This election? James Carville says it's all about the middle class

Liberal pundit James Carville explains why class matters in this year's presidential election in his new book, ''It's the Middle Class, Stupid!''

Image of It's the Middle Class, Stupid!
Author: James Carville, Stan Greenberg
Publisher: Blue Rider Press (2012)
Binding: Hardcover, 336 pages

Kai Ryssdal: It's been a good long while since James Carville helped Bill Clinton win the presidency. And this country's changed plenty since 1992.

But if you stick around politics long enough, things start to repeat themselves. Carville's looking ahead to this November, talking about the same themes he was 20 years ago.

He's out with a new book called, "It's the Middle Class, Stupid!" He co-wrote it with Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg. James, thanks for joining us.

James Carville: Good to be here.

Ryssdal: All right, I'll you what: I'm going to pick up with the title of this thing, you call it, "It's the Middle Class, Stupid!" It's a riff, of course, on 'It's the economy, stupid,' from the Clinton campaign in '92. And yet here we are, 20 years later, and you're still trying to gin up a conversation about the middle class. And you say this in the book -- you guys failed, right?

Carville: We feel like the conversation, the middle class has not been an integral part of the conversation in American politics -- and American policy, for that matter.

Ryssdal: Why hasn't it been, though? I mean, you guys have been trying for a long time.

Carville: That's a good question. A lot of powerful people don't want it to be. If you're dependent on low-wage workers, you don't want the middle class to be part of this. If you're the kind of person that you want corporate profits to go to people other than workers, you don't want the middle class to be part of this.

Ryssdal: But is it a corporation's job to help the middle class? Or is it a corporation's job to help its shareholders?

Carville: Well, it's a corporation's job to help its shareholders, and it's my job to help the middle class -- that's why I'm writing the book.

Ryssdal: Fair enough.

Carville: Somebody's got to point out what's happening. We hear personal stories about how their lives have been wrecked.

Ryssdal: I wonder how much of the Democrats' problems this election cycle and you know, in the past couple of years, has been that a big chunk of the middle class -- middle-class, blue-collar workers in the central part of the country -- have decided to vote for the other guy.

Carville: Well, I don't know. They haven't decided yet.

Ryssdal: They decided in 2010 pretty hard, James.

Carville: Well that was a little bit different of an election in 2010, and they had reasons behind it. I actually think, you know, people moan about the Democrats' problems. I would point out that from 1968 to 1988, the Republicans lost the popular vote one time. From '92 to 2008, the Democrats have lost the popular vote one time.

Ryssdal: Do you actually think that both the candidates this time are not talking to the middle class?

Carville: I actually think that President Obama's done much better. I mean, I was always going to be for the president, but I would describe myself as much more enthusiastic today than I was six weeks ago.

Ryssdal: And Gov. Romney, I'm going to guess, you say he's not talking to the middle class at all?

Carville: Try to get 'Romney' and 'middle class' in the same sentence.

Ryssdal: Here's the thing though: You can look at Mitt Romney, you can look at him and you say, 'He's not the middle class guy.' But he's talking the talk. He's going out there and he's trying to sell his program to the middle class.

Carville: What programs is he selling to the middle class? Everything, his programs are middle class as 'I'll do everything that Bush did, I'll just do more of it.'

Ryssdal: Yeah, but he's going out to the middle of the country, he's going out to Iowa and talking to farmers, he's going to Atlanta and manufacturing plants.

Carville: What do you expect him to do? What do you expect him to do?

Ryssdal: Well, that's talking to the middle class.

Carville: But he's not saying -- what's his message to these people? Romney wants to repeal Dodd-Frank. Do you think that's good for middle-class people?

Ryssdal: How much of the problems that the president has are because he has been trying to tell the story of the national economy growing -- which it is, we have to say -- but people's personal economies are still stuck four years ago?

Carville: A lot of it. You hit on the thing, and that's the reason I'm beginning to like this campaign better. Look forward, don't look back. That's the key to this election, we think, from the vantage point of the president, if you will.

