It is a truism among professional athletes and coaches that job #1 is to focus on your own game, your own play. That is to say, to focus overly much on the opponent easily becomes a disabling distraction. Sure, you scout the other team. You know what their tendencies are. But your real job is to play your game, your best game. That is, after all, what you have the most control over.
It seems to me that the Democratic Party needs to urgently heed this lesson. Right now, Democrats are being mesmerized either by a larger-than-life Trump or by the run to the left in their own party.
Such was the message from James Carville, who as a Washington newspaper points out, actually knows something about winning an election. In the wake of the Iowa caucus mess, Carville popped up sounding the alarm on MSNBC. Carville’s skeletal visage looks alarming, but his message is compelling. Basically, it is this: Democrats — WAKE UP — or you are going to blow a winnable election.
He reminds us that the Democrats had a huge victory in 2018. They did it by recruiting strong candidates and staying on message. Trump is not invincible. When Trump allied himself with candidates in two governor’s races in the South, Louisiana and Tennessee, both lost.
Now, in the wake of the impeachment, Trump not only has the Republicans running scared, the Democrats are as well.
It’s time, Democrats, to focus on your own game, your strongest message and on playing to win. This is not a time a time to die on the hill of revolution rhetoric with Bernie, who as Carville points out isn’t really a Democrat (he was an independent until he started to lay the groundwork for his presidential runs), but an ideologue.
Asked if the Democrats have tacked too far left and have chased down rabbit holes that aren’t even on the screen of the average voter here’s what grumpy Jim had to say:
“They’ve tacked off the damn radar screen. And look, I don’t consider myself a moderate or a centrist. I’m a liberal. But not everything has to be on the left-right continuum.”
“Policies such as student loan debt forgiveness, the decriminalization of illegal immigration, and Medicare for all won’t help Democrats win in 2020, Carville said. ‘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,’ he argued. ‘It’s not how you become a majoritarian party.’”
“It’s like we’re losing our damn minds. Someone’s got to step their game up here.”
Carville, no stranger to salty language, charges on,
“’Most of the people aren’t into all this distracting shit about open borders and letting prisoners vote. They don’t care. They have lives to lead. They have kids. They have parents that are sick. That’s what we have to talk about. That’s all we should talk about.’
The editorial in The Washington Examiner continues, “Carville is right: The average voter cares about the things that personally affect his day-to-day life. This is, in part, why Trump’s approval ratings have grown over the past few months. The job market is growing, the economy is stable, and industries in impoverished regions are making a comeback. The benefits of these policies are direct and often immediate. Compare that to Sanders’s vague, idealistic ‘left-wing revolution,’ as Carville dubbed it, and it’s obvious which way the middle of the road will lean.
“The Democratic Party has to drive a narrative that doesn’t give off vapors that we’re smarter than everyone or culturally arrogant,” Carville said.
That last point also rings true. A lot of what drives people into Trump’s smarmy embrace is cultural arrogance, smugness, too much certainty on the part of the self-proclaimed enlightened.
As an example of the “we’re smarter than everyone else,” Carville, a Louisiana guy, cited the following example on Vox,
“I want to give you an example of the problem here. A few weeks ago, Binyamin Appelbaum, an economics writer for the New York Times, posted a snarky tweet about how LSU canceled classes for the National Championship game. And then he said, do the ‘Warren/Sanders free public college proposals include LSU, or would it only apply to actual schools?’
“‘You know how fucking patronizing that is to people in the South or in the middle of the country? First, LSU has an unusually high graduation rate, but that’s not the point. It’s the goddamn smugness. This is from a guy who lives in New York and serves on the Times editorial board and there’s not a single person he knows that doesn’t pat him on the back for that kind of tweet. He’s so fucking smart.
“‘Appelbaum doesn’t speak for the Democratic Party, but he does represent the urbanist mindset. We can’t win the Senate by looking down at people. The Democratic Party has to drive a narrative that doesn’t give off vapors that we’re smarter than everyone or culturally arrogant.'” (italics added)
Someone’s got to step up their game here. Looking at your Democrats.