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

A True Republican Health-Care Unraveling

The reaction against the GOP could boost progressive organizing and bolder reforms.

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik
The following article, which appears in the Spring 2017 issue of The American Prospect under the title “The Republican Health-Care Unraveling: Resist Now, Rebound Later,” went to press on Tuesday, March 21, before the Republicans gave up on their health-care bill and pulled it from a vote. But while the first section of the article is now moot (at least for the time being), the second part (“Blocking Trump’s Chaos Option”) and the third (“The Next Progressive Health Agenda”) are pertinent to what happens next. - P.S., March 24, 2017. Imagine if Donald Trump had been a genuine populist and followed through on his repeated promises to provide health insurance to everybody and take on the pharmaceutical and insurance industries. Populists in other countries have done similar things, and Trump might have consolidated support by emulating them. Of course, Trump’s promises about health care weren’t any more genuine than his promises...

The Next Progressive Health Agenda

Part II of The Republican Health-Care Unraveling

Erik McGregor/Sipa via AP Images
This is the second part of a two-part article. Part I is here . The full version appears in the Spring 2017 issue of The American Prospect under the title: “The Republican Health-Care Unraveling: Resist Now, Rebound Later.” This is the “rebound” part. Subscribe here to the magazine. Even as they resist the Republican rollback of the ACA and Medicaid, Democrats should be thinking about new initiatives in health care. No doubt the next steps will depend in part on what Trump and the Republicans end up doing. In the wake of federal legislation, many of the critical decisions in the short run may move to the states. But Democrats cannot limit themselves to defensive efforts to salvage the ACA at either the federal or the state level. They need to think about a more attractive national agenda in health care that reflects the lessons of the ACA and new political realities. The coming national Democratic debate is going to focus on extending Medicare—to whom,...

The Republican Health-Care Unraveling

Part I

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images
This is the first part of a two-part article. The full version appears in the Spring 2017 issue of The American Prospect under the title: “The Republican Health-Care Unraveling: Resist Now, Rebound Later.” This is the “resist” part. Subscribe here to the magazine. Imagine if Donald Trump had been a genuine populist and followed through on his repeated promises to provide health insurance to everybody and take on the pharmaceutical and insurance industries. Populists in other countries have done similar things, and Trump might have consolidated support by emulating them. Of course, Trump’s promises about health care weren’t any more genuine than his promises about Trump University. But even if he had been in earnest, he would have still faced a problem. Unlike right-wing populists elsewhere, Trump did not come to power with a party of his own or well-developed policies. He came tethered to the congressional Republicans, entirely dependent on them to...

Who Are We Americans Now?

And who will we become under Trump?

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This article appears in the Winter 2017 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . “That’s not who we are,” Barack Obama often says when appealing to Americans to oppose illiberal policies such as torturing prisoners, barring immigrants on the basis of their religion, and denying entry to refugees. But now that Americans have elected a president who has called for precisely those policies, Obama’s confidence about who we are may seem misplaced. Questions about the defining values of our common nationality have haunted us before at critical moments in American history, and now they do again: In the wake of Donald Trump’s election, what does it mean to be an American? Will Trump and Republican rule change not just how the world sees us but our self-understanding? National elections create a picture of a people, and they send a signal about changes the voters want. The picture and the signal may be distorted and subject to interpretation, but...

When an Election Damages Democracy

American democracy faces the risk of systemic harm in 2016.

Dennis Van Tine/STAR MAX/IPx via AP
This article, written in September, appears under the title "When Elections Fail" in the Fall 2016 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . One of the great advantages of liberal democracy is the potential for self-correction. If an election works out badly, the next one offers an opportunity to make a better choice, and in the meantime constitutional guarantees keep the winners from abusing their power. But sometimes elections fail so disastrously as to threaten irremediable damage to a society’s foundations. The United States faces that risk this year. Systemically damaging election failure can happen in several ways. Elections may be rigged or manipulated and, even when they haven’t been, the suspicion that they have may impair a new government’s legitimacy and create a constitutional crisis. Elections can fail when they put strongmen in power who have no respect for constitutional norms and threaten democratic institutions. They can fail when the...

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