Carville’s Warning to Democrats
James Carville is a well-known Democratic operative, and yet he’s also capable of causing trouble for Democrats. That’s what happened in an April 27 interview, when he declared, “Wokeness is a problem, and we all know it.” A problem, that is, for the Democratic Party. As Carville explained:
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.
We might pay special attention to some of Carville’s word-choices: “people in faculty lounges in fancy colleges.” There’s a stereotype that leading Democrats hang out in the Ivy League and other posh colleges—and Carville agrees with it.
Indeed, he went on to attack “jargon-y language that’s unrecognizable to most people—including most Black people.” Picking up on his theme of a snobby dimension to leftist thinking, Carville added, “This ‘too cool for school’ [bleep] doesn’t work, and we have to stop it.”
Here we can pause to quote conservative Scott Alexander, who wrote earlier this year, “Wokeness is a made-up mystery religion that college-educated people invented so they could feel superior to you.” Continuing, Alexander added, “The whole point is that the only way not to be racist is to master an inscrutable and constantly-changing collection of fashionable shibboleths and opinions which are secretly class norms.”
So we can see: Alexander is agreeing with Carville; the whole essence of wokeness is that it’s a status symbol. Just as some people choose to raise themselves—at least in their own estimation—by gaining an affected accent, others seek to gain status by becoming fluent in woke. Politically correct lingo thus further distinguishes Berkeley, CA, from, say, Beckley, WV.
Then Carville, a native of rural Louisiana, known as the “Ragin’ Cajun,” roared some more, saying of Democratic vulnerability, “I think it’s because large parts of the country view us as an urban, coastal, arrogant party.”
We can also add: “rich.” Of the ten richest states (including the District of Columbia), as measured by per capita income, Joe Biden carried eight last year; of the ten poorest states, Donald Trump carried nine. Drilling down a bit, we can also see that Democrats represent 41 of the 50 most affluent districts in the U.S. House.
Yet it’s not just that Democrats are woke and wealthy. In addition, some of their best-known policy ideas are way-y-y out of touch with ordinary people. But don’t take my world for it—here’s Carville: “Maybe tweeting that we should abolish the police isn’t the smartest thing to do because almost [bleeping] no one wants to do that.”
Not surprisingly, Carville’s words didn’t play well with the woken. Transgender activist Charlotte Clymer lamented that Carville has “chosen to buy into this bizarre myth that asking adults to be empathetic and responsible is ‘wokeness.’”
And the woken website Jezebel jabbed, “Carville seems to have one job of late: Popping up to offer his list of grievances about the left’s influence on the Democratic Party.” The writer then addd a racialist snipe at “People—often white, often men—with large and influential platforms who redefine co-opted terms like ‘woke’ and dictate its supposed harm.”
Yet interestingly, on April 30, Jaime Harrison, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, seemed to agree with Carville. As Harrison said of Carville, “there’s some truth to what he says,” and then he added:
Ultimately, working people just want somebody, and their leaders, to speak plain English, to speak to them in the way that they operate, in the space that they operate in.
We might recall that Harrison was the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate seat in South Carolina last year, in which he challenged Sen. Lindsey Graham—and that in September 2020, he was running dead even with Graham. But then Graham started running TV spots lambasting Harrison and Democrats for wanting to defund the police. Graham’s spots did the job. In November, Harrison lost by 10 points, despite spending $130 million, vastly more than Graham.
Summing up the election afterward, Harrison’s former boss and longtime mentor, Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC), recalled, “Jaime Harrison started to plateau when ‘Defund the Police’ showed up with a caption on TV right across his head.”
In the South Carolina results—Harrison outspending Graham, thanks to abundant out-of-state donations, but still losing badly—we can see the lesson for the Democrats that Carville was pointing to: Woke is wealthy, but woke doesn’t work politically.
In fact, Carville is not backing down. On May 1, he appeared on CNN, adding fuel to the fire, incinerating wokeness yet again: “Most of the people that are enthused by this kind of dialogue live in Boston or Manhattan or Washington, but we’re going to carry D.C. and New York and Massachusetts. We’re not going to win an election in a faculty lounge.”
Obviously, Carville is trying to help his party, and yet at the same time, Republicans might take note of his words and compare them to the words–and deeds–of Democratic officeholders. After all, there are plenty of Democratic incumbents–not just in the Northeast–who have embraced some or all of the woke worldview.
For instance, in 2019, Joaquin Castro of Texas, running for the Democratic presidential nomination, declared that trans women need access to reproductive health, including abortion. Yes, that’s nuts, and yet now, thanks to Carville, we can imagine a future GOP TV ad against Castro, who will soon enough be running for something else: “It’s not just Republicans who think Castro is out of touch, it’s fellow Democrat James Carville.”
