12 votes

James Carville on the state of Democratic politics

22 comments

  1. [20]
    Flashynuff
    Link
    He makes some good points about jargon being totally off putting to people, but it's hardly AOC and Tlaib who are hiding behind it. Has he listened to Pete Buttgieg lately? The man speaks entirely...

    He makes some good points about jargon being totally off putting to people, but it's hardly AOC and Tlaib who are hiding behind it. Has he listened to Pete Buttgieg lately? The man speaks entirely in platitudes. Biden, to an extent, does as well. People notice when the Democratic party says it stands for all sorts of things and then does nothing to back it up apart from tax credits.

    I also don't like his casting of Tliab's "abolish the police" tweet as excessive jargon or wokeness. It's a straightforward political position with plenty of history to back it up! She says what she means without fucking around with silly rephrasing to appeal to the most theoretical voters. That's what politicians with a moral backbone should do.

    That's not to say the socialist left doesn't have a problem with jargon, because it does. But that's not what he's talking about.

    13 votes
    1. [18]
      Loire
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      It's not straight forward. Most Americans do not understand what defund the police means because, frankly, it's not a straight forward slogan, and, to be even more frank, even progressives can't...

      I also don't like his casting of Tliab's "abolish the police" tweet as excessive jargon or wokeness. It's a straightforward political position with plenty of history to back it up! She says what she means without fucking around with silly rephrasing to appeal to the most theoretical voters. That's what politicians with a moral backbone should do.

      It's not straight forward. Most Americans do not understand what defund the police means because, frankly, it's not a straight forward slogan, and, to be even more frank, even progressives can't unify on what they actually mean when they say it. Most American's believe "defund the police" means "abolish police departments", and most Americans absolutely do not want that to happen. "Defund the police" as a slogan sounds absolute. It's easy to interpret that way. That "silly rephrasing" you admonish is necessary so that average American's understand what defund the police actually means (assuming progressives eventually figure out what they want it to mean).

      James Carville is correct. Jargon like "Defund the police" loses elections in the majority of America. It is very likely a large part of the reason Democrats underperformed in the last election. You seem to prefer your politicians to have backbone, but if the alternative is losing to the party of "turn the police in a fascist para-military outfit" then what is the point of "having backbone"?

      Pete Buttigieg is successful because he knows how to speak "politician" and get his point across to all levels of American constituents. That's how a gay Rhode Island scholar elite can consistently go on Fox news and reach "those" people. That's not a detractor against him. The same goes for Biden. The same goes for Sanders. An ability to communicate to your constituents on a level that reaches them is the most important skill in politics. This is the kind of skill that reaches across the urban/rural divide in America. It's also how the Democrats will maintain power long enough to make meaningful change.

      25 votes
      1. [12]
        Flashynuff
        Link Parent
        I think there's few aspects to this and I'm not sure what part you disagree on, so I'll list them out. "Defund/abolish the police is not straightforward". I think defund is a very straightforward...

        I think there's few aspects to this and I'm not sure what part you disagree on, so I'll list them out.

        1. "Defund/abolish the police is not straightforward".

        I think defund is a very straightforward political position. The demand is simple: take money away from the police. It's three words. And it's just one component of police abolition.

        I think abolish is still a straightforward demand, but it implies a great unknown of "what else do we do" that is both scary and impossible to know with any great certainty, and I think that uncertainty is what people are confused by. The problem is that if you try and rephrase it to focus on what comes after, you actually start losing the original demand, and then it becomes not straightforward as everybody imagines something different. What comes after is not as important as removing the system that is currently causing immense harm.

        1. Abolish/defund the police is excessive jargon.

        Again, I disagree. Jargon is unapproachable and hard to understand, which enables the people using it to hide their meaning. Something like "reform police accountability" is far more jargony because "reform" and "accountability" both can mean just about anything.

        1. Most Americans do not want to defund/abolish the police.

        You're right. That's why it's important to make the demand. At one point, most Americans didn't think gay people should marry. Also, from the first article you linked:

        A majority of black Americans support the movement to "defund the police," (57%) and putting the money towards other community programs (64%), a departure from the other groups. Support among blacks for the "defund the police" movement is more than double that of whites (26%), and black Americans are nearly twice as likely as whites (33%) to back key tenets of the movement.

        It seems that the majority of opposition comes from white people. Why is that?

