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

Today's Depressing Space News.

In most sci-fi movies, the problem with the long time periods required for interstellar travel is solved by putting those traversing the stars into some kind of "stasis," often in a comfy pod. Upon waking, they rub their necks, stretch their arms, and within about 30 seconds are good to go fight aliens, despite having been lying still in a pod for the last couple of months or years. Unfortunately, it looks like that's not really how things are going to work: The first cellular analysis of muscles from astronauts who have spent 180 days at the International Space Station shows that their muscles lost more than 40 percent of their capacity for physical work, despite in-flight exercise. No matter how good their shape was before the astronauts left, they returned with muscles tone that resembled that of the average 80-year-old. In fact, the astronauts who were in the best shape before they launched were the most likely to come back with withered, or atrophied, muscles. NASA currently...

Two Principled Republicans Located.

For a while now, I've been wondering whether a prominent Republican with something to lose -- like a 2012 presidential candidate -- might come out and condemn the ugly turn the GOP is taking, with its new obsessions over the Islamic center near Ground Zero and repealing the 14th Amendment so little brown kids born in America wouldn't get to be citizens. We may not have seen that yet, but this, via Think Progress , is at least something: Mark McKinnon is an extremely rich and successful media consultant who used to be a Democrat, and was something of a fan of Barack Obama , so it's not all that surprising coming from him. As for Joe Scarborough , he's a television host, and finding places to demonstrate independence from your party is good business. It's not that I doubt his sincerity -- it's just that it isn't as though he's risking his future by calling out his fellow Republicans. Nevertheless, we should give them credit for taking this stance. Scarborough notes that although he hasn...

The Trouble With Ideology

One thing people often say about libertarians is, "Well, there are some things I disagree with them about, but I admire their consistency." Supposedly, libertarians have a pure philosophy, and they're willing to take unpopular stands in the service of it. That stands in contrast to, say, conservatives who talk a lot about "getting government off our backs" but also think the government ought to do things like control what women do with their wombs. Today, the country's most prominent libertarian is Rand Paul , the Republican Party's nominee for a Senate seat in Kentucky. You'll recall that Paul's debut on the national stage came when he couldn't bring himself to endorse the Civil Rights Act of 1964, since it violated the individual freedom of Jim Crow-era restaurant owners who wanted to serve only white people. As Talking Points Memo tells us today, Paul and his Democratic opponent, Jack Conway , are battling over drugs. Paul apparently believes that the federal government ought to...

The GOP's Ticket to November.

You've probably been asking yourself, "What do the candidates running for City Council in Grand Forks think about the Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero?" No? You haven't been asking that? Well why the heck not? It's not quite the Grand Forks City Council, but Rick Scott , a candidate for the GOP nomination for governor of Florida, who thinks folks have been dying to know what he thinks about the issue: What's remarkable about this is that Scott doesn't make even the most perfunctory attempt to tie the issue to Florida itself, much less the Florida governorship. Nothing. It's just that he doesn't like "Muslim fanatics," and "the fight against terrorism isn't over." Not even a "We need a leader in Tallahassee who understands that." While Scott may be a particularly repellent figure, you can feel Republicans everywhere deciding that this issue is the shot of extra speed that will carry them over the finish line in November. Kind of a last PowerBar of hate to chew on when the legs...

The Next Redistricting Battle

Even if Democrats lose seats this fall, they may come out ahead on the redistricting fight thanks to a slew of new organizations.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger removes red tape showing how legislative districts can divide neighborhoods. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Were he around today, Elbridge Gerry would no doubt complain that history has sullied his name. Following the 1810 census, Gerry, as governor of Massachusetts, signed off on a redistricting map including one district that looked to a newspaper editor like a salamander. The paper called it a "gerrymander," and the name stuck. But the district in question was far less sinuous and stretched than the districting modifications we routinely see today, two centuries later. The increasing sophistication of mapping software and the copious amounts of data available on all of us have made it possible to draw maps with extraordinary precision, down to the household. Districts for both state legislators and members of Congress wind crooked paths down city streets, skirt unfriendly neighborhoods, and pack unfriendly voters into districts where they can be contained. As Washington wonders whether the shudder-inducing words "Speaker of the House John Boehner" will soon be on lips across the country...