Paul Waldman

Paul Waldman is a weekly columnist and senior writer for The American Prospect. He also writes for the Plum Line blog at The Washington Post and The Week and is the author of Being Right Is Not Enough: What Progressives Must Learn From Conservative Success.

Recent Articles

The Youth Vote, the Culture Wars, and Barack Obama

Young voters are particularly important in this election, not because they alone will pick the next president, but because of what their increasingly progressive attitudes suggest about the evolution of politics.

Above: Presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., speaks to supporters during a fundraising event last weekend in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Rodolfo Gonzalez)
It seems that every four years, someone pops up to say that this will be the election determined by the young, that they will mobilize and vote as never before, forcing the candidates to look not to the nursing home and the Elks Club for the crucial votes, but to... well, to wherever it is the kids hang out these days. And after the election, graying commentators note with a contemptuous chuckle that once again, the young stayed home, too busy with their video games and their clubbing and their youthful indiscretions to bother to vote. There's a fundamental fallacy in any analysis that says that one particular group is the "key" voting bloc, whether it's soccer moms or NASCAR dads or whoever. In a close election, every group is a key group whose votes determine the outcome. We'd now be winding down the Gore presidency had he only been able to persuade 537 more of Florida's Lithuanian haberdashers to come to his side. But young voters are in fact particularly important in this election...

Loving Pat Robertson

Discussion of Robertson's endorsement of Giuliani has conveniently ignored the fact that Robertson is a controversial, extreme figure even among conservatives. What we really need to consider is what this will mean for the tone of next year's election.

It has become a familiar ritual: highly ideological political actor says something shocking or controversial; media demand that establishment figures of the same political stripe repudiate the remarks; the other side attacks the establishment figures for their tolerance of extremists in their midst. One might think this is the natural reaction of those champions of moderation and centrism, the pleadings of the reasonable middle to marginalize the extremes. One might, were it not for the fact that the second step in the pattern -- the media demands for repudiation -- seems to happen far more often to Democrats than to Republicans, who are seldom asked to “distance themselves” from their less levelheaded brethren. Left-wing extremists (and many not so extreme at all) are treated with scorn and contempt, their controversial statements held up as dire threats to the survival of the Republic. Right-wing extremists, on the other hand, are considered players whose opinions should...

Something New Under the Sun

Berkeley's innovative new plan for putting solar power in all of the city's homes and businesses offers a vivid illustration of progressive government in action.

We sometimes think of local governments in strongly progressive communities as ineffective nearly to the point of being comical. While potholes go unfilled, the collection of aging hippies on the town council debates passionately how they're going to respond to the crises in Darfur or Burma, and whether the town should retain a chakra consultant. This is a caricature, sure, but it contains more than a little truth. But the city council of Berkeley, California -- where run-of-the-mill leftists are considered positively conservative -- just did something extraordinary. Under a plan they unanimously approved yesterday, Berkeley will become the first city in the country to pay to install a solar power system for any homeowner or business who wants it. In the process, the city is demonstrating how creative thinking and public-private partnerships can offer benefits to citizens, business, and the environment that the free market simply can't accomplish on its own. Given ever-increasing...

Tim Russert: Stop the Inanity

Russert passes for a "tough" interviewer by adopting a confrontational pose rather than asking genuinely challenging questions. Which is why he's a terrible moderator for our presidential debates.

MSNBC debate moderator Tim Russert speaks to the audience before the Democratic debate on Sept. 26 in Hanover, N.H. (AP Photo/Bill Sikes)
Last month, near the end of the Democratic presidential debate in New Hampshire, moderator Tim Russert -- known as "Washington's toughest interviewer" and perhaps the most influential journalist in America -- had one last chance to pin the candidates down with his legendary common sense, persistence, and no-bull style. This is what he asked, first to Barack Obama: "There's been a lot of discussion about the Democrats and the issue of faith and values. I want to ask you a simple question. Senator Obama, what is your favorite Bible verse?" When Obama finished his answer, Russert said to the other candidates, "I want to give everyone a chance in this. You just take 10 seconds." Predictable banality ensued. A foreign visitor unfamiliar with our presidential campaigns might have scratched her head and said, "This is how you decide who will lead your country?" Indeed it is, because the process is controlled by Tim Russert and people like him. Russert's Bible question encapsulates everything...

Haunted by the Hippie

Despite the fact that Hillary Clinton is the most conservative Democrat running for president, the right makes her out to be a radical. Perhaps this is because the right still fears the social change hippies represented.

A specter is haunting the 2008 presidential campaign. It is a terrifying beast that walks through mud, dances to eerie music, wears strange garments, and copulates wantonly. It smells vaguely of patchouli. I speak, of course, of the hippie. Or rather, the conservative image of the hippie, grafted onto a woman who could barely have been less countercultural back in the times when the actual species roamed the Earth: Hillary Clinton. If you thought we'd get through this campaign without the people who were too square to be down with the scene in the 1960s once again venting their resentment at their cooler peers, think again. But this time around, it's even less likely to work than it has in the past. Not that they won't be trying. Imagine the quivers of delight over at RNC headquarters when they learned last week that back in June, senators Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton inserted a $1 million earmark into the health and education appropriations bill for the Museum at Bethel Woods in...