A crowd of people was milling around the front doors of the Paramount Theater on Sept. 18 and inside the lobby even more people wandered about, happily greeting one another and chugging their alcoholic beverages that were not allowed inside the theater itself.
When the lights dimmed and the evening’s discussion began, the room was far more full than many of the previous Project 240 events.
It’s no wonder, because when the house lights shut off, onto stage walked perhaps the most interesting married couple in America: James Carville and Mary Matalin.
Both Carville and Matalin are heavily engaged in politics, however, they are from different sides of the aisle. Matalin was born in Illinois and until this May was a registered Republican. She explained her shift of political parties as a result of the Republican Party straying away from Jeffersonian and Hamiltonian values, which she now believes are best embodied by the Libertarian Party.
Carville, on the other hand, is a Democrat who was born in Louisiana, as you can easily tell the moment he speaks.
Over the course of the evening the path of the discussion, moderated by WCAX News Director Anson Tebbets, led to moments when Carville and Matalin’s political ideologies clashed. At the beginning of the night Matalin declared her intention to vote for Donald Trump in this year’s general election, despite his clear lack of polices.
Carville took a very different approach to Trump.
“He’s very clear on what he wants to do, [and] it’s utterly insane,” He claimed. “He doesn’t have an ideology; he has an idiot-ology.”
Matalin attempted to explain Trump’s popularity among voters despite his campaign receiving near constant criticism for sexist and racist remarks as well as spreading blatantly untrue information.
“He says a lot of resonant things. She says a lot of things, but none of them are resonating.”
Despite what he may have wished, the entire evening was not spent discussing Trump, or any other somber subjects for that matter. In fact, with the exception of a few tense moments, Matalin and Carville both maintained a comical attitude, cracking jokes even when their beliefs were being challenged by the other. Junior Tony Reidel felt that this humor was very helpful to defuse some of the tension between the two.
“There was a little bit of heat (between the two), but not too much. They did use comedic tools a lot, and I get that, you don’t want to turn it into an Armageddon (on stage),” he said.
Junior Joshua Lake also liked the humor.
“I don’t think it took away from it. I think it added a lot. With how personal politics has become to make it something to joke about a little bit is awesome,” he said.
While some students, who wished to remain anonymous, said they only attended the event because it counted toward Soundings, both Lake and Riedel felt very differently. Lake attended the event because he thought it would provide an “interesting look into a bipartisan relationship, something which is generally not seen as acceptable.”
Reidel said he had heard of Carville as a political commentator for years and that getting an opportunity to listen to him speak in a small Vermont city was a rarity.
“In a certain way, it’s like you’re almost obligated to go. If another event with speakers of their caliber were to come to the region I would absolutely go,” he said.
Despite their enjoyment of the event both Lake and Reidel did not feel that the experience was what they had in mind.
“I wasn’t disappointed, but I also did not take away what I came to take away. I was looking forward to being able to understand why an everyday Republican … is voting for Trump, even though they don’t support him as a person or a candidate,” Lake said.
Reidel’s main criticism came from the Question and Answer session as well as the general attitude of the moderator.
“The Q&A was quite weak I’d say, very disappointing,” he said, placing blame on those asking questions in the audience, but also on the moderator.
“I think he was a little star struck…. He was a little timid at times and I think he was too ready to agree with what they were saying. He never challenged their statements,” he said.
As his interview came to an end, Reidel make sure to write down what he thought was the worst offense of the evening.
“Even if your entire audience is full of millennials, as a moderator it’s not (expletive) kosher to pull out your phone and start taking photos,” he said.