        1. Because of point 3, using "defund the police" loses elections and means we shouldn't make the demand.

        This, I think, is the main area of strategic debate, and where I most disagree with you.

        There was barely any support from Dems for actual calls to defund the police. Tlaib did, and she won her election. How does that translate into why the Dems underperformed?

        I also don't think that we should base our demands on what the majority of Americans think. That's backwards. We should base our demands on what the right thing to do is, and work to shift politicial winds until enough people agree with us to carry it out. Part of that is continuing to make the demand and make the case for the demand. Climate change, gay marriage, desegregation, the abolition of slavery -- all of these were unpopular and unthinkable at first. Were the initial activists for those causes wrong to make their demands? How is abolishing the police any different?

        but if the alternative is losing to the party of "turn the police in a fascist para-military outfit" then what is the point of "having backbone"?

        The Dems already managed to lose to Trump once without any of the defund police business, so I'm not sure that this criticism works.

        8 votes
        1. [3]
          Loire
          Link Parent
          Carville made a comment that sounds kind of snide and I've spent a couple minutes trying to rephrase it in a nicer way, but I'm failing to come up with an alternative, so take this with a dose of...

          Carville made a comment that sounds kind of snide and I've spent a couple minutes trying to rephrase it in a nicer way, but I'm failing to come up with an alternative, so take this with a dose of respect, because I often find myself in the same position on different topics.

          He refers to "faculty lounge politics", and I find sometimes conversations on tildes veer towards this trope. Comments like:

          but it implies a great unknown of "what else do we do" that is both scary and impossible to know with any great certainty, and I think that uncertainty is what people are confused by.

          Indicates a disconnect with average people. They aren't confused by of the uncertainty or the unknown. They simply don't want to abolish the police. They aren't a seminar and some light reading away from changing that opinion because they are misinformed. They simply don't believe in it. Saying "oh but it's white people", doesn't change anything. White people are also part of America. They also get a say. They are also affected by policing in the country.

          Ultimately successful politicians will find a way to communicate "police reform" in a way that doesn't alienate a majority of their constituents. You mention how gay marriage was once derided by a majority of Americans, but there is a reason why the gay rights movement, and inevitably Black Lives Matter, will prevail while "Defund the Police" most likely will not. There are no logical arguments against the progress of human rights, and no matter how much certain conservatives and bigots flail for talking points, people come around to see that. There are numerous fundamentally sound reasons to support having some sort of policing force in a society.

          There was barely any support from Dems for actual calls to defund the police. Tlaib did, and she won her election. How does that translate into why the Dems underperformed?

          She is in a 100% urban, 56% African American D+32 district that is one of the safest Dem districts in the country.

          I also don't think that we should base our demands on what the majority of Americans think. That's backwards. We should base our demands on what the right thing to do is, and work to shift politicial winds until enough people agree with us to carry it out.

          You can't work towards what's "right" if you don't control the government. That is the entire point. If your jargon loses you the election then you can't do anything to carry out that demand, and in this current political climate, you will set yourself back decades by giving power to the opposition.

          The Dems already managed to lose to Trump once without any of the defund police business, so I'm not sure that this criticism works.

          They are two completely elections 4 years seperate with a different election in between that saw a blue wave occur that was completely muted by the 2020 election. The 2020 election also had a moderately popular candidate facing down one of the most unpopular candidates in recorded history, which normally would play out down ticket. In contrast, 2016 had two insanely unpopular candidates going head to head which negatively affected Democratic turnout.

          The two elections are not even remotely comparable.

          11 votes
          1. [2]
            Flashynuff
            (edited )
            Link Parent
            I agree, that's my point. I think that the abolition of police and the prison system is the next step in progressing towards a better world, and that's why it's important to keep putting forward...

            There are no logical arguments against the progress of human rights, and no matter how much certain conservatives and bigots flail for talking points, people come around to see that.

            I agree, that's my point. I think that the abolition of police and the prison system is the next step in progressing towards a better world, and that's why it's important to keep putting forward the demand.

            There are numerous fundamentally sound reasons to support having some sort of policing force in a society.

            What are those reasons?

            You can't work towards what's "right" if you don't control the government.

            Not to get too far into one of the big tensions on the left, but this reflects a fundamentally different theory of change than what I believe. I think that you absolutely CAN work towards what's right without controlling the government, and should.

            edit: if you'd rather not get into a deep discussion on police abolition or political theories of change, I understand. But that seems to be where this is going if we continue.

