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 (Yale University Press, May 2019).

Recent Articles

Trump’s Nomination Will Shake Confidence in American Democracy

We already had reasons to worry about democracy. Now we have one more.

(Photo: Sipa USA via AP/Monica Jorge)
With his victory in Indiana yesterday, Donald Trump is now, as he claims, the “presumptive” Republican presidential nominee. Although the polls indicate he’ll likely lose to Hillary Clinton, the election is half a year away, and a lot can happen in between. The consequences of Trump’s becoming president would be momentous for both America and the world. It would change forever the way we think about democracy—and the way the world thinks about America. In fact, his nomination alone will have a deep impact even if he ultimately loses. A major-party nomination legitimizes a candidate’s views as worthy of fair consideration. As a “birther” doubting Barack Obama’s citizenship, Trump could be treated as a crank. In the early stages of the primary campaign, his statements about Mexicans and Muslims could be regarded as the wild fulminations of a candidate who would surely be rejected by his party in the end. When his followers attacked...

The Strange Silence about Sanders’s Tax Proposals

Bernie Sanders has proposed tax increases that ought to give Democrats pause, but hardly anyone is talking about them.

AP Photo/Brennan Linsley
One of the regular patterns in public opinion polling is that approval for proposed programs is higher if a survey question omits any reference to the cost in higher taxes. The same phenomenon has probably also been at work in the Democratic primary race this year. Bernie Sanders has been calling for the federal government to pay for free health care, free college tuition, and other programs, but neither Hillary Clinton nor the media have focused much attention on the tax implications. If Sanders were to become the Democratic presidential candidate, the silence surrounding the tax issue would surely end. Republicans may be holding fire on Sanders’s proposed taxes in the confident expectation that they could use them against his candidacy in the general election. That’s all the more reason Democrats themselves should want to get the issue out on the table now. The gulf separating the tax proposals of presidential candidates this year—between Republicans and Democrats...

The Democrats as a Movement Party

What would it take to get the “broken engine of progressive politics” working again?

Albin Lohr-Jones/Sipa/AP Images
This article is a preview of the Spring 2016 issue of The American Prospect magazine . Subscribe here . Political parties in the United States are typically broad coalitions that bring disparate groups together to win elections. In a two-party system, those coalitions are usually the only way the different constituencies and their leaders can hope to gain a share of power. At times, however, parties become closely aligned with social movements that shift the base of party support, or the parties themselves take on the character of a movement. Much of American history is remembered this way—as a series of movements that inspired change in parties, won elections, and transformed the nation. But that historical memory is selective: Movements haven’t always produced electoral majorities. Their leaders have sometimes miscalculated and brought on their own defeat by driving out elements of the previous party coalition. Since movements bring new energy to parties and imperil old...

What If Trump Had Run as a Democrat?

A Trump campaign in the Democratic Party could also have created havoc—except for one thing.

AP Photo/John Minchillo
A number of observers have said Donald Trump’s march to the Republican presidential nomination is a case of chickens coming home to roost. And it’s true: The GOP has for years been playing to white resentment, and Trump has just exploited that potential more aggressively than anyone else. From this standpoint, the Republican Party’s leaders have no one to blame but themselves for the hijacking of their party. But let’s play a little “alt” history and imagine that several years ago, Trump began calculated moves to run as a Democrat. Let’s imagine also that Beau Biden had never developed brain cancer, and that his father, Joe, had decided to run for president, so the “mainstream” Democratic vote was more divided. Planning to run as a Democrat, Trump would have avoided backing the “birther” movement, but could have made other inflammatory charges (for example, against Hillary Clinton) to get media attention. To build...

The Larger Problems of the Sanders Single Payer Plan

Putting our nation's health care under federal control would create more problems than it would solve. 

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
This is a contribution to Prospect Debate: The Cost of Sanders's Single-Payer Health Plan . prospect-debates-icon.jpg Think about what a single-payer health plan means. The federal government pays for all health care for everyone. The pleasant thought is that all of your health expenses are being paid for. The unpleasant thought is that since all those expenses come out of the federal budget, your health care now depends on the decisions of Congress and the president. And an even more unpleasant thought—at least for progressives who may be inclined to support single-payer—is that people with progressive values will not always be in charge in Washington and therefore wouldn’t always be making those decisions. In “ The False Lure of the Sanders Single-Payer Plan,” I raised a series of objections to Sanders’s proposal. Responding from the Sanders camp, Gerald Friedman devotes all his attention to one aspect of my criticism: the cost estimates by...

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