James Carville leads panel on state of American politics

With controversy mounting on campus over President-elect Donald Trump’s upcoming inauguration, James Carville headlined a panel of political scholars and practitioners to speak about the state of American politics.

The roundtable discussion was held at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 17 in Kendall Cram Lecture Hall in the Lavin-Bernick Center for University Life and live-streamed online for the general public. The Tulane Department of Political Science, the Scholars Strategy Network, Newcomb-Tulane College and Forum Tulane sponsored the event.

Carville, the lead strategist for the 1992 Bill Clinton presidential campaign and Professor of Practice at Tulane, was joined by conservative political consultant James Hartman, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor of Political Science Andrea Campbell and Louisiana State University Assistant Professor of Political Communication Kathleen Searles.

The panelists spoke to a full house of students, faculty and community members about Trump’s campaign, Hillary Clinton’s alleged mistakes and what to expect from the incoming administration.

Tulane Associate Professor of Political Science Brian J. Brox moderated the discussion.

Brox began the conversation by asking the panel what made the 2016 election unique compared to previous elections. Carville offered a one-word answer: “Trump.”

“We have a president who lost the popular vote, who was intervened on behalf of by a hostile foreign government and a probable illegal intervention by a domestic law enforcement agency,” Carville said. “Top that.”

Though the discussion was mostly dominated by the male strategists, Brox turned to professors Campbell and Searles to offer an explanation of the 2016 presidential race outcome through voter behavior and party trends.

Searles and Campbell agreed that partisanship largely proved true in this election and that Republicans turned out for their candidate. According to Campbell, all data corroborated that a Republican would most likely win the election, despite what polls showed.

Moving on to the specifics of the presidential campaigns, the panelists spoke about the role issues played in connecting with voters. Hartman said that despite being far outside of the Republican Party’s norms in terms of policy and precedent, the Trump team succeeded because Trump’s voice resonated with voters in a way that Clinton’s voice did not.

“You win elections with feelings, not facts,” Hartman said.

The two strategists traded quips at the expense of Clinton and Trump, referencing Clinton’s emails and the unverified Buzzfeed dossier concerning Trump’s alleged connections to Russia. They were respectful and professional, however, with Carville praising Hartman’s candor.

“It is an honor to share a panel with an honest Republican,” Carville said.

Before concluding, Brox asked the panelists to look to the future and offer any words of hope. Hartman said that America is safe because our republic is strong and our Constitution is valid.

The discussion was followed by a Q&A session with the audience. Brox concluded the event by praising the intellectual diversity offered by the participants.

“It’s important for everyone to see these perspectives … We want to make sure that people see that [Tulane is] not just a liberal ivy tower … We engage forthrightly with arguments from both sides,” Brox said.

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