The Case of the Militant Moderate

James Carville, courtesy of

James Carville, Fred Wellman and Sen. Joe Manchin take on the Democratic Party.

Who’s adopted the mantle of Democratic Party outliers? Not, as one might expect, the Progressive wing aka “the Squad,” but an emerging “moderate little D” militancy. Sounding like the new consensus of the Democratic Party, these three are adamant about one cause, that their party has gone astray and that their posturing will bring the Party back to its senses. Rather than a reckoning, their voices stridently claim that the “Party” is headed towards self-destruction.

Furthermore, these three white elite ‘bros- Manchin, Wellman and Carville — are chiming in militant tones that they know better than their Democratic Party colleagues on the way “forward” for the Democratic Party.

Let’s unpack their militancy.

James Carville: Faculty Lounge “activists” got us here

James Carville has a lot to say of recent. A clip of an impromptu venting, replayed recently on the “Eleventh Hour with Brian Williams” (MSNBC) followed a Vox interview.

Ridiculing Rep. Tlaib’s and AOC’s use of language in positioning police union control of public safety (“defund police”) and profit seeking jailers (“end incarceration”), Carville points a finger at campus intellectuals — presumably, AOC/Tlaib’s tribe — as ‘arm chair radicals:’

You ever get the sense that people in faculty lounges in fancy colleges use a different language than ordinary people? They come up with a word like “Latinx” that no one else uses. Or they use a phrase like “communities of color.” I don’t know anyone who speaks like that. I don’t know anyone who lives in a “community of color.” I know lots of white and Black and brown people and they all live in … neighborhoods.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with these phrases. But this is not how people talk. This is not how voters talk. And doing it anyway is a signal that you’re talking one language and the people you want to vote for you are speaking another language. This stuff is harmless in one sense, but in another sense it’s not.

Carville’s take on language usage- “Democrats speak Hebrew when they should be speaking Yiddish”- masks a disdain for community advocacy among other things. His prescription for the Democrats in 2022 is to take ‘law and order’ off the Republican ‘talking-point-list-as political-platform.’ Drilling down the nation’s social inequalities to ‘law and order,’ will return the Democratic Party to Clinton years. For Carville, who served Clinton as his Campaign Chair, familiar turf. But those years… aren’t they in part what brought us here?

Fred Wellman: let’s blame ‘normalcy’

From the ashes of a scandal, a resignation and general dismay at The Lincoln Project emerged last week via podcast and the “Eleventh Hour,” TLP’s co-founder, Fred Wellman.

Wellman’s beef is that the Democratic Party has decided to espouse “normalcy,” to ride on the coattails of a President whose overarching political sensibility is to ‘not change anything,’ meanwhile avowing “unity” to an audience that is hopelessly divided. One hears in Wellman’s diatribes the tone- not the substance- of Ralph Nader, who attempted unsuccessfully to forge a popular resistance to corporate America. So rather than expose the institutional prerequisites of the power elite, Wellman chides a political party leadership without followers — “they talk to themselves” — blaming “those Democrats” for asserting ‘everything has changed’ by not fighting anything.

Joe Manchin: ‘bi-partisan-ness’ as solution when it really is the problem

Recently, Manchin got President Biden’s scorn. Speaking in Tulsa at the commemoration of a museum on the Greenwood Massacre the President quelled any questions about whether his agenda will see legislative light:

‘A lot of people ask, will our legislative agenda get passed. Look I am one guy, there is the House where we have a majority of 8 votes and a Senate where we are split and where some of my (Democrat) colleagues vote Republican. But I will try everything I can to get our legislation passed.’

Not mentioning Manchin by name the President identified the Senator’s fealty: (Manchin) “votes Republican.”

Manchin’s idea of democracy is not representation but an equal voice in the white country club men’s locker room. Manchin’s vitriol is of the passive variety. He’s the poster boy for the Constitution-as-tourist-attraction. By championing that “bi-partisan-ness” will “save the nation” Manchin abets obstruction.

It’s a slippery slope.

We keep wondering when Manchin “will come to his senses,” but as a West Virginian political colleague summed up the level of Manchin’s commitment to deliberation: ‘in the end it’s all for Joe.’


Observe that there are few ‘takeaways’ from these three who undo their arguments by proposing no takeaways, not even crude alternatives. What do they propose? A change in leadership direction? It’s not going to happen. A change in party perspective? Again, not likely to evolve. Where are the future leaders, the path forward? Who is looking?

Rather these three Jeremiahs propose that we slide with them into nihilism: ‘the moderate/populist’ voice’ is tarnished, lefties are poisoning the well and the sweetness of compromise in the Senate has passed into oblivion.

Such a blame game does not move us forward. It seeks seeds in the past. It squints at history.

June 4

Writer, essayist, dreamer.