The Democrats’ Dilemma
If wokeness was just a matter of words, it’s possible that Democrats could change those words; after all, when the word “liberal” became a negative, they simply took up a new phrase, “progressive,” and carried right along.
And yet unfortunately for Democrats, wokeness is more than just wordplay; it’s also policy. That is, the same faculty lounges and well-off zip codes that give rise to avant-garde lectures also give rise to radical policies.
To illustrate, we might consider some of the favorite phrases of Democrats these days: “structural racism,” “Black Lives Matter,” “mass incarceration,” “transgender,” “trans women are women,” “trans men are men,” “reproductive rights”—and yes, in certain noisy circles, “defund the police.”
We can quickly see that each of these phrases has a policy program attached to it. And most often, those policies come straight from some faculty lounge or some other equally left-wing lair. And to be even more blunt about it, these words, and policies, come straight from the brain of the Democratic Party; and deeply held beliefs, of course, are hard to change.
For years now, political scientist Zach Goldberg has tracked the ideology of elite, opinion-leading Democrats, most of them White. As he detailed in 2019, many White Democrats are are now far to the left of Blacks or Hispanics:
Over the past decade, the baseline attitudes expressed by white liberals on racial and social justice questions have become radically more liberal. In one especially telling example of the broader trend, white liberals recently became the only demographic group in America to display a pro-outgroup bias—meaning that among all the different groups surveyed white liberals were the only one that expressed a preference for other racial and ethnic communities above their own.
Yes, you read that right: According to Goldberg’s data, White leftists and their “pro-outgroup bias” are, literally, self-loathing. And we can readily see how that sort of mental malformation would make for unpopular politics. Continuing, Goldberg added:
As woke ideology has accelerated, a growing faction of white liberals have pulled away from the average opinions held by the rest of the coalition of Democratic voters—including minority groups in the party. The revolution in moral sentiment among this one segment of American voters has led to a cascade of consequences ranging from changes in the norms and attitudes expressed in media and popular culture, to the adoption of new political rhetoric and electoral strategies of the Democratic Party.
Indeed, there has been a “cascade of consequences” for Democrats, as their disappointments in Congressional elections last year—including Harrison’s—demonstrate.
In fact, Joe Biden was elected to the White House in 2020 precisely because he was not woke; he was different, or at least he said he was. And yet now that he’s in the Oval Office, the wokesters seem to be winning most of the internal policy debates—and that’s exactly what Carville was warning about.
Okay, so now the question: How does all this wokery play in Peoria? That is, how are woken policies received in the Heartland?
And as it happens, we can answer that question with geographic precision, since just on April 30, the Member of Congress who represents Peoria, IL, Cheri Bustos, a moderate (relative term) Democrat, announced her retirement.
Bustos was once a rising star in the Democratic Party, admired for being able to win in a mostly red district, and yet after she suffered a painful collision with the wokesters, she was marginalized—and now, she’s soon to be an ex-lawmaker.
The Democrats Are the Party of the Two “One Percents”
As Carville said, the country increasingly views the Democrats as the “urban, coastal, arrogant party.”
The coasts, of course, are where the money is, including New York City, Silicon Valley, and Powertown, Washington, D.C. And politically, these places are where Democrats predominate.
Thus we see that there’s been a political inversion from the old stereotype of the Republican Party as the party of the rich: Today, Democrats are the plutocrats.
This inversion trend has been evident for some time; after all, it was back in 2000 that Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore couldn’t carry Tennessee, which was technically his home state. (These days, Gore, freed from any need to pretend, makes his home in California.)
Yet the decisive hinge came in 2016, with the candidacy of Donald Trump. Although wealthy himself, Trump could make a simple calculation: There are a lot more non-rich people than rich people, so why not side with the non-rich?
Of course, Trump being Trump, he went further than that: His message included a serrated edge of anger and resentment at the coastal elites—and folks in Ohio and Oklahoma loved him for it.
As a shrewd observer here at Breitbart News wrote that year, “Trump’s genius, of course, has been in stigmatizing the fatcats, turning them into millstones around the necks of his rivals.” Indeed, that article recalled that through most of U.S. history, majorities of voters have been hostile to the rich.
In the old days, that class hostility had benefited populist Democrats; in these new days, that class hostility is helping populist Republicans, who have been repositioning themselves as the home for workers, soldiers, first responders, and homemakers.
