Paul Starr

A Wasted Crisis?

Why the Democrats did so little to change Wall Street

Beyond the immediate emergency, the financial crisis of 2008 also set up a critical test of governing capacity: could Congress and the incoming Obama administration take advantage of the crisis, defy cynical expectations, and adopt effective legislation to restore financial stability and prevent another meltdown?

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IN THE HISTORY OF election forecasting, 2012 was 1936 all over again, with the roles updated. In 1936, a trio of new forecasters—Elmo Roper, Archibald Crossley, and George Gallup—used statistical sampling methods and predicted that Franklin D. Roosevelt would win re-election, contrary to the best-known “straw poll” of the time, conducted by The Literary Digest. The Digest mailed ballots to millions of automobile owners and telephone subscribers, groups that in the midst of the Depression drastically over-represented Republicans.

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The Unheavenly Chorus: Unequal Political Voice and the Broken Promise of American Democracy By Kay Lehman Schlozman, Sidney Verba, and Henry E. Brady (Princeton University Press, 693 pp., $35) Oligarchy By Jeffrey A. Winters (Cambridge University Press, 323 pp., $29.99) The MoveOn Effect: The Unexpected Transformation of American Political Advocacy By David Karpf (Oxford University Press, 237 pp., $27.95)   THIS IS A SEASON of political anxiety, and the source of that unease is not only the election and looming economic uncertainties.

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Between the Lines

SOME VICTORIES prepare the ground for more victories; others lay the basis for future defeats. The great question for liberals about the Supreme Court’s decision on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is which kind of victory it is. John Roberts’s decision to spare the ACA at least allows the president this fall to claim health reform as a major achievement. But the chief justice’s new limits on the scope of the Commerce clause and federal spending powers may put future reforms at risk of being struck down and require liberals to rethink their approach to national policy.

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On Compromise and Rotten Compromises By Avishai Margalit (Princeton University Press, 221 pp., $26.95) The Spirit of Compromise: Why Governing Demands It and Campaigning Undermines It By Amy Gutmann and Dennis Thompson (Princeton University Press, 279 pp., $24.95)  “Ideals may tell us something important about what we would like to be,” the political philosopher Avishai Margalit writes.

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If Democrats had it to do all over again, would they really frame the individual health-insurance mandate in the 2010 health law in the way that they did? In “The Mandate Miscalculation,” a recent article I wrote for The New Republic, I argue that Congress and the president made three miscalculations in one—a miscalculation about the courts, another about the politics, and a third about the policy itself.

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The Mandate Miscalculation

Democrats didn’t see it coming: Before the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, neither congressional leaders nor the White House anticipated that one specific provision—the mandate requiring individuals to maintain a minimum level of health insurance—would spark such a ferocious political and legal backlash. Yet, nearly two years later, controversy surrounding the mandate dominates the national conversation about health care reform.

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Why American politics and society are about to be changed for the worse.

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Welcome To The Party

On the Side of the Angels: An Appreciation of Parties and PartisanshipBy Nancy Rosenblum (Princeton University Press, 576 pp., $29.95) Partisanship is resurgent in America, and hardly anyone likes it. To say that American politics has become polarized along party lines is tantamount, for most people, to acknowledging that something has gone wrong with the country.

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Nothing Neo

Did Irving Kristol even have a philosophy?

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