“The era of strategic certainty is over,” James Carville declared recently.
Carville, the Democratic Yoda, often comes out with these kind of astute, irrefutable observations. I trust the guy. He’s a battle-tested political warrior. And 40 years ago he managed the first campaign I was a part of. He earned his spurs by winning hard-fought, high-stakes races. And he’s famous for other savvy political pronouncements such as the catchphrase of Bill Clinton’s 1992 run for the White House: “It’s the economy, stupid.”
What Carville means by the end of “strategic certainty,” quite simply, is that in 2024 you can take all the pattern recognition you want and throw it out the window. Because in all likelihood we’re gonna look back a year from now and say, as Carville concludes, “We didn’t see that one coming.”
Everyone knows we have two alter kockers likely to be the nominees of the two major parties. And I’m sorry to have to remind you, but, as the novelist and attorney Scott Turow observed in the Hive in December, one in four American men who are 79 don’t live to 83. We can argue about just how healthy Donald Trump and Joe Biden are, but we should agree that there is at least a possibility that one or both could suffer a serious health setback—before the conventions—that could potentially doom their nominations. (Biden, I should mention, is also facing possible impeachment by the GOP-led House, but I don’t see that having a snow squall’s chance of sticking.)