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 Xenophobia Politically Rational?

The evidence from the 2018 election is now in.

AP Photo/Jeff Roberson Members of the audience cheer as President Donald Trump leaves the stage at the end of a campaign rally in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. J ust as he had in 2016, Donald Trump defied the conventional wisdom about how to win in 2018 by making inflammatory statements about immigrants and refugees. This year, when he might have emphasized the state of the economy, he chose instead in the final weeks of the campaign to whip up hysteria about the immigrant caravan in Mexico, claim that refugees bring in gangs and terrorists, and call for an end to birthright citizenship. Trump’s incendiary rhetoric has renewed a debate about whether he and other Republicans who have made similar appeals to their base are acting impulsively from the gut or according to a rational political logic. The results of the 2018 election now provide more evidence on that question, though not a definitive answer. Before the election, Matt A. Barreto—a UCLA political scientist who is a co-founder of...

The Message of the Synagogue Slaughter

(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
(AP Photo/Matt Rourke) Stars of David are displayed in front of the Tree of Life Synagogue with the names of those killed in the shooting in Pittsburgh. N ot all shocks should surprise us. When political leaders summon up the dark forces of racial hatred and xenophobia, violence is bound to follow, whether or not they order it directly. The murder of 11 Jews in a Pittsburgh synagogue may have seemed like a throwback to the bloody chapters of the past, but it carried an unmistakable, present-day stamp of presidential influence. Shortly before the accused assassin, Robert Bowers, entered the Tree of Life synagogue Saturday morning, he posted a message on social media identifying HIAS, the Jewish agency that resettles refugees, as the immediate source of his fury: “HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.” Where would Bowers have gotten the idea that refugees are “invaders” who “kill our...

How Independents May Swing Four Races for Governor

Closely divided contests this year magnify the role of independent candidates and voters.

(AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
(AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty) Maine gubernatorial candidate Democrat Janet Mills, far left, speaks during a debate with fellow candidates independent Alan Caron, independent Teresea Hayes, and Republican Shawn Moody, on October 17, 2018 in Augusta, Maine. M any people talk about independents as though they are a coherent group in America, but independent voters and candidates are all over the map—politically and geographically. Although the “independent” label suggests a high-minded detachment from partisanship, the great majority of independents lean toward one party or the other. In a New York Times op-ed yesterday, political scientists Samara Klar and Yanna Krupnikov estimate that about 36 percent of independents lean toward the Democrats and 42 percent toward the Republicans, while the remaining “pure” independents pay little attention to politics and vote infrequently. Like independent voters, independent candidates come from across the political spectrum. Some are to the right of...

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...