Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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Carville: Dems need stronger narrative to win

The problem with Democrat campaign speeches is “litany,” and they need more narrative like Winnie the Pooh stories, political consultant and pundit James Carville said.

At a speech sponsored by the Northwestern College Democrats Thursday evening, Carville told the audience that Democratic candidates can’t succeed by shouting out to every group in a crowd. Instead candidates should tell stories with the three elements of any good story – setup, conflict and resolution.

“No Kumbayah crap,” Carville said.

College Democrats brought Carville to speak in Cahn auditorium with funds from the $60,000 allotted by the Student Activities Finance Board for the group’s fall speakers.

Jenna Carls, president of College Democrats, said the group decided to bring Carville after polling about 50 students in the spring.

The organization will use the remaining funds to bring another speaker later this quarter, Carls said.

All 1,000 available tickets for the free event were taken by 1:05 p.m. Tuesday, according to the Norris Box Office. Tickets went on sale Sept. 23, the same day as NU’s Activities Fair. During the past few days, College Democrats worked to spread the word by placing more flyers and sending more messages to campus listservs, Carls said.

Carville helped lead Bill Clinton to victory in the 1992 presidential election. He has also worked on several foreign campaigns and co-hosted CNN’s “Crossfire” for more than two years before the network canceled the show in June.

At NU Carville focused on what Democrats need to do to reclaim the presidency. The vocal impressions of President George W. Bush and former presidential candidate John Kerry and Carville’s bouts of shouting in his southern accent had the audience alternatively giggling and freezing in silence.

In addition to breaking away from a laundry list of special interests, Carville said, Democrats need to learn that a candidate who can’t campaign can’t succeed.

“If you’re not competent in campaigns, you don’t have a chance to be competent in government,” he said.

Using Al Gore as an example, Carville said being a smart candidate is not enough.

“It’s actually possible to be wise, right and strong,” he said.

But Carville added that no one in Washington likes anyone who is right too often. Howard Dean’s accurate assessment about the failure of the war in Iraq helped kick him out of the running for president despite his passion, Carville said.

In the same way that intelligence and accuracy can’t stand alone, strength without accuracy is a catastrophe, he said. His example: the Republican administration.

“If we just had mediocracy I’d be the happiest person in the world,” Carville said. “You put political hacks in an important position and there are consequences.”

Weinberg freshman Amy Weiss said the College Democrats achieved their goal of exciting students with Carville’s speech.

“I’ve been a big James Carville fan for several years,” she said. “And I’ve been at school, so I feel so out of touch with current events. I feel I’d be interested in anything he’d talk about.”

But it’s not all about party spirit, Carville said.

Democrats need to bring their causes together and work for them actively, he said. For example, the political consultant suggested taking the specific issue of racial affirmative action and helping those of all races with income-based affirmative action.

If Democrats try to single out every issue, they’re back to litany, Carville said. He also said Democrats just can’t say “no” to causes from gay rights to abortion to the poor.

“Sometimes the problem with being a Democrat is being a Democrat,” he said.

Reach Elizabeth Gibson at [email protected].

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Carville: Dems need stronger narrative to win