Paul Starr

Paul Starr is co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect. and professor of sociology and public affairs at Princeton University. A winner of the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction and the Bancroft Prize in American history, he is the author of eight books, including Entrenchment: Wealth, Power, and the Constitution of Democratic Societies, which will be out next year.

Recent Articles

Bringing the Race to Closure

Here's what the Democrats could do to prevent the race for the nomination from stretching into late summer and turning into an ugly donnybrook in Denver.

Remember when it was obvious that the Democratic Party would choose a presidential nominee early this year because of the front-loaded primary schedule? Like a lot else that was oh-so-obvious about this year's election, things aren't working out that way (not as of the week after Super Tuesday).While John McCain has nearly locked up the Republican nomination, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton may continue battling for weeks, possibly for months, and perhaps all the way to the convention in Denver, intensifying the bitterness and disaffection between the two camps. What's more, the nomination may hinge on procedural votes whose outcome seems unfair to the losing side. Is there anything that can be done to prevent the race from stretching into late summer and turning into an ugly donnybrook in Denver? In fact, if the primaries are not decisive, some steps could be taken to bring the contest to a fair resolution before the convention. The Democratic Party faces two separate issues. The...

Fixing Another Florida (and Michigan) Fiasco

If the Democratic race continues to be tight, a fair method for enfranchising Florida and Michigan Democrats will be vital to avoiding a tainted nomination.

Oh, no, it could be Florida again: a disputed election, a tainted result, and a Democratic fiasco. But this time, add Michigan to the mess. If the contest for the Democratic nomination continues to be close, there is a risk that the decisive issue will be a procedural question--the seating of the 366 delegates from Michigan and Florida at the Democratic Convention--and that whichever side loses, the nomination may be regarded as illegitimate. But unlike 2000, this year the Democratic Party itself--the Democratic National Committee, the two state parties in Michigan and Florida, and representatives of the Clinton and Obama campaigns--could negotiate a resolution to avert damage to the eventual party ticket. The resolution might include a round of caucuses in both states in early June to choose delegates whom the national party and all sides could accept as fairly chosen. And, if the race goes that far, those caucuses could tip the nomination one way or the other. As things currently...

The Democrats Could Blow It Again

After the first rounds of caucuses and primaries, the prospects don't look so rosy for the Democrats or so bleak for the Republicans. The presidential race now looks like a toss-up -- perhaps even with a Republican edge.

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Until recently, like most liberals, I was convinced that 2008 was going to be a Democratic year. While Republicans have been listless and divided, Democrats have been passionate and enthusiastic about their candidates for president. An unpopular war, a sinking economy, a general sense of conservative exhaustion: All pointed toward a Democratic triumph in November. A lot of conservatives had come to grudgingly agree and were preparing to spend four years in political rehab. But after the first rounds of caucuses and primaries, the prospects don't look so rosy for the Democrats or so bleak for the Republicans. The presidential race now looks like a toss-up -- perhaps even with a Republican edge. Especially after his win in South Carolina, Sen. John McCain has a plausible route to the GOP nomination, and he remains by far his party's best bet for holding onto the White House. The Republican field has been so preoccupied with appealing to the party's hard-core base that it seemed that the...


Ron Brownstein has a piece in National Journal arguing that the struggle for the presidential nomination in both parties could be protracted . Tomorrow's Michigan primary, however, may determine whether we have another surprise. If McCain wins there and in South Carolina, it's conceivable that he could effectively lock up the Republican nomination on February 5, while the fight between Clinton and Obama goes on into March and beyond. That's just the opposite of what most people were expecting earlier. It seemed like the Democratic race would be decided first. Which is why Democrats have a lot at stake in Michigan. It would not be a good thing for them if the Republicans were able to begin uniting around a candidate before the Democrats could. The longer and worse the fights are within a party for its nomination, the weaker that nominee tends to be in the general election. --Paul Starr

The Democrats' Strategic Challenge

If the Democrats win the election, can the next president and Congress make significant progress toward realizing liberal aspirations? Here's how -- a road map for the start of a new America.

We may be on the verge of one of those moments when the underlying currents in American politics change directions. The conservative agenda is exhausted, public opinion has unmistakably swung away from the right, and although there are no guarantees about the outcome of the election, 2009 may find Democrats in control of both the White House and Congress. But if ever there were a time when liberals needed to be strategic about their goals and the ways of achieving them, this would be it. In the past two years, anger against the Republicans has driven moderates and independents toward the Democrats and stirred an awakening among progressives. Yet all that energy will dissipate if after a Democratic victory at the polls, the new administration proves to be faltering and ineffectual. A durable shift in our politics will depend on what the new president and Congress are actually able to accomplish and whether they can frame those accomplishments as elements of a coherent vision. The way...