Paul Starr

Paul Starr is co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect, and professor of sociology and public affairs at Princeton University. A winner of the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction and the Bancroft Prize in American history, he is the author of eight books, including Entrenchment: Wealth, Power, and the Constitution of Democratic Societies (Yale University Press, May 2019).

Recent Articles

Democrats Need a First-Things-First Campaign

The dichotomies of the current Democratic presidential race—revolution versus restoration, progressive versus moderate—now stand in the way of a rational assessment of what the party has to do to win, and what the times demand. Democrats need what I’d call a “first-things-first” campaign: a campaign that emphasizes progressive responses to the historically urgent challenges we face and recognizes the difficulties—political, practical, and even philosophical—of trying to check off all at once every item on the progressive wish list. What are those historically urgent problems? The climate emergency comes first. Candidates call it an “existential threat,” but they aren’t giving it the priority those words imply. In dealing with climate, unlike many other issues, time is of the essence: The more we delay decarbonization, the more costly and political difficult it becomes, until catastrophe will be unavoidable. The basic premise...

Can the Democrats Define Their Own Cause?

Until Donald Trump’s tweet tirade against the “Squad,” I was getting pessimistic about the chances that Democrats could overcome their divisions for the 2020 election. Now, at least for the moment, Trump has solved that problem—nothing unifies Democrats better than a racist and xenophobic attack. But I’m even more concerned about how Trump continues to dominate the framing of America’s choices in 2020. This is an election that ought to be about the climate emergency facing America and the world. It ought to be about the continuing economic insecurity of families at a time when the gains from growth—and from Trump’s tax cuts—flow overwhelmingly to the rich. It ought to be about the affordability of housing, health care, education, and other basic needs. The election ought to be about the corruption that Trump has brought to Washington, his abuse of presidential powers, and the risk he poses to constitutional norms and democracy. It...

The Anti-Entrenchment Agenda

Prospect illustration, photo by J. Scott Applewhite/AP Images
Prospect illustration, photo by J. Scott Applewhite/AP Images This article appears in the Summer 2019 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . Two anxieties are currently driving American politics. On the right, the anxiety is about the demographic and cultural trends favoring Democrats. People of color represent only 21 percent of Americans born before 1946, but they amount to 44 percent of millennials —and, according to a Pew survey , 57 percent of millennials place themselves among liberals, while only 12 percent side with conservatives. Election by election, more liberal voters are coming of age, while more conservatives are dying off. For decades, the right has been fighting cultural and political change and the demands of women and minorities. Now panic has set in among conservatives as they realize they are losing the future. That anxiety has fed the obsession with immigration and increasing radicalism on the right—the willingness to support Donald...

Can Warren Overtake Sanders?

The race for the left lane in the Democratic Party looks like it’s changing.

In a nomination battle that requires candidates to get at least 15 percent of the vote to win delegates in a primary, the presence of both Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren—as well as other candidates with appeal to liberals—has always had the potential of splitting the left and denying any of a state’s delegates to Sanders or Warren, or possibly both. A few months ago, it looked as though Sanders had the advantage and might knock Warren out of the race as early as the New Hampshire primary. But things are looking different now as Warren’s campaign picks up speed. If she matches or overtakes Sanders, it could affect the entire character of the presidential race. Although Joe Biden continues to have a double-digit lead in the polls, the race between Sanders and Warren has tightened, and what is impressive is where Warren’s support is coming from. In a recent Quinnipiac poll , Warren not only led Sanders by a margin of 30 percent to 22 percent among...

What Joe Needs to Do

At every social gathering I’ve been to recently, conversation eventually turns to who the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee should be. So far I don’t have a candidate, but I do have criteria. The Democratic Party today is both a coalition and a movement , and the presidential nominee has to lead the movement while holding the coalition together. That candidate could come from different directions: a movement candidate who appreciated the demands of the coalition; a coalition candidate who convincingly embraced the movement; or someone in between, who artfully bridged the party’s various tendencies. So how does that apply to Joe Biden? As I see it, for Biden not only to win the election but also to be a successful president at this moment in history, he has to show that he could take up the banner of the movement that the Democratic Party has become, not just manage the coalition. To be sure, many Democrats, especially on the left, don’t trust Biden to be...

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