Book puts a political spin on the middle class

Justin Moyer / The Washington Post /

Published Jul 8, 2012 at 05:00AM

James “Ragin’ Cajun” Carville and less-ragin’ pollster Stan Greenberg helped Bill Clinton become president and still make a living helping their party sell its ideas to voters. For “It’s the Middle Class, Stupid!,” they interviewed middle-class Americans and found that if Democrats want to win in 2012, they must reframe their message to directly appeal to this demographic. Highlights:

On the 2010 elections:

Carville and Greenberg aren’t above using salty language and hip-hop slang to describe the thumping Democrats received two years after President Barack Obama took office. “So they told us to go (expletive) ourselves in 2010,” Carville writes. “We got smashed.” Greenberg is more circumspect. “It is a little more complex than that, but, yes, they dissed us,” he writes.

On the middle class:

Carville and Greenberg say the question “How does this protect America’s middle class?” is the “filter through which everything must pass.” “There are some who want to be ‘quiet’ about the impolite topic of the fate of the middle class,” they write. But “the predicament of the middle class is the only thing we’re going to talk about. Basically the biggest change we can bring to the issue of the future of the middle class is to be (expletive) about it. We are not going away.”

On President Obama:

Carville endorses Obama in the book, but it’s hard to forget that he was a vocal backer of Hillary Rodham Clinton during the 2008 primary race. “I remember shouting, ‘What’s the story? What chapter are we in? Where are we going?’” he writes. “My biggest complaint with this president is that there’s a narrative in front of him and he refuses to drive it.”

On ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’:

From a Republican family, Carville says Harper Lee converted him. “When I was sixteen I borrowed a copy of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ from the mobile library,” he writes. “Democrats and Republicans were standing for very different principles, and I could see which side was going to represent me.”

On necking in the White House:

A college volunteer with the Young Democrats, Greenberg “wound up going to the Democratic National Convention and dating the best friend of Lucy (Baines) Johnson, which got me into the family quarters of the White House,” he writes. “I later told President Clinton about making out in the solarium where we were meeting.”

On class warfare:

Greenberg, citing his experience with Al Gore’s campaign, says class-warfare politics can attract independent voters. “In the campaign’s polls, we led from Labor Day to the first debate - the period that the Gore campaign waged so-called class warfare,” he writes of the 2000 election. “His lead was wiped out by Gore’s disastrous performances in the debates, but that’s another story.”

On health care:

Even before the decision on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Greenberg called for further reform. “We cannot afford to wait for the day when the country is so fed up that it turns to a Canadian-style single-payer system,” he writes. “The stakes for people are too high and too immediate not to double down on the new health care reform law.”

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