James Carville is predicting that former President Trump’s alleged mishandling of official documents could be the most significant story in a generation, with the potential to help transform the midterm elections.
“This Mar-a-Lago story … might be the biggest story since 9/11,” the Democratic strategist told The Hill in an on-camera interview. “That’s not going anywhere.”
But Carville also lambasted progressives in his own party for stances he branded “idiotic” because they are, to his mind, so out of step with public sentiment.
The slogan “defund the police,” Carville lamented, amounted to the “three worst words ever in the English language, maybe.”
Carville has been known for his pugilistic approach to politics since he played a leading role in guiding Bill Clinton from the governorship of Arkansas to the presidency in 1992.
That was the campaign in which he coined the phrase “it’s the economy, stupid” and set up a “war room” to respond promptly to conservative attacks — a move that was seen as innovative at the time and now seems almost quaint.
Thirty years later, Carville contends that Democrats can do better than most people expect in the midterms — partly because the GOP is putting up too many candidates who could struggle in a general election.
Carville being Carville, he put things more colorfully:
“The problem the Republican Party has is, they got really stupid people that vote in their primaries. And … really stupid people demand to have really stupid leaders. That’s where the Republican Party is now,” he said.
Carville’s no-holds-barred view emphasized potential losses for GOP Senate candidates like Blake Masters in Arizona, J.D. Vance in Ohio and, particularly, Herschel Walker in Georgia.
“Come on, man,” Carville said of Walker. “That guy had a ill-fitting helmet. He’s not right. He’s not right at all.”
That’s the kind of soundbite that seems calculated to drive some Republicans apoplectic even now.
The right’s longtime critique of Carville is that he has accelerated the politics of personal abuse — a trend for which conservatives feel they get unfairly blamed.
That won’t worry Carville at all.
Nor will resentment from progressives in his own party when he turns his fire on them.
Just as Clinton is identified with centrists in the Democratic Party, the same goes for his former lieutenant, who blames what he calls the “identity left” for various woes.
“We tend to get defined by some over-educated, totally doofus coastal elites that are out trying to write dictionaries or something unrelated to anybody’s life. And that kind of stuff has a tendency to be very sticky, to stick with people,” he said.
He added, of the left: “These people have the ability to irritate. They have the ability to come up with really stupid things, like ‘defund the police’ — three worst words ever in the English language, maybe. And you know, ‘Let’s get rid of Abraham Lincoln.’ That takes a really smart person to come up with that.”
There are not, in fact, many Democrats even on the left who want to cancel Lincoln.
But Carville’s broader argument is that the Democratic Party pays a high price for views that are confined to a fairly small fringe.
The GOP, he asserts, is not held to account in the same way for the much larger share of its supporters who back the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection or hold other radical views.
A Monmouth University poll released last month found that 61 percent of Republicans believe Jan. 6 was a “legitimate protest” and 58 percent believe that President Biden won the 2020 election only because of “voter fraud.”
“The media is addicted to both sides-ism. ‘Well, you have your crazies, they have their crazies, what the hell’s the difference?’ A lot,” Carville said.
Still, that does not mean the strategist is going to pull any punches about the left.
Speaking in the days after Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) had a narrower-than-expected win in her primary against a rival who is notably more sympathetic to the police, Carville said he was “not surprised at all.”
Referring to Omar, he said, “That’s really not what the Democratic Party or the Democratic voters are, at all. … The identity left doesn’t like Democratic voters. They don’t like, you know, James Clyburn, or Joe Biden, or Bill Clinton.”
Critiques of Clinton as a “corporate tool” who did little to help middle-class and working-class people amounted to “jackassery,” he insisted.
He was similarly scathing of the argument, commonly made by progressives, that more left-wing policies would energize voters and draw people to the polls who do not normally cast a ballot.
“There is everything to support that but evidence,” Carville said. “It’s idiotic. That’s what it is. It’s been tried and it fails and it’s going to fail every time. Because that’s not where people are. It’s just something they all [on the left] tell each other.”
In 2020, he noted, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) ran to the left of Biden.
“They didn’t just get beat. They got slaughtered. Slaughtered,” Carville said.
As for Biden himself, Carville praised “substantial achievements” that he contended have been overlooked.
“He’s probably had as good a summer as any presidents that I’ve seen, if you look at what happened. Can he communicate like Bill Clinton or President Obama? No. But if you look at performance…”
Asked if he expected Biden to be the party’s nominee in 2024, however, Carville claimed to be “a very superstitious guy” who did not want to look too far ahead.
He praised Biden’s “hugely impressive record” and noted that he is “certainly well-liked among Democrats.”
But for now, Carville said, he himself was “totally focused on 2022.”
For once, it felt like the strategist wasn’t fully speaking his mind.