James Carville had an interview in Vox yesterday which is getting a lot of discussion (including at TPM, where Josh Marshall is asking readers to write in and give their opinions). The consensus seems to be that he has hit on something. I think he conflates two things.
The first is the language we use. He argues that Democrats have a problem because we use high-falutin’ language to talk about race, which ordinary folk find condescending
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.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with these phrases. But this is not how people talk. This is not how voters talk. And doing it anyway is a signal that you’re talking one language and the people you want to vote for you are speaking another language. This stuff is harmless in one sense, but in another sense it’s not.
The second is the differential between what Republicans can get away with saying, and what Democrats can say:
Take someone like Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She’s obviously very bright. She knows how to draw a headline. In my opinion, some of her political aspirations are impractical and probably not going to happen. But that’s probably the worst thing that you can say about her.
Now take someone like Marjorie Taylor Greene, the new Republican congresswoman from Georgia. She’s absolutely loonier than a tune. We all know it. And yet, for some reason, the Democrats pay a bigger political price for AOC than Republicans pay for Greene. That’s the problem in a nutshell. And it’s ridiculous because AOC and Greene are not comparable in any way.
I think we can all agree that plain speech is good, and AOC does get way more than her share of shit compared to what MTG should be getting. But did Democrats “pay a price” for AOC? Show me how they did — that’s an easy charge to make, and hard to prove. A lot of Democrats who tend to be less likely to vote are energized by AOC. Is the reason AOC gets more shit that MTG because she used “faculty lounge” language? Nah, it’s because she’s smart, young, brown and unafraid to voice her opinion, and racists hate to see that. It’s no accident that AOC gets more shit than, say, Katie Porter, who’s white and similarly unafraid to voice her progressive opinions.
As for the “pass” that MTG gets, that’s part of the DC culture that Carville has been marinating in for 30+ years. The Sunday shows, the epitome of the world Carville inhabits, are having Republicans who promoted the big lie as guests without challenging them.
Carville’s basic prescription is for Democrats to pound the insurrection as well as the scandals of folks like Gaetz and Gym Jordan, and to be more emotional. I think that’s one thing we can all agree on, but it’s not language, it’s access. I have no doubt that AOC, Katie Porter, Brian Schatz or any other Democrat pretty far to the left could get on those shows and talk plainly about Gaetz and insurrection, but the world that Carville helped to make only gives them a sliver of the access that Republicans get.