The affinity of some American conservatives for Vladimir Putin was a minor phenomenon well before Donald Trump ran for president, and for obvious reasons it’s still grist for the mill of punditry. Liberal blogger and columnist Waldman delved into the topic in a Monday piece for The American Prospect. Waldman mused that maybe Republicans “are just now realizing that Putin is a leader after their own hearts,” explaining, “An avatar of anxious masculinity, [Putin] finds democratic constraints inconvenient, rules with an iron hand, and has a habit of having his enemies killed.”
Give columnist Paul Waldman credit for coming up with a real grabber of a lead: “Get ready, America: we're about to take a long and unpleasant journey back down Bill Clinton's pants.” Less amusing is the rest of Waldman’s Monday American Prospect piece, which trashed Republicans for raising the 42nd president’s sexual behavior as an issue in the current campaign.
Waldman jeered at GOPers for “pretend[ing] to…care so deeply about women” while being “the party that wants to keep women from being able to sue for discrimination on the job, the party that wants to keep insurance companies from having to provide coverage for birth control, the party that wants to make abortion illegal, the party whose favorite media figure, Rush Limbaugh, positively luxuriates in his hateful misogyny.” Moreover, argued Waldman, reporters’ fascination with Clinton’s sex life demonstrates that “the right's charges of endemic liberal media bias” are “laughable.”
If Paul Waldman had wanted to put the main argument of his Monday American Prospect column in Obamaesque terms, he might have written that conservative opponents of political correctness have gotten bitter and are clinging to their supposed right (and maybe even their duty) to act like jerks.
“For today's Republican, if people think you're a jerk then you must be doing something right, and the political correctness charge has become an all-purpose answer to criticism of any sort,” contended Waldman. “You say my beliefs are abominable? Take your political correctness and shove it! It's a way to pose as a brave truth-teller, even if all that's actually happening is that people are pointing out that you're a brave crap-teller.”
Liberals, hinted Waldman in a Monday American Prospect column, need to remember that the legislative journey of a thousand miles begins with a few steps. Waldman acknowledged that even if “modest gun control” measures such as expanded background checks were to pass, the U.S. would “still have more gun deaths than any other industrialized country,” but that’d be better than the status quo.
Waldman likened that prospect to what he said is the important (though hugely insufficient) improvement in our health-care system that’s resulted from Obamacare. He called the Affordable Care Act “a reform, not a revolution” (though plenty of conservatives might argue that “revolution” would be more fitting).
In mid-July, The Huffington Post announced it would cover Donald Trump’s presidential campaign as entertainment news. Waldman might like that policy extended to GOPers in general, since he thinks they’re more about sound-and-fury theatrics than ideas or legislative accomplishments.
“Today's Republicans,” wrote Waldman in a Sunday American Prospect column, “truly have created not just a politics of anger, but a politics utterly removed from any substance at all. Policy goals may be the nominal justification for all the anger, but in truth nobody bothers figuring out how they might be achieved. The performance is its own end.”
Among the insights: Fiorina "has a notable facility for delivering answers that thrill conservatives but fall apart under close examination"; a discussion of childhood vaccines showed that the party is "fervid, claustrophobic, recklessly insinuating, and, at the same time, utterly timid when it comes to extremism in its own ranks”; and the GOP as a whole is "wedded to the tenets of [George W.] Bushism — rabid, debt-financed, regressive tax-cutting, reflexive hostility to regulation, and a pervasive anti-intellectualism."
For close to a hundred and fifty years, the elephant has represented the Republican party, but The American Prospect’s Meyerson suggests that these days, a more fitting choice for the GOP’s symbol would be an extended middle finger.
In his analysis of Thursday’s prime-time presidential debate, Meyerson, who also writes a weekly column for The Washington Post, identified several of the candidates onstage in Cleveland as “Fuck-You Republicans.” He explained that some FYRs, such as Ted Cruz and Scott Walker, qualify by dint of ideology; others (Donald Trump, Chris Christie) make it in mostly through anger and abrasiveness.
To lefty pundit Paul Waldman, journalists are like detectives, not activists. They relish discovering and exposing the secrets of politicians, but they don’t much care whether the pols are liberal or conservative, given that “ideological bias is among the[ir] least important” motives.
For example, regarding recent New York Times stories about Marco Rubio’s driving record and personal finances, Waldman claimed in a Sunday American Prospect column that “no one who thinks about the news media in a serious way could believe that articles like these are driven by an ideological bias. If that were the case, then the Times would be giving Hillary Clinton a free ride, and they've done anything but…That goes for the rest of the media as well; whatever you think about Hillary Clinton, she's hardly a favorite of political reporters.”
And, who knows, some might even make the case that the media are pro-Rubio. After all, commented Waldman, they’ve “done plenty to elevate [him] from an ordinary first-term senator into a legitimate presidential contender.”
Edmund Burke wrote that “a state without the means of some change is without the means of its conservation.” To American Prospect blogger Paul Waldman, “change” for conservatives means living to fight another day by conceding battle after battle to liberals.
“Much of the history of the United States,” wrote Waldman in a Friday post, “is a slow but inexorable movement in a progressive direction, as one issue after another is eventually settled in favor of the position liberals had been advocating, from slavery to women's suffrage to Jim Crow to the legalization of contraception to sex discrimination and up to gay rights today. You can find exceptions…but the fundamental trend in social relations moves in only one direction.”
Waldman stated that right-wing “rhetoric…is absolutely awash in nostalgia” but added that some conservatives seem to be making their peace with an America no longer ruled by older men of northern European ancestry.
For liberals, the great mystery of the last few decades is how Republicans usually have won enough votes to control one or both houses of Congress even as the party moves increasingly to the right. As political-science profs Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson put it in their 5,500-word article in the spring issue of The American Prospect, “In a 50-50 nation, Republicans have learned how to have their extremist cake and eat it too.”
Hacker (of Yale) and Pierson (of UC Berkeley) contend that there are two major reasons why the GOP has been able to “mak[e] American politics ever more dysfunctional while largely avoiding accountability for its actions.” One is that our system of government, with its “dispersal of authority,” makes it hard for voters to see which party is causing the trouble. The other is that our “often-feckless news media” have routinely failed to enlighten the public that “Republicans are primarily responsible for polarization and deadlock” and that GOPers have engineered “an ongoing massive shift of…the ‘center’ of American politics…toward the anti-government fringe.”
Vaccine skeptics have a well-deserved reputation for not caring about facts, but according to American Prospect blogger Paul Waldman, many right-wing anti-taxers resemble anti-vaxxers in terms of their shaky grasp of reality.
“All the GOP presidential candidates are lining up to receive the wisdom of Arthur Laffer as they formulate their economic plans,” wrote Waldman in a Friday post. “This is the rough equivalent of doctors seeking to lead the American College of Pediatricians competing to see which one can win the favor of Jenny McCarthy…Laffer's theory has been as thoroughly disproven as phrenology or the notion that the stars are pinholes in the blanket Zeus laid across the sky.”
In a Friday American Prospect piece (originally published on Wednesday in the Washington Post) WaPo columnist Harold Meyerson suggested that even though the South didn’t win the Civil War, its mean-spirited ideas, racial and otherwise, now drive the Republican party.
Meyerson asserted that today’s GOP “is not just far from being the party of Lincoln: It’s really the party of Jefferson Davis. It suppresses black voting; it opposes federal efforts to mitigate poverty; it objects to federal investment in infrastructure and education just as the antebellum South opposed internal improvements and rejected public education; it scorns compromise. It is nearly all white. It is the lineal descendant of Lee’s army, and the descendants of Grant’s have yet to subdue it.”