman's WaPo post : There is not a single person in America...who has been more wrong and more shamelessly dishonest on the topic of Iraq than Dick Cheney. And now, as the cascade of misery and death and chaos he did so much to unleash rages anew, Cheney has the unadulterated gall to come before the country and tell us that it’s all someone else’s fault... Then she asked, "The suggestion is that you caused this mess, Mr. Vice President. What say you?" As related...

Schweitzer #FAIL: Live By Authenticity, Die by Authenticity

Authenticity, thy name is bolo tie. (Flickr/Center for American Progress Action Fund)
Did former Montana governor Brian Schweitzer's presidential ambitions just go down the tubes? I've been criticizing the press' focus on "gaffes" for a long time , but there are some things that, once you say them, are hard to put behind you. Schweitzer, who has always been known for being unfiltered, invited National Journal reporter Marin Cogan up to his house in Montana , and the result was rather interesting: This was the week that Sen. Dianne Feinstein took to the Senate floor to accuse the CIA of spying on congressional staffers investigating the agency's treatment of terrorism suspects under the Bush administration. Schweitzer is incredulous that Feinstein—considered by her critics to be too close to the intelligence community—was now criticizing the agency. "She was the woman who was standing under the streetlight with her dress pulled all the way up over her knees, and now she says, 'I'm a nun,' when it comes to this spying!" he says. Then, he adds, quickly, "I mean, maybe...

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