40 More Years
This book was published over the summer months, and by fall the fallacies of its content were all too apparent. Republican gubernatorial victories in purple Virginia and bright blue New Jersey should temper further grandiose claims and force Carville and his friends on the left to look beyond the exceptional candidacy of President Obama.
True, demographic trends favor the Democrats as the country becomes more racially diverse, and voters under thirty bleed blue. But New Jersey and Virginia are instructive of the fact that young voters remain an unreliable base, and independents are wild cards who cannot be taken for granted. Plus, political parties are not static creatures, but instead adaptive animals who adjust to emerging realities on the ground.
Carville is also guilty of the political trick played by both parties, namely equating correlation with causation. Case in point is his use of economic data to show how Democratic presidents are better fiscal managers, all the while failing to distinguish outliers or detailing the policies that produce superior outcomes.
Moreover, his proximity to the Clinton White House forces him to defend the 1993-2001 span with reckless abandon, blaming all errant trends on the Bushes who bookended the Clinton's two terms. The reality, as President Obama is fast learning, is that presidents don't enter the White House with a blank slate. More than anything, they are left to manage the legacies of their predecessors, particularly during the early years of their presidencies.
The book represents a mass of contradictions. Carville is wont to cherry pick data that justify the conclusions he reaches prematurely, yet he blames the right for doctrinaire policymaking all the while citing the need to bridge the partisan divide. He was an adament supporter of then Senator Hillary Clinton during the 2008 presidential primary, and adheres to his belief that she would have been a better candidate and executive, preferring to play Monday morning quarterback and argue that it was Obama who ran a superior campaign. Yet Obama is the lynchpin of his argument that Democrats will dominate the political landscape for the next 40 years.
Much of Carville's book is dedicated to linking all that is evil with George W. Bush and Republican control of Congress. I was left waiting for him to detail a positive agenda for the Democratic Party, and something resembling a platform for the future emerges in Chapter 13. Dubbed the "Real Deal," Carville's cookbook for Democratic dominance hinges on environmental policy, yet he is overtly vague about what form this might take. Health care and entitlement reform receive brief mention, but more than anything, he urges the Democrats to adopt policies contrary to central GOP tenets, namely supply side economics, neoconservatism, and the social policies of the Christian right. In sum, his "big ideas" were disappointingly small.
It is clear that 40 More Years was written to profit from Democratic successes in 2008, massaging fierce partisans who want nothing more than a generation of dominance, and blinding them from the reality of a polarized, still competitive two-party system. Carville didn't anticipate criticism because this book isn't written to open minds or initiate a dialogue, but rather to cement the beliefs of a flock of folks who march with him in lockstep. It is this ideological echo chamber that breeds political excess, and will likely send our electorate searching for alternatives as soon as next fall. Carville's hypothesis is in danger of extinction even before the ink is dry.