Paul Waldman

Paul Waldman is the Prospect's daily blogger and senior writer. He also blogs for the Plum Line at the Washington Post, and is the author of Being Right is Not Enough: What Progressives Must Learn From Conservative Success.

Recent Articles

The Fretting Over Health Care Reform

Is health-care history just repeating itself? Not quite.

Reps. Henry Waxman, George Miller, and Charles Rangel take part in health care news conference on Capitol Hill. (AP Photo)
Talk to progressives on the subject of health care, and you will find they've gotten more and more nervous in the last couple of weeks. They are acutely aware that momentum for health-care reform seems to gain sufficient speed to make real change a possibility only every 15 or 20 years. Screw it up now, and it'll be a long time before there's another chance at it. Why the gathering gloom? In part because the legislative process is so complex, anyone looking for reasons to be pessimistic as the reform effort wends its way through Congress need not look far. A Congressional Budget Office score here, a newly unified Republican message there, and it begins to seem as though the stars will never align for reform to succeed. On the House side, the three relevant committee chairs -- Henry Waxman, George Miller, and Charlie Rangel -- came together to produce a plan that would give progressives reason to cheer if it passed. Although it was a substantial achievement that these three did so...

Health Care Reform Villains

It's time for Obama to start naming the bad guys in the battle over health care reform.

In December 2007, with the first contest of the 2008 primaries approaching, Prospect Executive Editor Mark Schmitt wrote what would become one of the most influential articles of the campaign. In the piece , Schmitt contended that voters were witnessing a "theory of change" primary, in which Democratic voters were making a choice between three competing theories about how you get things done in Washington. Hillary Clinton argued that it was about being prepared and working hard; John Edwards argued that it was about confrontation; and Barack Obama contended that he could bring all parties to the table and achieve reform by treating everyone as though they were operating in good faith. What will probably turn out to be the most contentious debate of the Obama presidency -- health care reform -- is now moving into its most intense phase, and the Obama theory of change is about to be put to the test. Despite how it has sometimes been characterized, Obama's impulse to treat everyone...

The Left and the Living Dead

In the event of a zombie apocalypse, will progressive ideals win out?

The popularity of each resident in our cultural stable of monsters rises and falls as the years pass. Presently, vampires are at the top of the heap, with HBO's True Blood and Stephanie Meyer's unbelievably successful Twilight book series (22 million copies sold in 2008 alone) leading the way. The last few years saw a glut of ghost stories, many adapted from Japanese horror films. Werewolves are in a bit of a rut right now, but perhaps they'll make a comeback sometime soon. All of these menaces can be presented in the context of campy fun, genuinely frightening horror, or even highbrow (or at least upper-middlebrow) entertainment. But then there's the zombie. There are no highbrow zombie movies or novels, and admitting you love them amounts to a declaration that your tastes are unrefined. In truth, zombies should be boring. There are only so many things you can do with them, narratively speaking. They can't charm you, like vampires, or make you pity them as they relate their torment...

The Numbers Game

We ought to be in a golden age of data. So why are so many of the statistics we hear just fuzzy math?

A macro of a graph in Edward Tufte's The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, which considers the graphic design of data displays. (Flicker/ Kevin Dooley)
Travelers are often advised to avoid certain places when a big holiday comes -- New Orleans on Mardi Gras might be too bacchanalian for you, and midtown Manhattan on New Year's Eve can get awfully crowded. So if you're thinking of visiting Japan, you might want to avoid Oct. 18. It's Statistics Day, and it gets pretty crazy. OK, maybe not -- to be honest, I have no idea whether the Japanese treat Statistics Day with the solemnity it deserves or as just another excuse to blow off work and barbeque burgers. But the fact that they have an actual holiday whose purpose is celebrating the collection and analysis of data speaks of a culture that values precision and holds numbers in high esteem. When Statistics Day had its 30th anniversary in 2002, the Japanese government sifted through 2,934 entries to choose the winning slogan, "Statistical Surveys Owe You and You Owe Statistical Data." Not exactly "It's the real thing" or "I ♥ New York," but kind of sweet all the same. If we in America...

Judicial Abstraction

Republicans talk so much about "judicial activism" because it's a dog whistle to the base. Too bad that base is increasingly small and irrelevant.

It is becoming clear that conservatives will be unable to torpedo Sonia Sotomayor's nomination to the Supreme Court. What is also becoming clear is that they're losing an opportunity to convince the public that their vision of the courts is superior to that of progressives. And they have no one to blame but themselves. Even before President Barack Obama nominated Sotomayor, conservatives became incensed when Obama said that "empathy" was a key virtue he looked for in a justice. Empathy, they charged, was nothing but a "code word" masking Obama's true agenda. And these people know from code words. In fact, their biggest problem in this debate is that so much of the time, they themselves speak in code. Granted, some of the attacks aimed at Sotomayor are straightforward, albeit idiotic and tinged with the eternal grievance of the subjugated white male. But these are mere sidelights and considered by most of the Republicans in the Senate with the power to actually hold up Sotomayor's...