Government strategist James Carville chats about political climate

December 3, 2013 | Events, News, UToday, Honors
By Meghan Cunningham

There are three reasons America’s political climate is the way it is today, according to national political consultant James Carville: where we live, our inability to compromise, and how we get our information.

James Carville lived up to his “Ragin' Cajun” moniker during his appearance in the Jesup Scott Honors College Distinguished Lecture Series.

James Carville lived up to his “Ragin’ Cajun” moniker during his appearance in the Jesup Scott Honors College Distinguished Lecture Series.

Carville, who is perhaps best noted for his role helping elect William Jefferson Clinton to the U.S. presidency in 1992, offered those reasons and encouraged young people to overcome them in a lighthearted talk Nov. 18 as the second guest in the Jesup Scott Honors College Lecture Series at The University of Toledo.

If Mitt Romney had broken even in three specific urban counties in the 2012 presidential election, he would have defeated Barack Obama, Carville said, adding that where we live and where we draw congressional districts are important factors in elections.

Carville identified a certain percentage of what he called “apocalyptic declinists” — those who instead of saying, “my opinion is better than yours,” jump ahead to say that the other person’s view is destructive to the very fabric of the nation.

“If you believe that, how do you compromise?” Carville asked rhetorically.

The proliferation of information in the 24/7 news media makes it too easy to only get your news from a liberal or conservative source that you agree with, rather than trying to use that information to do your research, he said.

“Don’t go through life looking to be validated. Go through life looking to be enlightened,” Carville said.

A professor of practice at Tulane University in New Orleans, Carville said he tells his students, “It’s not important what I think. It’s important that you think.”

Carville argued that America has certainly seen darker days, such as the year 1862 during the Civil War. But something good came out of that when a Vermont congressman proposed and advocated for the Land-Grant Colleges Act, which was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln. The morals, according to Carville, it’s never a bad time to invest in young people or the future.

“Don’t let the doomsayers and the naysayers have the final say,” he said. “You have the final say.”

Carville answered a number of questions submitted to the Jesup Scott Honors College Twitter account, @UTHonors, including whether he has ever considered running for office himself.

After a quick succession of no’s, Carville joked, “I wouldn’t vet well” and “My kids don’t need to know everything.”

Carville’s guess on the candidates to be nominated? Scott Walker and Hilary Clinton.
Would Condoleezza Rice be nominated by the Republican Party? No. What about another Bush? It’s possible.

Advice for aspiring politicians? Be ready to fail publicly, be ambitious, and make what you do matter be your reward.

“If you want to go into politics and you don’t like people, it’s not going to be very happy,” he said.

Carville is the second guest in the Honors College Distinguished Lecture Series. Education innovator Salman Khan, the founder of Khan Academy, spoke in September.

Still to come will be business strategy expert Richard Rumelt Monday, Jan. 13, and Arizona State University President Michael Crow Monday, March 10.

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