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

Three Reasons the Democrats Have a Leadership Problem

Political parties that ought to be a strong position don’t always come up with leaders who can seize opportunities to win. Look at Britain’s Labour Party today. The ruling Conservatives have plunged the country into a crisis with Brexit and lost public confidence, but according to public opinion surveys , the voters think even less of Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn than of Theresa May and still give Conservatives an edge. Labour’s failure to produce a credible alternative should remind Democrats that their presidential nominee in 2020 could very well end up losing despite Donald Trump’s unpopularity. Although a strong candidate may emerge, the Democrats do not yet have anyone who looks well positioned to beat Trump—a problem that I think stems not so much from the individuals who are running as from the obstacles that historical change has thrown up in the party’s path back to the White House. 1) New norms and generational change. Norms and beliefs...

The Robocall Deluge Is a Case of Government Failure

If your experience has been like mine, your phone has become a lot less useful to you in recent years thanks to the surge of robocalls. The robocall epidemic has gone way beyond an annoyance; it has contaminated an entire medium of communication, cell phones as well as landlines. It’s not just that robocalls interrupt your dinner. Neighbor spoofing—the false transmission to caller ID of a number similar to your own—often makes it impossible to identify what calls are genuine. If I don’t know for sure who is calling, I generally don’t pick up. And since I assume that many other people now do the same in self-defense, I don’t call people who won’t recognize my number or aren’t expecting me to call. The phone has consequently lost much of the value it once had for everyday purposes such as contacting someone for the first time or organizing a community initiative or a political campaign. The effect on people’s willingness to answer...

2020 and the Democrats’ Theory of Change

Michael Nigro/Sipa via AP Images On March 15, 2019, thousands of students from New York City—and around the world—walked out of class to protest the lack of action to protect the earth from catastrophic climate change. This is a preview of the Spring issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . As Democrats prepare for 2020, they face a fundamental quandary. The theories of change offered by their most recent president, Barack Obama, and previous presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, have been shot to hell. I borrow the phrase “theory of change” from an article that Mark Schmitt wrote for the Prospect in December 2007 about the candidates who were vying for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. Rather than being about ideology or electability, Schmitt wrote, the nomination fight that year was about differing assumptions about politics and how to use the “levers of power” to get things done. Schmitt suggested that Obama wasn...

Here’s How the Democratic Presidential Nomination Will Go

Since the Democratic presidential nomination is wide open and will have more than a dozen serious candidates, it is foolhardy and premature to speculate about how the race will play out. So let’s be foolhardy and premature and do exactly that. In the early polls—to which, of course, we should pay no attention whatsoever—Kamala Harris has broken out of the pack of new candidates and is running third, behind the two old guys with the widest name recognition, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, both of whose support may be soft. That trio does make a certain degree of sense in terms of the party’s make-up. As an African American and child of immigrants (from Jamaica and India), Harris may win particularly strong support from people of color. Sanders’s biggest appeal is to white progressives and others who want to shake up the status quo, while Biden is the candidate of continuity, moderation, and familiarity, though he hasn’t yet said whether he’s...

This Baby Is Overdue

America, can universal child care finally get your attention?

agenda_2020.jpg When Senator Elizabeth Warren issued a bold plan for universal child care earlier this week, the question some people asked was the usual one: How will she pay for it? Warren has a good answer to that question, which I’ll come to. But there’s a second question that is actually more difficult: How will child care get the necessary public and media attention to make it a top priority? In 2016, Hillary Clinton issued a proposal for universal access to child care that was similar to Warren’s, though not as extensive. Clinton called for federal subsidies to cap child care costs at 10 percent of family income, whereas Warren proposes to cap those costs at 7 percent. Like Warren today, Clinton wanted to build on existing locally run programs such as Head Start to make child care affordable for all families. And like Warren, Clinton also framed the program as serving the purposes of both economic growth and family well-being, as Katie Hamm and Sarah Jane...

Pages