            5 votes
            1. Loire
              Link Parent
              I'm honestly a little worried we'll provoke a deletion or a lock if we keep going.

              I'm honestly a little worried we'll provoke a deletion or a lock if we keep going.

              6 votes
        2. [8]
          babypuncher
          Link Parent
          When I first heard someone say "abolish the police", my immediate gut reaction was "that is a stupid idea" and my brain shut down to any further engagement with it. It's not because I don't care...

          When I first heard someone say "abolish the police", my immediate gut reaction was "that is a stupid idea" and my brain shut down to any further engagement with it.

          It's not because I don't care about the race problems law enforcement has struggled with for decades, I care deeply. But having no law enforcement at all hardly seems like a viable solution at all.

          Today, I get that they aren't really saying that we should have no law enforcement. The actual goals are much more nuanced and reasonable. But on the surface, "abolish" literally means "to destroy completely", and I really can't blame anyone for reacting negatively to the literal interpretation of the slogan.

          I do not think it is fair to expect the majority of people to put in the time or effort to really engage with these ideas on a more nuanced level, so presenting them with this kind of rhetoric does nothing but sow further division.

          5 votes
          1. [7]
            Micycle_the_Bichael
            Link Parent
            Honest question: How should a prison abolitionist approach you with the their reasoning and any data that supports their position if you shut down at the mention of the topic?

            Honest question: How should a prison abolitionist approach you with the their reasoning and any data that supports their position if you shut down at the mention of the topic?

            4 votes
            1. [6]
              babypuncher
              (edited )
              Link Parent
              If their actual position is that no criminal should ever be sent to prison under any circumstances, then we will have a fundamental disagreement that likely cannot be overcome. If their actual...

              If their actual position is that no criminal should ever be sent to prison under any circumstances, then we will have a fundamental disagreement that likely cannot be overcome.

              If their actual position is that for profit prisons are bad, that we send too many people to jail, or something else along those lines, then they should lead with that. Leading with an absurd slogan even if it is not your actual argument drives people away from your cause. If you have to sit down and explain what you actually mean, you've already lost half your audience.

              8 votes
              1. [5]
                Flashynuff
                Link Parent
                I'm curious where people keep seeing prison abolitionists who don't want to fully dismantle the prison system. Who is saying this? I feel like every conversation I've had on this topic on this...

                I'm curious where people keep seeing prison abolitionists who don't want to fully dismantle the prison system. Who is saying this?

                I feel like every conversation I've had on this topic on this site has resulted in the other person saying something like "Well, I thought abolish the police was bad until I learned it didn't actually mean abolish the police"... and to that I'd direct people to Mariame Kaba's "Yes, We Literally Mean Abolish The Police" op-ed in the NYT. I'd encourage you to read that, and her other writing, if you're interested in learning what the actual arguments behind abolishing the police are besides what cable news or people online said they were

                6 votes
                1. [4]
                  babypuncher
                  Link Parent
                  I was just giving people the benefit of the doubt when they say something that effectively means "convicted rapists and serial killers should be allowed to walk the streets instead of going to...

                  I'm curious where people keep seeing prison abolitionists who don't want to fully dismantle the prison system. Who is saying this?

                  I was just giving people the benefit of the doubt when they say something that effectively means "convicted rapists and serial killers should be allowed to walk the streets instead of going to prison". If they really are truly prison abolitionists, then maybe the reason they aren't taken seriously is that very few people actually agree with them.

                  4 votes
                  1. [3]
                    Flashynuff
                    Link Parent
                    I don't think that's an accurate assessment of what prison abolition means. Let me ask you, does the prison system as it is now actually do anything to prevent either of those things? Does it do...

                    I don't think that's an accurate assessment of what prison abolition means. Let me ask you, does the prison system as it is now actually do anything to prevent either of those things? Does it do anything to fix the harm caused?

                    From the article I linked:

                    What about rape? The current approach hasn’t ended it. In fact most rapists never see the inside of a courtroom. Two-thirds of people who experience sexual violence never report it to anyone. Those who file police reports are often dissatisfied with the response. Additionally, police officers themselves commit sexual assault alarmingly often. A study in 2010 found that sexual misconduct was the second most frequently reported form of police misconduct. In 2015, The Buffalo News found that an officer was caught for sexual misconduct every five days.

