About once a quarter, James Carville emerges from the fastnesses of his Spanish moss-draped bayou lair and fires a broadside at the Democratic Party.
Seems like more often than not he vouchsafes his thunderous ruminations to Vox, a centrist Democratic website that puts on the airs of leftism, a characterization that I guess applies to the Democratic party as a whole.
Anyway, Vox interviewer Sean Illing seems to have been angling for Carville to grade Joe Biden’s first 100 days but instead Carville gifted him with a diatribe.
Biden was doing well, Carville said, because he is not an adherent to what Carville calls “faculty lounge” politics.
And what might those be, Illing asked.
You ever get the sense that people in faculty lounges in fancy colleges use a different language than ordinary people? They come up with a word like “Latinx” that no one else uses. Or they use a phrase like “communities of color.” I don’t know anyone who speaks like that. I don’t know anyone who lives in a “community of color.” I know lots of white and Black and brown people and they all live in ... neighborhoods.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with these phrases. But this is not how people talk. This is not how voters talk. And doing it anyway is a signal that you’re talking one language and the people you want to vote for you are speaking another language. This stuff is harmless in one sense, but in another sense it’s not.
Illing pounced — doesn’t that mean that these people outside the faculty lounge were racists at worst or, at best, sticking their heads in the sand on the issue?
No, Carville said, it was not that at all. Talking about race is non-negotiable; he just wants the grad school lingo to go away.
In his opinion, most Black voters don’t like it. In my own observation and limited experience, including a tiny amount of actual canvassing, Texas Hispanic voters don’t like the “LatinX” designation.
Which to Carville, a master of Realpolitik, is kind of beside the point, though still important. He believes that the Democrats will still win Black and Brown votes by large margins. He mainly wants to chip away at the GOP’s runaway advantage in rural America.
“If Democrats want power, they have to win in a country where 18 percent of the population controls 52 percent of the Senate seats,” he told Illing. “That’s a fact. That’s not changing. That’s what this whole damn thing is about.”
Carville is talking here, of course, about states like the Dakotas, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, Montana, and West Virginia where, as much as we may wish it were not so, Old White Men are in charge and will remain in charge for decades to come. “Faculty lounge” talk is anathema to them; unintelligible to some, and breeding shame in some others.
Fine, you might very well say: if they are racist, or sexist, or homophobic, or transphobic, they should be ashamed. I agree, but they also vote, and… well, I will ask you, the readers: how many of you have successfully shamed racist relatives or old friends into changing their ways? Carville accepts the reality of the fact that, with or without faculty lounge language, some voters will still pull the lever for a Republican demagogue, seemingly against their own interests.
“Large parts of the country view us as an urban, coastal, arrogant party, and a lot gets passed through that filter,” Carville said. “That’s a real thing. I don’t give a damn what anyone thinks about it — it’s a real phenomenon, and it’s damaging to the party brand.”
Indeed it is. From my experience, almost all of what the meathead white rural voter brands as "libruhl" is in fact the identity politics / faculty lounge jargon that the GOP is way beyond adept at portraying crazy talk.
And contrary to what we pretty much universally believe, the poor GOP voter is NOT voting against his self-interest. It's just his self-interests are stupid; he has allowed his sense of inferiority and shame to triumph over the possibility of actual material good -- universal healthcare, living wages. A Democrat might bring you that change, but you likely believe that person is an effete know-it-all, a wuss, or a straight-up danger to the country, and so instead you opt for the cheap thrill of sticking it to the smartypants party. Librul tears and all that…
But the issues on which the GOP crucifies the Democrats are very rarely economic ones. There is not as much widespread opposition to the $15 minimum wage of universal healthcare as you might think.
Look at Florida. You now have Democrats saying Florida is a lost cause. Really? In 2018 in Florida, giving felons the right to vote got 64 percent. In 2020, a $15 minimum wage, which we have no chance of passing [federally], got 67 percent. Has anyone in the Democratic Party said maybe there’s nothing wrong with the state of Florida? Maybe the problem is the kind of campaigns we’re running?
If you gave me an environment in which the majority of voters wanted to expand the franchise to felons and raise the minimum wage, I should be able to win that. It’s certainly not a political environment I’m destined to lose in. But in Miami-Dade, all they talked about was defunding the police and Kamala Harris being the most liberal senator in the US Senate. And if you look all across the Rio Grande Valley, we lost all kinds of solidly blue voters. And the faculty lounge bullshit is a big part of it.
Bear in mind here — he is not railing against the propensity for some in the party to engage in faculty lounge bullshit. He recognizes that Dems are the party of reason, after all, and as he said, there is nothing inherently wrong with the terminology.