Ryssdal: Far be it for me to accuse a political strategist of being cynical, but the middle class in this country votes. Are you writing this to maybe get that vote out there?

Carville: I hope so. What do you think I'm doing here? Guilty!

Ryssdal: James Carville. His book with Stan Greenberg is called, "It's the Middle Class, Stupid!" James, thanks a lot.

Carville: You bet, appreciate it.

Ryssdal: Monday on the broadcast, the other side of the aisle. Mike Huckabee and how he thinks the candidates are doing talking to the middle class, and everybody else.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.
Image of It's the Middle Class, Stupid!
Author: James Carville, Stan Greenberg
Publisher: Blue Rider Press (2012)
Binding: Hardcover, 336 pages
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I think the horse may have already left the barn. The middle class is a product of the industrial economy; it was the Industrial Revolution that produced it. With the loss of the industrial economy, the end of the middle class may be a foregone conclusion.

Vic Napier

I would've liked to have heard Carville's broader point, but Kai steered the interview into the weeds of the presidential horse race and did everything he could to keep it there.
People listen to public radio to hear intelligent ideas well-presented. If all I wanted to hear was who can use this to get 2 points ahead in the polls today, weeks before the conventions and debates, I'd watch CNN.

Carville was the political voice of Clinton and by extension it makes sense he would speak out for Obama who is following Clinton' s Third Way policy. Since Clinton was the one who created the massive income inequity that devastated the middle-class I think it safe to say that Carville and by extention, Obama is not 'Team Middle-class'. We have two corporate politicians running for office this election both of whom will do grave harm to the middle-class. The public has to make sure to kick the field team of Third Way corporate democrats out .......Biden, Cuomo, O'Malley are a few mentioned......to change this corporate profit over people policy-making!

I agree. Clinton was nothing but a corporate pimp for hire. His misbegotten 'reforms' - deregulation of the financial industry, the destruction of the social safety net and the giving the highest trade stafus to China - opened the floodgates for the rape of the Treasury by the Bush administration. Throw in Joe Biden's 'bankruptcy reform' and this bunch of banker-boys, Ivy League fops and third generation political hacks has been as poisonous to the future of everyone who has to work for a living as the lunatic Republicans. And of course, you can't get a slice of paper between the two parties when it comes to endless war and the bloody new world order. Americans could starve to death, but this useless bunch of politicians (both parties) would still wage war forever make the world safe for corporations.

I'm with you. I have every intention of kicking this creepy, corporatist version of the democrats to the curb, with their failure tatooed on their foreheads. What was the point of the 2008 primary, if we were really just voting for which puppet fronted the Clinton/Wall St/New World Order anyway.

Having lived under both Romney (as governor) and Obama (as president) I can't tell the bloody difference. Someone needs to throw this version of the Democratic party in the garbage, because its well-past its sell-by date.

The fact that this guy is on the show indicates level of political intelligence of American public.

All that nice talk about 'middle class' sounds good and well. But when the best example you can give for the 'help' the democrats have offered the 'middle class' is stock market reform..... well.......

I guess that explains the lack of a jobs program, the failure of this administration to hold bankers and wall st. accountable for their crimes and the wholesale hijacking of homes and communities by a fraud-ridden banking/real estate industry (never mind their wasting another four years on bankrupting, endless war). When Obama, Biden, Carville say 'middle class', they don't mean working people, they mean those with surplus capital to invest. Not the people endangered by the bankers, not the jobless, nor - god forbid - the thousands of dying towns and cities in this country. Judging by their policies, you'd hardly know there's a depression going on. Unless - of course - it affects the bankers.

Not to worry, they made Wall Street a safe place for commerce. With Democrats like these, who needs Republicans?

Kai....I listen to you everyday and love your program!!! But the interview (if you call it that) with Carville has forced me to make a comment!!! Carville is a self serving idiot and that interview....sorry that banter did not add anything to my day!! Thanks

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