                    4 votes
                    1. [2]
                      babypuncher
                      Link Parent
                      This is the crux of the issue I am getting at. The literal definition of "abolish" means "to destroy completely". So when we use language like "prison abolitionist", we lose the half of the...

                      I don't think that's an accurate assessment of what prison abolition means.

                      This is the crux of the issue I am getting at. The literal definition of "abolish" means "to destroy completely". So when we use language like "prison abolitionist", we lose the half of the audience that immediately interprets that as a call to eliminate prisons entirely.

                      As for the article, I can't read it because it is behind a paywall. But the snippet you provide is not much of an argument against the concept of prisons as much as it is an indictment of our society and justice system's inability to put rapists behind bars.

                      I don't think the majority of "prison abolitionists" adhere to the literal definition of the label. Which means we probably need a new label, because this one gives a significant percentage of the population the wrong idea of what some want to accomplish.

                      5 votes
                      1. Flashynuff
                        Link Parent
                        Shoot, didn't realize that had a paywall. Here's a copy without. I really recommend reading it and Kaba's other writing. I think she can explain things far better than I can, and what she says...

                        Shoot, didn't realize that had a paywall. Here's a copy without. I really recommend reading it and Kaba's other writing. I think she can explain things far better than I can, and what she says here about literally meaning abolishing the police also largely applies to prisons. If you'd like I can try to dig up some other essays specifically on prison abolition. https://camilleacey.com/2020/06/27/yes-we-mean-literally-abolish-the-police/

                        I don't think the majority of "prison abolitionists" adhere to the literal definition of the label.

                        Why do you think this?

                        3 votes
      2. [5]
        Odysseus
        Link Parent
        I think James Clyburn put it best when he said that Sloganeering destroys movements and that the moment you start explaining what you mean, you're losing the argument. Even something like Black...

        I think James Clyburn put it best when he said that Sloganeering destroys movements and that the moment you start explaining what you mean, you're losing the argument.

        Even something like Black Lives Matter, something that should be straightforward, was hurt by less than optimal phrasing. The whole All Lives Matter vs Black Lives Matter thing stemmed from a fundamental misunderstanding behind the intent of the phrase. When one side meant "black lives matter (too)", the other side saw "black lives matter (more)".

        When it comes to core values, I don't think that Americans disagree as much as it might seem on the surface, but using these catchy, but polarizing slogans is definitely costing the democrats. They're attention grabbing for all the wrong reasons

        6 votes
        1. [2]
          NaraVara
          Link Parent
          There’s a real lesson to be drawn from Biden being the one who won the primary. His campaign largely stayed off Twitter while the Sanders and Warren campaigns were fixated on winning the...

          There’s a real lesson to be drawn from Biden being the one who won the primary. His campaign largely stayed off Twitter while the Sanders and Warren campaigns were fixated on winning the day-to-day news cycles and internet tiffs. Biden’s team ignored those, dismissed them as distractions, and focused on executing their long term strategy and messaging.

          All of us internet denizens were gobsmacked and convinced this came out of nowhere. But the polling was clear all along. Dude was weak in the early races and blew everyone out of the water in South Carolina. That should have been a serious wake up call that the world journalists and pundits are focused on sharply breaks with the real world in a lot of key ways that seriously warp online attempts at activism.

          13 votes
          1. babypuncher
            Link Parent
            This is exactly why I started feeling disaffected with Warren and Sanders' campaigns. All this social media bickering is divisive. It riles up your base but it turns off everyone who isn't 100% on...

            His campaign largely stayed off Twitter while the Sanders and Warren campaigns were fixated on winning the day-to-day news cycles and internet tiffs.

            This is exactly why I started feeling disaffected with Warren and Sanders' campaigns. All this social media bickering is divisive. It riles up your base but it turns off everyone who isn't 100% on board with you.

            4 votes
        2. [2]
          kfwyre
          Link Parent
          I agree that messaging matters, and I do think there are some terrible slogans out there (“defund the police” being one of them, IMO), but I also think there’s a tendency to blame the message for...

          I agree that messaging matters, and I do think there are some terrible slogans out there (“defund the police” being one of them, IMO), but I also think there’s a tendency to blame the message for frictions when other factors are more deserving of scrutiny.

