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

It's the Economy, Stupid -- Again

As you may remember, when Bill Clinton ran for president in 1992 someone put up a sign in his campaign headquarters reading, "It's the economy, stupid," reminding the candidate and everyone working for him to keep the focus on that issue. With the country still recovering from the last recession, Clinton framed much of his campaign that year in terms of a conflict between ordinary people on one side and the wealthy on the other, with slogans like "Fighting for the forgotten middle class" and "Putting people first." That's despite the fact that Clinton was a centrist in many ways. And of course, it worked. Democrats usually succeed when they wage what Republicans angrily call "class warfare," an objection to both the substance and politics of going after the rich on behalf of the non-rich. It's not surprising, since working so assiduously for the wealthy, as the GOP does, requires some delicate maneuvering. It's best if no one calls too much attention to it. Which makes it all the more...

Why Democrats Need to Save the IRS

Of all the supposedly radical ideas newly audacious Democrats have suggested, none may be more broadly popular than raising taxes on the wealthy. In whatever form it might take—raising the top marginal tax rate to 70 percent as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has suggested , or instituting a wealth tax as Elizabeth Warren proposes , or raising the estate tax as Bernie Sanders would like , there's almost nothing that would be an easier sell to the public, as polls have shown for years. As a recent Politico headline put it, "Soak the rich? Americans say go for it." That doesn't mean that the rich themselves, and their representatives in the Republican Party, wouldn't react with horror and fight any such proposals with the teeth-baring fury of a cornered animal. One Fox Business host, upon hearing some of the poll results, lamented that "The idea of fairness has been promoted in our schools for a long time," and this has warped the minds of the young toward such abhorrent idea. But should...

Is Media Coverage of the 2020 Campaign Repeating the Old Mistakes?

The race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination is officially on. And it's already not going well. I don't mean that as a knock on the candidates, who are an impressive (and large!) collection of officeholders. I'm talking about the way the media cover the race. And heaven help us, they seem to have learned nothing from what happened in 2016. Or any year before that, for that matter. All this has me thinking back to the aftermath of the 1988 election, when news organizations decided that they had been manipulated into focusing the discussion on things like Willie Horton instead of more substantive issues. They held panel discussions and wrote essays about what had gone wrong in their coverage, and promised to do better. One of the results was the creation of the "ad watch," in which candidates' TV ads would be dissected to judge if they were accurate and fair. Reporters and editors promised that next time they'd focus less on the horse race and more on what the election would...

Sorting Through What the Democratic Candidates Really Think About 'Medicare-For-All'

When I was 24 years old, with field-grunt positions on a couple of campaigns under my belt, I went to work for a political consulting firm where one of the first things I was taught was that getting too specific about policy was deadly for candidates. The trouble with putting out a bunch of white papers was that the more detailed you got, the easier it would be for voters to find something in your proposals they didn't like. And all it took was one disagreement for a voter to turn away and support another candidate who hadn't said anything they objected to. The safer path was to lay out broad principles on policy without getting too specific. It's hard for a presidential candidate to follow that advice, particularly on an issue that the primary electorate cares deeply about. But so far, the Democrats running for president (and those thinking about running who haven't yet pulled the switch) are at the very least keeping their options open on many subjects, especially the one that looks...

Republicans May Have Finally Learned Their Lesson

When Donald Trump says that something he built, accomplished, or attached his name to was the most spectacular example of that thing that there ever was, he's usually lying. But not this time: The government shutdown that ended on Friday when he finally realized he was losing was in fact the longest in American history, and therefore in all likelihood the most consequential. It brought a huge amount of suffering down on government workers (who will at least get their back pay) as well as government contractors (who won't) and those whose businesses depend on government workers (ditto). It deprived people across the country of important services. It cut economic growth. It increased backlogs in places like immigration courts and the IRS. It will make it harder to recruit good people to work for the federal government. So while every prior government shutdown was bad, Trump can honestly claim that his was the worst by far. But there just may be a positive result of all that misery and...

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