Why the longtime Democratic strategist is “scared to death” of the 2020 election.
James Carville is “scared to death” of the November 2020 election.
In a rant on MSNBC that went viral on Tuesday evening, the longtime Democratic strategist vented his concerns about the party’s prospects for beating Donald Trump, taking particular aim at the party’s leftward lurch.
“Eighteen percent of the population controls 52 Senate seats,” Carville said. “We’ve got to be a majoritarian party. The urban core is not gonna get it done. What we need is power! Do you understand? That’s what this is about.”
His diatribe took place against the backdrop of an Iowa caucus that had fallen into chaosand amid a rancorous ongoing debate among Democrats over the party’s direction. He took particular aim at Sen. Bernie Sanders, whom he fears could lead the party to defeat in November.
Carville’s lament distills a concern among the Democratic Party’s establishment: Will ideological purity and playing to the base cost the Democrats victory in November? For Carville at least, “We have one moral imperative and that’s to beat Donald Trump.” That his comments went viral speaks to the sense of urgency among Democrats, even as it only fuels the debate over the direction of the party.
I spoke with Carville this week by phone. We discussed where he thinks the Democrats went wrong, what it will take to build a majoritarian party in this climate, and why he doesn’t have a lot of confidence in the current field of candidates.
A lightly edited transcript of our conversation follows.
Why are you “scared to death” about the 2020 election?
Look, the turnout in the Iowa caucus was below what we expected, what we wanted. Trump’s approval rating is probably as high as it’s been. This is very bad. And now it appears the party can’t even count votes. What the hell am I supposed to think?
I’ll just say it this way: The fate of the world depends on the Democrats getting their shit together and winning in November. We have to beat Trump. And so far, I don’t like what I see. And a lot of people I talk to feel the same way.
What’s gone wrong? Who’s responsible?
I don’t know. We just had an election in 2018. We did great. We talked about everything we needed to talk about and we won. And now it’s like we’re losing our damn minds. Someone’s got to step their game up here.
What does that mean?
In 2018, Democrats recruited really strong candidates, really qualified candidates. And the party said, “This is what we’re going to talk about and we’re going to keep talking about it.” And you know what happened? We fucking won. We didn’t get distracted, we didn’t get deflected.
Give me an example of what you mean by distractions.
We have candidates on the debate stage talking about open borders and decriminalizing illegal immigration. They’re talking about doing away with nuclear energy and fracking. You’ve got Bernie Sanders talking about letting criminals and terrorists vote from jail cells. It doesn’t matter what you think about any of that, or if there are good arguments — talking about that is not how you win a national election. It’s not how you become a majoritarian party.
For fuck’s sake, we’ve got Trump at Davos talking about cutting Medicare and no one in the party has the sense to plaster a picture of him up there sucking up to the global elites, talking about cutting taxes for them while he’s talking about cutting Medicare back home. Jesus, this is so obvious and so easy and I don’t see any of the candidates taking advantage of it.
The Republicans have destroyed their party and turned it into a personality cult, but if anyone thinks they can’t win, they’re out of their damn minds.