Of far greater importance is the GOP’s malignant though extremely adept ability to weaponize these words and use them to scare eleven kinds of bejesus out of moderate voters. (I would argue that the allegedly liberal mainstream media plays a role in this too.)
Imagine that if instead of “Abolish the Police,” the agreed-upon slogan was “Reimagine Public Safety.” Same exact policy, albeit words inspiring hope instead of terror.
Carville also thinks the Democratic party still lacks a will or the ability to fight. He’s been saying this for decades now and he was right in 1992 and he still is today.
How is it, he wonders, that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whom he says is “obviously very bright” and a gifted politician, albeit one, who in his view, has political aspirations that are “impractical and probably not going to happen,” how is that she has been hung around the head of the Democrats like a dead albatross, while Marjorie Taylor, Greene — “absolutely loonier than a tune” — draws far less attention?
“The Democrats pay a bigger political price for AOC than Republicans pay for Greene,” Carville says. “That’s the problem in a nutshell. And it’s ridiculous because AOC and Greene are not comparable in any way.”
A great many Democratic voters won’t like this, but Carville wants to fight dirtier, appeal more to the lizard brains. Greene, and her crazy Colorado counterpart Lauren Boebert, should be brought up whenever possible, reminding the public at large of what true menaces they are.
And, Carville wonders, how many of you remember why Dennis Hastert, the longest-serving GOP speaker of the house in history, had to step down a few years back?
If you said “because he had a history of child molesting,” you win. He went to prison for it in 2016. And meanwhile you’ve got Q-Anon hordes running around claiming a vast Democratic / Hollywood / Wall Street conspiracy or vampiric reptile people child molesters, and nobody has brought up Hastert’s name.
“If Hastert was a Democrat who we knew had a history of molesting kids and was actually sent to prison in 2016, he’d still be on Fox News every fucking night,” Carville said. “The Republicans would never shut the hell up about it.”
Carville believes that the Dems should dredge up Hastert’s crimes whenever Ohio congressman Jim Jordan — another midwestern congressman with a background in amateur wrestling — needs to be put in his place. Carville wonders why Democrats don’t seize on every chance they can to regurgitate unproven though oft-repeated allegations that Jordan, as an assistant wrestling coach at the Ohio State University, is alleged by at least six of his former athletes to have turned a blind eye to sexual assaults committed by the team doctor.
So if I am Carville here, I am thinking you start to plant the seed of the GOP as a party with a weird streak of wrestling combined with sexual assault of young men. Instead, we’ve all forgotten about Hastert, and Jordan has sailed through this scandal more or less unscathed, MGT and Boebert kinda-sorta fly under the radar, but AOC and the Squad are infamous as perils to the American Way.
Carville acknowledges the Democratic tendency to take the high road, but you don’t really have to get too deep in the ditch. Just point out some facts. Don’t be shy about bringing up the past; the GOP never forgets, and they try to make sure voters never forgive even irrelevant bullshit like the fact we had a president who put his feet on his Oval Office desk, wore a tan suit to work one day, and professed to like a mustard other than French’s radioactive yellow concoction.
“I’m not saying we need to lie like they do,” he said. “I’m saying, why not go after Gaetz and Jordan and link them to Hastert and the Republican Party over and over and over again? We have to take these small opportunities to define ourselves and the other side every damn time. And we don’t do it. We just don’t do it.”
Branding 101, in other words. Carville believes the Democrats appeal solely to reason, and while there is nothing wrong — indeed everything right with doing so — it is not enough to win all the elections you need to win. You need slogans and sound bites, he contends. And you need to keep driving home the same night messages over and over.
“They have to make the Republicans own that insurrection every day. They have to pound it. They have to call bookers on cable news shows. They have to get people to write op-eds. There will be all kinds of investigations and stories dripping out for god knows how long, and the Democrats should spend every day tying all of it to the Republican Party.”
The thought is so old and cliched now it’s a pain in the ass to even type. Back in Trump’s presidency, I would marvel at all the occasions I had to imagine the media meltdowns — and not just on Fox News — if Obama had done some of the things Trump had done. Grab ‘em by the pussy, Stormy Daniels, saluting a North Korean general, blah blah blah.
And the insurrection is the same, Carville believes.
“Hell, just imagine if it was a bunch of nonwhite people who stormed the Capitol. Imagine how Republicans would exploit that and make every news cycle about how the Dems are responsible for it. Every political debate would be about that. The Republicans would bludgeon the Democrats with it forever.
So whatever you think Republicans would do to us in that scenario, that’s exactly what the hell we need to do them.”