Legendary Democratic Strategist James Carville, who played a fundamental role in Clinton’s victory against George H.W Bush in 1992 gave an explosive interview to the liberal media outlet, Vox, where he discussed the political future of the Democratic Party and why he believes that the current messaging of the Democratic Party does not work with most people in the country.
Originally, the interview was supposed to give the veteran strategist an opportunity to diagnose the first hundred days of the Biden administration. However, those were not Carville’s plans who immediately started ranting about the current state of Democratic politics, and specifically on what he calls “faculty lounge politics”, the obsession of using language that is not used by most voters and.
For Carville, the Democratic Party is obsessed with using complicated or strange terms when discussing any important issue in the public arena. He railed against the use of language (like Latinx) that nobody understands or uses and that this “too cool for school” approach by the Democratic party will not help them attain the majorities they need to govern.
Sean Illing, the interviewer, asked him if he has a problem with “wokeness”, to which Carville clearly said that yes he does, and that everyone (including many within the Democratic Party) agree on that but that they do not say it in public as they are afraid of being cancelled.
For Carville, one of the main problems Democrats are facing today is that a huge part of the country “view us as an urban, coastal, arrogant party” that is too focused on talking in a way that is only understandable for college elites instead of trying to talk the same language of the average American voter.
For Carville the problem is a very basic one, Democrats need to control the Senate if they want to have anything significant done while they are in power. The Senate gives significant power to rural or sparsely populated states in the union, which tend to vote Republican and Democrats need to work with those voters in mind, wheter they like it or not.
The strategist further said that there is fertile electoral ground for Democrats in the future, he uses the example of Florida, which even if voted for Trump in 2020 also approved a measure increasing the minimum wage to $15 and a proposal giving the right to vote to convicted felons.
The problem, for Carville, is that Democrats continue to also focus on policy proposals that are widely disliked by most Americans (like defunding the police) which only cement the image of the Party as not only disconnected from the general population but also radical. According to Carville ” we can’t say Republicans are going to call us socialists no matter what, so let’s just run as out-and-out socialists”.
In Carville’s analysis, Democrats risk losing the feeble majorities won in 2020 if they continue pushing for a messaging strategy that is out of touch or by openly supporting unpopular policies.
Balance of power
Carville also paints an insightful picture of the Democrat’s current hold on power. He said that even if Democrats managed to get the trifecta last November (Presidency, House and Senate) they only barely did it, noting that Republicans were only 42,000 votes short of holding the levers of power in Washington.
Democrats have pushed forward with a long list of legislative goals during these two years where they have complete control over the federal government. COVID relief, infrastructure, immigration, voting reform, abolishing the Filibuster, and D.C Statehood has been just a few of the legislative process that Democrats have tried to get through Congress.
For Carville, the discussions about how strong should Democrats push for radical bills in Congress is moot. For him the facts on the ground are quite simple, “Democrats can’t be more liberal than Sen. Joe Manchin. That’s the fact. We don’t have the votes.” In other words, it is the Democrats who need to adjust to Manchin, not the other way around.
Many of these comments might outrage many progressive pundits or politicians. In fact, American filmmaker and progressive activist, Bree Newsome tweeted a critique on Carville saying that the strategist is “demonstrating classic white liberal racism”.
Some Democrats and progressive activists might disagree with Carville or say that he is not woke enough, or that he is old-fashioned and not fit to the current state of American politics. However, it would be foolish to dismiss out of hand the diagnosis of the consultant who masterminded, in 1992, the underdog victory of Bill Clinton (then an unknown southern governor) against a sitting president who had 89% approval ratings a year earlier.
Winning elections is vital for any party that wants to gain power, some activists might think that doubling down on cultural wedge issues, or “woke”, might be a winning strategy. Carville disagrees, 2022 will tell us who’s right.