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

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...

What the 2020 Democratic Primary Campaign Will Really Be About

In 2016, many Democratic voters were less than thrilled with the spectrum of choices they were offered in the presidential primaries. Hillary Clinton was the seemingly inevitable nominee and most of the big Democratic names decided to sit out the race, so voters were left with her, Martin O'Malley, Lincoln Chafee, and Bernie Sanders. Indeed, the fact that Bernie emerged as the only real alternative to Clinton was a key part of his candidacy becoming the phenomenon, especially among young people, that it was. But 2020 will be the opposite: an enormous collection of candidates almost too large to fully assess. Last week Kirsten Gillibrand announced her candidacy, which by my count makes six official candidates and 14 others who are considering running. As voters dutifully pore over their records and proposals (I'm only half-kidding) to see who is the most appealing, there is one seldom-mentioned factor that could determine the Democratic nominee. Presidential politics, as too many...

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Has Super Powers

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez clearly has superpowers. When was the last time a freshman member of Congress was able to not just vault policy issues up the agenda with a remark in an interview or a visit to a protest , but whip much of Washington into such a frenzy of consternation and jealousy? We don't yet know how Ocasio-Cortez (already known by her initials AOC) will use these powers. But her extraordinary celebrity tells us a good deal about what politics, and the Democratic Party in particular, look like in 2019. Ocasio-Cortez's rise owes a great deal to her own gifts, but it also had something to do with timing. She was one of two Democrats to defeat a House incumbent in a 2018 primary, and since the national media had largely overlooked the race until her victory and were shocked that she took down a member of the Democratic leadership, she suddenly became a perfect symbol of the election that was underway. A young, charismatic, unapologetically progressive Latina booting out a...

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