          With “Black Lives Matter” specifically, it’s been my experience that there are far fewer people who legitimately misinterpret its meaning than there are people who willfully misinterpret and misrepresent it. I don’t think “All Lives Matter” was a good faith response to “Black Lives Matter”, for example. I think it was instead a way of deliberately derailing the slogan in the first place and turning it into a cultural conflict, and it did so entirely through deliberate and continued refusal to understand the slogan as written or as intended.

          As a message, “Black Lives Matter” is so simple and axiomatic that it really shouldn’t be controversial in the slightest. I attribute the firestorm surrounding the phrase not to its wording but to the very problem it’s trying to address. I can’t even say that black people have value without a significant portion of my country treating that message as something that needs to be shut down or countered. That shows just how deeply embedded racism is in the US, and I think that’s the driving force here — far more than any specific word choice.

          9 votes
          1. Odysseus
            Link Parent
            I absolutely agree that there were plenty of people who willfully misinterpreted BLM, especially the vocal opponents and especially online. With that said, in my personal experience, most people I...

            I absolutely agree that there were plenty of people who willfully misinterpreted BLM, especially the vocal opponents and especially online. With that said, in my personal experience, most people I spoke to in person who felt uneasy about BLM mentioned the riots (fair, considering how it was covered by a lot of media outlets) and "why should black people matter specifically? police violence isn't an exclusively black problem". That's what lead me to believe that a lot of the friction around BLM was also branding/messaging issue, not just a racism issue (not to diminish that aspect, as I do think that the racists have an oversized influence in the perception of BLM).

            I'll admit that my experiences are very limited and likely geographically constrained (I'm from Hawaii, where neither Black nor White people make up a sizable demographic, and I now live in Japan- expats are an unusual group). I'll also admit that post-George Floyd, the messaging issue has become FAR less prevalent.

            Regarding that last point, I think a lot of that has to come down to white people taking it as an attack somehow. Most Americans don't see themselves as racist. When we say that racism is an issue that's deeply embedded in the nation, I can see how some people might take that as being called racist themselves. Call anyone a racist or a pedophile and they tend to bristle. I'm not sure how we can best address this issue to be honest. Telling people to "educate themselves" or to "examine their biases" doesn't seem to be a particularly effective strategy (even if it is what people need to do).

            2 votes
    2. bkimmel
      Link Parent
      The point he made - or rather the question he put forward - that seems really critical but kind of got missed by everyone fixating on the personalities themselves is "both sides have their...

      The point he made - or rather the question he put forward - that seems really critical but kind of got missed by everyone fixating on the personalities themselves is "both sides have their extremes, why do people associate the left's more readily with the mainstream". Hopefully people see through that more with the Jan 6th attacks, etc.

      4 votes
  2. Akir
    Link
    So I'm sorry to start up conversation on this again, but I only just now got around to reading this. For some reason it never shows up when I actually have time to sit and read for a while. After...

    So I'm sorry to start up conversation on this again, but I only just now got around to reading this. For some reason it never shows up when I actually have time to sit and read for a while.

    After finally learning the nuance of Carville's ideas, I think it's safe to say that they're a tad optimistic in some ways; they aren't terribly useful in the way that he puts it.

    What I mean is basically that the Democratic party isn't a monolith, and in order for Carville's strategies to work, we would have to be like a monolith - at least enough so that we're all standing on the same side of everything. That strikes me as an overly optimistic goal.

    The problem with "wokeness" and messaging, IMHO, is that it seems to be a very specific crowd who use terms like this. Many of these terms I don't really hear outside of Twitter. I have literally never heard anyone in real life use the term "woke" except from one person on the far right who mocked the term. I haven't heard the term "Latinx" outside of twitter (and in academia, where the term originates) except for people complaining about the term, and certainly never in real life. Likewise, in real life I've never heard anyone say "defund the police" without context; it was always in conjunction with an explanation of what they actually wanted to accomplish.

    With that being said, the solution to these messaging problems are not to tell people to not use these terms, but rather to let them know that they are alienating and don't help change anyone's minds. You need to explain to them that it's like saying "salvation lies within our lord Jesus Christ" - it's offputting, and some people will dismiss you as crazy for using them.

    5 votes
  3. cfabbro
    Link
    Changed title to the lede in order to be less clickbaity.

    Changed title to the lede in order to be less clickbaity.

    6 votes