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

The Progressive Caucus and New Democrat Coalition Could Help Consolidate the Party’s Presidential Field

The Democrats are now likely to have even more presidential aspirants in 2020 than the 17 that the Republicans had in 2016, a precedent that ought to inspire concern about the outcome. A large field favors a candidate who enters the race with certain assets—high prior name recognition, a big personality, personal wealth or a large donor network, perhaps a talent for capturing attention by stoking intense reactions. In the first Iowa poll of likely Democratic caucus-goers by CNN/ Des Moines Register /Mediacom, three male B’s—Biden, Bernie, and Beto—dominated the field (Joe Biden at 32 percent, Bernie Sanders at 19 percent, and Beto O’Rourke at 11 percent), with all the other candidates in single digits, though Elizabeth Warren trailed O’Rourke only slightly, at 8 percent. Of course, it’s an early poll, with a large margin of error (4.6 percent), but with the first poll testing an incomplete list of 20 candidates, it’s not too early to be...

The Democrats Are Being Pulled Both to the Left and to the Center

Are the Democrats, as so many people believe, moving left, or are they gravitating to the center? Actually, the results of this year’s primary and general elections show there is movement in both directions, setting the party up for future conflicts. Let’s look at the congressional results. Perry Bacon, Jr. at FiveThirtyEight makes the case that the Democrats are moving left by comparing their House membership in 2010, the last time they controlled the chamber, to their incoming membership. Eight years ago, the Progressive Caucus had 80 members, while the Blue Dog Coalition, the most conservative Democrats, had 54. But in 2019, according to Bacon, the Progressive Caucus will rise to 96, while the Blue Dogs will number only 24. By that measure, the House Democrats have moved sharply to the left. The picture looks different, however, if we compare the Progressive Caucus with the centrist New Democrat Coalition in the House and focus specifically on the new members who won...

The ‘Weekly Standard’ and the Eclipse of the Center-Right

The news that the owner of the Weekly Standard may shut it down highlights how conservative political journalism and media continue to change as a result of one of the most important recent developments in American politics—the collapse of the center-right. A decade ago, as I recalled in an op-ed in The New York Times in October, prominent commentators confidently asserted that the United States is a “center-right country,” a claim that had some plausibility when George W. Bush was president. But since then, first under Barack Obama and now even more under Donald Trump, the center-right has lost influence nationally and even within the Republican Party, leaving many people with those views politically homeless. Indeed, as Republicans have moved right, what counts as “center-right” has moved further right too, from the Rockefeller Republicans of a half century ago to the Bush Republicans and now even to many traditional conservatives and neoconservatives...

How Democrats Finally Won with Health Care

Update (November 21, 2018): The Washington Post reports : Rep. Brian Higgins of New York said he had changed his mind [and endorsed Nancy Pelosi for speaker] after securing an “agreement in principle” that Democrats would undertake a “serious good faith effort” to advance legislation lowering the Medicare eligibility age to 50 as well as a trillion-dollar infrastructure blitz. In a statement, Pelosi praised Higgins … and said his proposal to allow Americans as young as 50 to “buy in” to Medicare is “central to this debate, as we work to build on the Affordable Care Act.” In the piece below published yesterday, I was urging Democrats to focus on early eligibility for Medicare as the most feasible and politically potent idea for substantially advancing health-care reform. Pelosi’s agreement to make a “serious good faith effort” on that issue should push it to the forefront of discussion among House Democrats in the...

Is Xenophobia Politically Rational?

The evidence from the 2018 election is now in.

Just as he had in 2016, Donald Trump defied the conventional wisdom about how to win in 2018 by making inflammatory statements about immigrants and refugees. This year, when he might have emphasized the state of the economy, he chose instead in the final weeks of the campaign to whip up hysteria about the immigrant caravan in Mexico, claim that refugees bring in gangs and terrorists, and call for an end to birthright citizenship. Trump’s incendiary rhetoric has renewed a debate about whether he and other Republicans who have made similar appeals to their base are acting impulsively from the gut or according to a rational political logic. The results of the 2018 election now provide more evidence on that question, though not a definitive answer. Before the election, Matt A. Barreto—a UCLA political scientist who is a co-founder of Latino Decisions, which advises Democratic candidates— wrote that although Trump’s anti-immigrant campaign might resonate with his...

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