The Washington Post

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 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 creationism:

Carville says that the Louisiana legislature’s support for creationist legislation is “one of the most painful things that I’ve ever seen.” He writes: “Some of these people think the universe is five thousand years old and they say it with a straight face. If somebody had an explanation saying why they thought the earth was five thousand years old, there’s only two possible explanations: you’re really stupid or you’re really cynical and trying to get really stupid people’s votes.”

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. None of that detracts from the fact that voters rallied to his cause under his banner, ‘The People Versus the Powerful.’ “

On Walter Mondale:

Though “Fritz” was vilified for telling voters that he would raise taxes if elected in 1984, Carville thinks Mondale’s experience isn’t relevant. “Democrats, forget about 1984, please,” he writes. “Things change. Maybe Obama needs to go to the convention in Charlotte and say of his opponent, ‘You know, let’s concede, he will not raise taxes on the wealthy and I will.’ “

On health care:

Even before Thursday’s decision on the 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 — regardless of what the Supreme Court decides.”

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.”

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