WASHINGTON – Republican strategist Mary Matalin argued that President Donald Trump is “not the cause” of the lack of civility or “bad behavior” seen among the American electorate, adding that America’s political discourse has been “worse” in the past.
Matalin predicted that the GOP is going to pick up seats in the Senate on Tuesday and won’t lose the majority in the House of Representatives.
“Nobody knows who they are anymore and all these labels mean nothing. And in the middle of that, instead of debating, we started calling each other names. This Trump, as I’ve often said and as you can know, is a symptom; he is not the cause of any of this stuff,” Matalin said at the Council on Foreign Relations on Monday alongside her husband, Democratic strategist James Carville, during a discussion about the role of foreign policy in the upcoming midterm elections.
“I’m not saying that to defend him or to trash the system or anything like that, but we are at a crossroads for lots of reasons that have happened in history before. But it feels calamitous to us because of the information age and we get so much more information faster – it doesn’t make us wiser, but we have a generational shift. There’s now more millennials than baby boomers – a technological shift, an energy shift, so all this stuff is churning, churching, churning around and the politics, the way our system is set up, is an anachronism,” she added.
Matalin pointed out that wartime periods were worse than the state of political discourse in America today.
“Trump transcends politics more than the Republicans do. He stands up. He fights. He exposes hypocrisy. He exposes double standards and, for people out there who have been called names and had their motives questioned for several cycles now, for over a decade, there’s a visceral emotional response to that,” she said. “And I don’t know how to sum all of that up except to say that we’ve been through worse, I suppose, the Civil War, the Vietnam War, so this is kind of like a war and it has to end.”
“I don’t know how you get out of this other than the next generation gets us out of this, because people don’t live like this – we don’t live like this in New Orleans. We’re a majority minority city. We don’t call each other names and stalk people at restaurants and whatnot,” she added.
Matalin referred to Cook Political Report editor Amy Walter, who said she was not surprised by the “ugliness” seen among protests during the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation process.
“I’m pretty tough. He’s [Carville] pretty tough. He comes home during the Kavanaugh hearings. It’s 5 o’clock in the afternoon. I’m in my robe and haven’t brushed my teeth. I’m sitting in his easy chair watching TV in his room; we have separate rooms. I have Fox on, which is a no-no in his room,” Matalin said.
“He hadn’t been home for a week and he walks in and I stand up and I throw my robe on and huff out of the room, like, he didn’t even know what was going on,” she added. “People are just, it’s so, we’re just so worn out by it – what do you do when you are worn out by stuff like this? You just go back to first principles, and I don’t know that we know how to measure that.”
Carville predicted that there would be a “huge turnout” among Democrats on Election Day.
“Unprecedented, historic, out of breath, still calculating the turnout for the night – when you have an event like that it is going to produce a lot of surprises. I can’t tell you where they are but some group is driving this more than someone else,” he said.
Matalin told PJM that the turnout among GOP voters is going to be “huge” in the midterms.
“We’re going to pick up at least five [Senate] seats,” she said.
Matalin also predicted that Republicans would gain seats in the House as well.
“I still think we’re not going to lose the House,” she said.
PJM asked Carville if his famous phrase from the 1990s about voters’ priorities – “it’s the economy, stupid” – is going to apply to the upcoming midterm election.
“I think it’s going to help, some, help [the GOP], but there’s just a wealth of other stuff that’s motivating people out there,” he replied.
Carville referred to white Americans as the “most interesting demographic by far” in this election cycle.
“I don’t know how you’ve done it, white people, but you’ve made yourself a really interesting dynamic. Because it’s hard to believe, but in the ’80s the college non-college vote among whites, it was 1 percent different – what you’re going to see is a realignment,” Carville said.
“The political divisions among whites, particularly by gender and education, are going to be as mind-boggling as the number of people in the vote. You know, who would have thought – a bunch of old, white bread, mayonnaise-loving people would become the most interesting demographic in United States politics,” he added.
“I would,” Matalin said in response.
Carville advised the public to watch three key House races on election night: the 2nd District of Maine, the 22nd District of New York and the 3rd District of West Virginia.
“I have another weird theory, this is just a James Carville theory, if in the Florida Senate, if [Bill] Nelson wins by 5, the Senate is in play,” he said. “The margin in the Florida Senate is going to tell us a lot.”
Carville said Democrats are going to have a “disastrous night” overall if Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) loses the Senate race to Gov. Rick Scott (R-Fla.).
“If the Democrats lose the Florida Senate, that’s going to be bad, really bad,” Carville said. “If Nelson loses Florida and you are a Democrat, throw up and go to bed because the night is over.”
Matalin said the country is moving “back to the future” on foreign policy, which she described as “peace through strength.” Carville told the audience that Trump’s foreign policy is not going to influence the election results.
Addressing the caravan of Central American migrants currently moving northward through southern Mexico, Matalin argued that Democrats have worn out the argument for more compassion toward illegal immigrants who cross the border into the United States.
“They’ve used up their compassion card and they’ve used up their racist card is what I’m saying,” Matalin said. “You’ve been calling people racist for so many cycles now that it just lost its impact, and in fact it’s aggravated people.”