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

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...

Reparations, Really?

Nati Harnik/AP Photo
Nati Harnik/AP Photo As part of her recent proposals on college tuition, Elizabeth Warren included $50 billion for historically black colleges and universities and minority-serving institutions. Donald Trump and Steve Bannon must be smiling from ear to ear and celebrating their good fortune whenever they hear one of the Democratic presidential candidates endorsing a bill to establish a commission to study reparations for descendants of slaves—a proposal that everyone will take as preliminary to support for financial reparations. It's the sort of idea Trump and Bannon can work with, to expand and lock down Republican support among white voters next year. Not every idea with a moral justification has a political justification in an imperfect world. If Democrats fail to win the 2020 election, Trump will have an opportunity to bring about deeper and more durable change in his second term than in his first . For one thing, he’ll likely be able to add two more conservatives to...

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...

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