James Carville came to the Miami Book Fair on Monday night, and he was, as you might imagine, fighting mad.
A longtime Democratic political consultant close to the Clintons, he did not look like or talk like a man willing to give President-elect Donald Trump a chance.
“This country is going to get the best ninth-grade civics education ever,” Carville said. “We are in the fight of our lives. You can’t deny it, you can’t sugarcoat it. Let’s get together and fight like hell.”
The man also known as “the Ragin’ Cajun” took for granted the agreement of his audience, tossing around the word “we” as if disagreement were unthinkable. And the audience, just shy of the standing-room-only crowd for Sunday’s appearance by comedian and pundit Trevor Noah, was with him. After all, Miami-Dade County, Cuban-American Republicans notwithstanding, is reliably blue in national elections.
“I am a man with a message,” Carville declared, preacher-like. The message was simple — literally. Democrats need to simplify their message. Not quite as simple as the title of his new book, We’re Still Right, They’re Still Wrong, written last spring, but simple enough that the average American can understand it.
“The problem we have is specificity,” Carville said. “A lot of times our problem is we are not concise enough and not emotional enough. We got a 10-point plan for everything. Our problem is we are too diligent. Our problem is we want to solve everything right now. But we got to tell the country it’s about to get run over. We don’t have time for some visionary structural change.”
Carville’s plan has but two points: “Expose and educate.” He said it over and over. “Expose and educate. That’s the plan. We have a two-point plan. Expose and educate.” Likewise, he narrowed liberal principles down to two points, too.
“Our values are pluralism and knowledge,” Carville said. “If people reject that, then I’m sorry.” He quoted the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Max Planck: “Science doesn’t triumph because it convinces its opponents. Science triumphs because its opponents eventually die.”
Carville added, “The people who voted for Trump will be the first ones hurt by him. I hope some of them will eventually see the light.”
The millennial voters who stayed home will learn the hard way, too. “I am profoundly disappointed they didn’t sufficiently recognize the threat posed by Trump,” Carville said. “They are taking money away from your future and giving it to their donors. They are taking your access to birth control. Your parents are not going to have decent health care.”
The popular vote, which went to Hillary Clinton by a margin of 700,000 to 2-plus million, depending on the source, can’t change the outcome of the Electoral College, Carville said. But it gives Democrats “moral authority” in making their case to the country. “We are not doing this just to do it,” he said. “We have been instructed by the majority of the voters.”
But if Carville was in a combative frame of mind toward his political antagonists, neither was he in the mood to coddle his allies. During the Q&A, he insisted audience members tell him if they planned to give a speech instead of asking a question. And when one questioner started by suggesting liberals “forget older white males,” Carville interrupted.
“But they are our countrymen,” he said. “Why should we forget about them?”
When another asked if he thought Trump might, after that first, sunny meeting, nominate President Barack Obama for the Supreme Court, Carville scoffed. “You think Republicans are going to put Obama on the Supreme Court? Come on, live in the real world. I’ll tell you what, if Donald Trump puts Obama on the Supreme Court, I will publicly say I was wrong about the man!”
In the meantime, Carville said, the country is in crisis. “Our ass is against the wall. We got to stop second-guessing ourselves and start telling people what we stand for in ways people can understand. You got an anti-Semite right next to the president’s office.”
He meant former Breitbart executive Stephen Bannon, Trump’s new chief strategist. “That’s happening right now as I speak.”
Tuesday evening, Pulitzer Prize winner Geraldine Brooks speaks at 6 p.m., followed by New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd at 8. For more information, visit the book fair website at www.miamibookfair.com.