subscribe: Posts | Comments      Facebook      Email Steve

The world according to Carville


The always-insightful James Carville gave a talk the other day, covering a variety of topics. Here are his main points, with my “take” on each.

Why Democrats aren’t as good as Republicans at messaging

Republicans always revert to the ferality of human beings: their primal fears, the reptilian instincts for killing and survival that still exist in our limbic brains. Whether it’s fear of “the other”–queers, brown-skinned foreigners, Antifa, Islamic terrorists–or, one of their favorite memes, fear of “big government,” Republicans know how to make frightened people even more frightened. A frightened person will generally circle the wagons around himself, his family and his peer group, and react with hostility to everyone else. This is the essence of Republicanism or, to call it by its proper name, Trumpism.

Democrats by contrast like to emphasize the interconnectedness of the world, its brotherhood and sisterhood. We’re all one; let’s sit around the campfire, roast marshmallows and sing Kumbaya. That surely is a very positive message, and the only one capable of bringing about world peace. But it’s a very easy message to satirize. This is how Republicans are currently making such hay with their ridicule of “woke” Democrats. So in the messaging wars, Republicans have the advantage.

How woke messaging is hurting Democrats in the polls

As I just wrote, “wokeism” is being used successfully to paint Democrats as out-of-touch eccentrics, who feel superior to everyone else. Woke people use phrases like “social justice,” “non-binary,” “cultural appropriation” and, yes, “woke” itself—silly phrases that sound like they were invented by some ivory tower-sheltered sociology assistant professor. Real people don’t use the language of “wokeism” and real people—working class, not super-educated—are the ones Republicans have recruited to such effect in recent decades. All a Republican candidate has to do is remind his factory-working voters that Democrats look down upon them as simple-minded idiots.

Should Democrats give Joe Manchin a harder time for opposing the elimination of the filibuster?

First, what does “give him a hard time” mean? Schumer could strip him of his committee assignments, the way the House stripped Taylor Greene of hers, but the only thing that would do would be to drive Manchin into the Republican Party, which would probably increase his popularity in West Virginia. Others have argued that Democrats should get tougher about doing away with the filibuster by using arcane Senate rules. But not all Democrats are in favor of that; even Biden currently opposes it. So it’s not clear what kind of “harder time” Democrats can give anyone. Besides, the ultimate get-around of the filibuster would be to win elections. If Democrats can’t do that, then tinkering with the filibuster is the least of their problems.

Should we even care about Trump voters as we look to the future?

This is a big question. Some 70 million Americans voted for Trump in 2020 and they continue to back him to the hilt. It’s tempting for Democrats to give the finger to these people and tell them to go hell. I have those temptations myself. I feel towards them the way I feel towards people who won’t get the vaccine. “I hope you get sick and die” would be one way to describe my thinking. At the same time, the rational voice inside me points out that, if Republicans get sick, they’ll spread the virus to Democrats and Independents as well, so wishing illness upon Republicans, while emotionally satisfying, is hardly a logical path forward.

Same with Trump voters. I have two words for them, and they ain’t “Merry Christmas.” But the rational voice inside me says that we have to live side-by-side with these people, and if we’re to avoid going to war with them, we have to figure out how to do it peacefully. This means convincing them of our beliefs. Some of them will never, ever concede their mistakes; evangelicals in particular are beyond reasoning with, and so we probably can write them off. But so many other Republicans are potentially convertible. I think of some of my own relatives who teeter-totter on the red-blue fence. They’re “get-attable,” as Franklin Roosevelt used to say of Stalin. So for these reasons, we should care about Trump voters.

The bottom line, for me, is that politics is a never-ending task. If we care about our country, and if we value the ideals we profess to believe in, we have to wake up every day prepared to do battle. Every election represents a potential tipping point. A Democratic sweep in 2022, and then again in 2024, might buy us years in which to recover from the injury four years of Trump inflicted upon America. That’s worth fighting for.

Leave a Reply


Recent Comments

Recent Posts