So, that 2016 article continued, it was now Trump and Trump Republicans who were attacking the privileges of the rich, in the populist style of our seventh president, Andrew Jackson, a man so popular that his name became a movement: Jacksonianism:
The very emergence of the phrase “donor class” in recent years has been devastating to the interests of the elite. That is, once the big political givers are labeled as the “donor class,” they are nailed—the Jacksonians know who to hate.
To be sure, the populist turn of the Republican Party is far from complete, although the exit of libertarian House Speaker Paul Ryan in 2018 serves as a major milestone in the remaking of the GOP.
In fact, over the last few years, a new Republican economic agenda has taken hold. It’s not only disdainful of corporations that play along with “cancel culture,” but it’s also, in fact, increasingly hostile to basic corporate goals.
For instance, two GOP officials elected in the Trump era are taking some distinctly anti-corporate stands; Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), elected in 2018, wants to hit Big Tech with antitrust action, while Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-TN), advocates regulating Silicon Valley companies as “common carriers.”
Yet the Republicans’ populist assault on entrenched power is more than just economic: It’s also cultural.
In that interview, Carville touched on this Democratic vulnerability when he ripped the ideology emanating from “fancy colleges.” As we all know, Democrats represent more than just Big Money. They also represent Big Culture, and as such, they must answer for its excesses.
Big Culture is larger than just the Main Stream Media, big as that is; Big Culture is also Hollywood, book publishing, and the newest recruit to wokeness, pro sports.
By this reckoning, if Big Money is an elitist One Percent, then Big Culture is a second elitist One Percent. Yes, the Democrats and the left control both.
Without a doubt, that’s a lot of power, both financial and cultural.
However, as Carville suggests, such power might not be enough. After all, Big Money and Big Culture—those two One Percents—don’t represent a lot of people, also known as voters.
In addition, the two One Percents bring with them baggage, even backlash; as Carville says, they are “arrogant” and self-consciously “too cool for school.” Regular people don’t like being talked down to, let alone being outright insulted.
Moreover, these elite One Percents have certain blind spots, opening up plenty of political opportunity for alert populist Republicans.
One of these blindspots is crime and disorder. As we have seen over the last year, the woke attitude toward crime is that it’s not a problem—unless, of course, the police can be accused of a crime, in which case, it’s a big honking deal.
And that takes us to a second blind spot, whih is woken hostility to law enforcement, embodied in the phrase “defund the police.” These days, many election-minded Democrat cringe at “defund,” and yet Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan tweeted it, again, on April 12, and she’s still in good standing with her party. (In that same tweet, Tlaib also called for an end to incarceration, leaving one to wonder, yet again, about her sanity.)
In fact, it’s hard to think of an institution that’s been hit harder by the two One Percents than the police. And yet lookee here, as caught by Breitbart News: a new NBC News poll finds that 58 percent of Americans approve of the police. Okay, that’s not the highest number ever, and yet it’s a full eight points higher than the percentage of Americans who approve of Joe Biden.
Those percentages suggest that in a head-to-head, Biden vs. the Blue, the cops would win. Obviously, such an exact match-up can’t happen, and yet for the sake of his party, that’s a popularity contest that Carville desperately wishes to avoid.
The Republican Anti-Woke Opportunity
So what should Republicans do? The answer seems obvious enough: If they sense Democratic weakness on wokeness, they should keep pressing their anti-woke advantage. And that means standing against crime, standing with the police, and standing up new laws as needed.
For instance, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has been working hard to make the Sunshine State an Antifa-free zone. To that end, he prodded the Tallahassee legislature to enact a new and comprehensive anti-riot statute. DeSantis’ bill had teeth, and so, of course, the woke One Percents opposed it fiercely. And yet DeSantis played his cards well, framing the issue as a choice between wokesters plus rioters, on the one hand, and law and order, on the other.
De Santis won that fight, of course, and on April 19 he signed into law the bluntly titled “Anti-Riot Bill.” Florida is now a safer place.
So that’s the formula for Republicans to follow: If the Democrats are now wielding the power of Big Money and Big Culture, then the GOP should play jujitsu. That is, the right should use the left’s arrogant strength against itself.
To do this, Republicans must rally the non-woken, of all colors, into an avowedly anti-woke coalition. Individually, regular folks have almost no power, and yet solidaristically, they have enormous power, as DeSantis just proved.
In response, of course, woke types will say that Republicans are playing the race card. But that’s nonsensical because nobody but a crazy likes disorder.
Instead, Republicans are playing a class card on behalf of the rainbow of people who uphold the homey virtues of family, tradition, and normalcy. That’s a good platform to attract normal people of all colors, and they are the majority.
Wokeism is well-funded and trendy. But the woke One Percents are nowhere near a majority—and Carville knows it.
So Republicans should build an anti-woke majority coalition—and that’s Carville’s nightmare.