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James Carville is right: Democrats should be panicking

Laura Hollis on

Legendary Democratic strategist James Carville was interviewed by Vox's Sean Illing last week after Carville's doom-and-gloom jeremiad on MSNBC got a lot of people's attention. In his inimitable fashion, Carville warned that Democrats' love affair with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is sending the party hurtling toward resounding defeat in November.

"Bernie Sanders isn't a Democrat," Carville insisted. "He's never been a Democrat. He's an ideologue."

Carville clearly thinks that Sanders has moved the party too far to the left, and he sharply criticized all the candidates' fixation with ideas that resonate only with the party's far-left wing, like "free college tuition" and student "debt forgiveness." "(P)eople all over this country worked their way through school, sent their kids to school, paid off student loans," he said. "They don't want to hear this s---. ... It's just not a winning message."

Carville also chastised Democrats for their condescension toward Southerners and rural Americans. And he warned that trying to be the lefty flavor du jour risks alienating a core constituency: African Americans. "These voters are a hell of a lot more important than a bunch of 25-year-olds shouting everyone down on Twitter."

Carville's rant earned plenty of praise from Republicans on Twitter. But even a quick read makes it clear that Carville isn't necessarily opposed to the ideas that the most "progressive" Democrats are pitching. He's just warning Democrats not to tip their hand too soon: "We have candidates on the debate stage talking about open borders and decriminalizing illegal immigration. ... 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. ... The purpose of a political party is to acquire power. All right? Without power, nothing matters."

But it likely doesn't matter much anyway. Carville, like his protege former President Bill Clinton, is considered by many on the left to be a vestige of another era.

 

Take The New Republic, for example. In an article titled "The obsolete politics of James Carville," author Ed Burmila attacks Carville's abundance of caution, saying, "This is endemic among liberals of the Clinton 1990s vintage, the insistence that their caricatured ideal of the working class cannot stomach the sort of change the left wing of the party prefers."

In other words, "OK, boomer."

Burmila clearly thinks that this is the far-left's moment, and he is not alone. Sanders, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and plenty of other Democrats on the scene maintain that the time for Clintonesque "triangulation" and the delicate dance of campaign dissembling is past, that voters are ready to accept all those "crazy" ideas that Carville dismisses as electoral suicide: open borders, taxpayer-funded abortion, single-payer health care, skyrocketing taxation and -- yeah, baby, yeah -- full-throated socialism.

Good luck with that.

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