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Drew Forum Welcomes James Carville

The political consultant tackled timely topics and questions from the virtual audience

January 2024 – Drew University’s welcomed America’s best-known political consultant James Carville as the first Drew Forum speaker of the spring 2024 semester.

The event was generously funded by the Blanche & Irving Laurie Foundation and was free to the entire virtual audience.

In a conversation with Patrick McGuinn, professor of political science and education, Carville covered a number of timely topics: the New Hampshire Republican Primary, former President Donald Trump’s theological-level appeal to voters, the two classes every political operative should take, the threat of Christian nationalism, President Joe Biden’s struggle to gain traction, and what a second Trump term would mean for the country.

A few key takeaways from Carville:

His greatest hope for the 2024 election

“My greatest hope is this: that President Biden is reelected and the political system concludes that this toxic authoritarianism, Christian nationalism, vulgarian, base, raw, racial, ethnic, religious appeals don’t work, and that if you want to be a whole political power in this country and you want to be a majority party, these are the things you shouldn’t touch. If we just did that, I think that would be a pretty doggone good result.”

Having two older candidates in the presidential election

“I like President Biden, but young people just see this as, ‘These people never leave.’ If I’m a young student, I want to be excited about something. That’s the nature of youth. Am I going to do everything I can to help Biden win this election? Of course I will. But I’m afraid that a whole generation of talented young people are just going to say, ‘There’s not a place for me in politics.’”

The narratives of Trump and Biden

“Trump has a great narrative: ‘These people have screwed you your whole life and I see you and I’m there.’”

“Biden has a little bit of trouble to get beyond his age. What I would do is nothing but infrastructure events because there is this sense that there’s disorder in the country and the United States can’t do anything anymore. Since Eisenhower, since the interstate highway system, people have been saying, ‘We need a big infrastructure.’ Do that. Show that things are happening. Show action. If you try to argue that inflation was 6.2 percent and now it’s 3.3 percent, you’re going to get bogged down…I would pick some things that show real action. There are things that are happening around this country and it’s very positive…people don’t know it until you tell them a thousand times.”

His first election reform policy would be…

“I actually wrote a proposal. I would pass laws saying no person in elected office, Congress, president, can take anything of value from anyone. That means you can’t buy them lunch, you can only give intrafamily presents. And you say, ‘Well James, is a campaign contribution a thing of value?’ It absolutely is. They can’t take any money? Well how are they going to run for reelection? It’s simple. If you’re not in Congress, you can raise all the money you want, but you have to disclose it. Once you disclose it to the incumbent, the government writes a check for 90 percent of that amount, I just give 10 percent because I spot fundraising costs. So if you want to try to break the government, you can’t have any fundraisers, nothing. If you don’t have power, as long as you disclose, you can raise all you want. But once you throw your hand in the air, you’re out of the money business. Can interest groups come? Of course they can…They can come into your office and say, ‘We have this many members and if you don’t go along…’, fine. But you can’t say, ‘If you don’t do this we’re going to raise $2 million for your opponent and if you do do this we’ll raise $2 million for you.’ And this goes on every day, and everyone knows it goes on, and it’s corrosive on trust in the relationship that people have with their government.”

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