Perspectives: James Carville and the Language of 'Wokeness'

Headline Roundup May 3rd, 2021

In an interview with Vox's Sean Illing published on April 27, Democratic strategist James Carville said the language of "wokeness" was a bad political strategy for Democrats. "We should talk about racial injustice. What I’m saying is, we need to do it without using jargon-y language that’s unrecognizable to most people — including most Black people, by the way — because it signals that you’re trying to talk around them," Carville said. Carville criticized "wokeness" again on Wednesday, blaming it for the success of a moderate Democrat over a progressive in a Louisiana congressional election. DNC chairman Jaime Harrison agreed with Carville on Friday, urging Democratic candidates to "speak plain English."

Perspectives on Carville's remarks were generally sparse and mostly published in left-rated outlets, with several right-rated outlets publishing news reports on the interview. Some voices from the right agreed with Carville's criticism of "woke" language, and some voices from the left were critical of Carville.

Perspectives: James Carville and the Language of 'Wokeness'

From the Left
435
OPINION

If you have been anywhere within range of conservative talking points on either side of the Atlantic during the past few months, you are surely aware that “anti-wokeness” has become central to the right’s assault on their political enemies. There are various explanations for this phenomenon, ranging from not-so-secret pandering to racism and sexism to the absence of a substantive conservative agenda these days.

Personally, I think it’s catnip for the right in no small part because it enables culture warriors fighting such strange ideas as equality to pose as...

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From the Center
435
OPINION

Possibly. But the reality is that slogans and rhetoric make very little difference in elections.

Tuesday’s big flap was an interview at Vox with James Carville, who accused Democrats of being too “woke” and using “faculty lounge” language instead of rhetoric voters like. Kevin Drum adds: “one thing that’s clear is that Republicans sure think that attacking wokeness is a winning strategy.”

I’m not so sure. The truth is that all the rhetoric probably doesn’t matter much. If the economy is doing well, then the president’s party benefits. Voters tend...

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From the Right
435
OPINION

Recently, James Carville, the unfrozen Clintonite of Democratic politics, stirred a predictable controversy by complaining about “wokeness” in an interview with Sean Illing of Vox. Everyone has a different definition of the term, but Carville’s was one you hear a lot from strategically minded Democrats: Wokeness is “faculty lounge” rhetoric, the language of elite hyper-educated progressivism, entering into mass politics in a way that turns a lot of normal people off.

Framed this way, intra-Democratic debates about the new progressivism often boil down to word choice and emphasis. Do you...

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