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, which will be out next year.

Recent Articles

Is Brazil about to Have Its Last Democratic Election?

AP Photo/Eraldo Peres Brazilian presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro greets supporters during a campaign rally in Brasilia's Ceilandia neighborhood. A founding election, according to studies of democratization, is the crucial first election after the end of an authoritarian regime. So what shall we call the opposite—elections where the voters decide whether they will put an end to democracy and turn to authoritarianism? A “shutdown election” might be an apt term. Brazil is having a shutdown election on October 28, the second round of the presidential race between the candidate of the far right, Jair Bolsonaro, who received 46 percent of the vote in the first round, and the candidate of the left-wing Workers’ Party, Fernando Haddad, who received 28 percent. Most observers consider it nearly certain that Bolsonaro will receive the additional support he needs to take power. Bolsonaro, a congressman and former army captain, is not just a “populist conservative,” as some news reports...

The Only Good to Come of the Kavanaugh Fight

AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill. T he fight over Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court has ended with a double defeat for Democrats. Not only will he sit on the Court; the confirmation battle has also roused Republicans for the November election and helped close the “enthusiasm gap” that existed earlier this year. That’s not to say Democrats should have ducked this fight. There’s no way to win in politics or in anything else if you give up in advance. And the Kavanaugh battle may bring about one good result, though it’s nothing to cheer about. Many Americans have an out-of-date view of the Supreme Court as a bulwark of liberalism. In fact, Republican presidents have made 15 out of the last 19 Supreme Court appointments, and the rulings of the most recently appointed justices have increasingly followed partisan lines. The decisions about same-sex...

Can a Blue Wave Save America?

mmac72/Getty This article appears in the Fall 2018 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . E lections are a democracy’s error-correction system, and the United States has never needed an error-correcting midterm election more than it does this fall. The midterms come at an hour of exceptional danger to the republic from unfit and unstable presidential leadership. They come at a time when the party in control of all branches of the federal government has reinforced long-term trends toward economic inequality and reversed steps the government had taken to slow global warming. They come amid the incitement of racial division and hatred of immigrants, the weakening of the nation’s alliances, the demonization of the press, and flagrant lies and corruption at the highest levels of government. In short, the midterms could not come a moment too soon. If America is to pull back from the course it is now on, that change has to start with the voters. But this fall’s election...

Michael Bloomberg and the Case of the Homeless Republicans

AP Photo/Lynne Sladky Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks at the annual U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in Miami Beach, Florida. A merica’s homeless have lately been joined by a new group: wealthy, moderate Republicans whose home has been seized by Donald Trump after they were long made to feel unwelcome in their old neighborhood. Democrats, always sympathetic to the displaced, now face a choice about whether to take in this new population of the uprooted and forlorn. No one better embodies the homeless Republicans than Michael Bloomberg, who has recently been reported as mulling a race for president as a Democrat. According to Forbes , Bloomberg is the tenth richest person in the world, with a net worth of $53 billion, and he is spending $80 million of it to support Democratic candidates for the House this year. Democrats are certainly glad to have that financial support. They are also glad to have the support of the reclusive hedge fund manager Seth Klarman (net...

The Big Choice about the Supreme Court that Democrats Will Face

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, looks over his notes during a third round of questioning on the third day of his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill W ith Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation nearly certain—and perhaps other right-wing justices to follow in coming years—Democrats are going to face a fundamental choice about the Supreme Court the next time they control the presidency and Congress and try to carry out substantial reforms. When that moment comes in 2021, 2025, or later, the Court will likely have reversed many long-standing liberal precedents and policies and be poised to strike down new progressive initiatives. Many people assume there is nothing Democrats could do that in that circumstance. But instead of simply acceding to the Court’s dictates, they could take a fateful step that the Constitution leaves open: increasing the size of the Court and appointing additional justices to shift the...

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