James Webb Conundrum Part Two

I have this sense of weariness, trying to open up the political fissures of different political fissures in this nation. For such a thing as the Democratic Party, there is a “Montana Miracle” in the works, a product of strong leadership of Brian Swietzer and a general sense that the Democratic Party can win a meaningful election in a state full of cowboys.

Virginia always looked like another fulcrom. A Mark Warner wandered in, something of a technocrat, received overwhelming approval ratings when he left, and left behind a Democratic gubernatorial replacement.

And the man to continue that re-beat is… James Webb.

I’ve read that Webb was a Dem until 76, and when Reagan ran for Pres. he brought A LOT of disenfranchised Dems to his side. We should welcome Webb back to the party (he supported Kerry in 04) and look at the vision and leadership he’d bring to the table. He has not been in bed with Republicans for the last 10 years, Harris (anti-American worker)Miller has.

I note an interesting debate between the two Democratic hopefuls over Affirmative Action. Webb says that the racial element should be dropped and affirmative action should be used as a means for the lower socio-economic groupings to have a better means of upward mobility. Miller maintains that other government programs (the Hope Grant, Medicaid) work for that end, and Affirmative Action was devised specifically for blacks and minorities. When I hear the argument from an opponent of Affirmative Action cry out, “At what point would society have ‘fixed’ the problem of racism and sexism such that you’d end it?”, I’d reply with a “Thwamp!” and “In an ideal world, it would become a mechanism for the poor to have better access to upward mobility.” As it is, I don’t know where I’d come out on this debate. I’d think it would end up covering some of the reconstructive work that came with … um… the refusal of our government to carry out Reconstruction — but I don’t really know.

Over the years Webb has made impolitic pronouncements opposing women in combat and warning that some affirmative action had become “state-sponsored racism.” Today, Webb endorses affirmative action but not for mere “diversity” reasons. He says that as secretary of the Navy he tripled the number of women in “operational billets” and that he has been endorsed by the only woman to make it through the Special Operations course.

All that said, in consideration of this George Will column, a few footnotes are in order:

Webb, who says he was “pretty much” a Democrat until President Carter “pardoned the draft evaders,” (1) endorsed Allen over Democratic Sen. Chuck Robb in 2000 (2), after supporting Robb – another Marine veteran of Vietnam – in 1994. In 1992, Webb supported the presidential campaign of another Vietnam veteran, Nebraska Democrat Sen. Bob Kerrey, who now is national finance chairman of Webb’s campaign. Webb says, “I wouldn’t shake John Kerry’s hand for 20 years” because of Kerry’s anti-Vietnam activities (3) but “I voted for him” in 2004.

(1) He left the Democratic Party of Jimmy Carter for the wrong reason, then. Actually this deserves some further explication. Later post. Reference the one part of Kevin Phillips’s new book that I read which refers to the South’s attitudes toward Presidents Truman, Johnson, Carter, and Clinton as, in the end, Carpet Baggers.
(2) I understand why James Webb, even if you more fully import him into Republican-land, rejected Senate Candidate Oliver North. But George Allen?
(3) This was a cultural touchstone for the fall of the Democratic Party, in the South especially. Somehow the excesses of the anti-war movement fall onto John Kerry’s soldiers. James Webb ends up with the same crowd as the Swift-Boat Campaigners.

Back to Will’s column.

Long convinced that invading Iraq would “empower Iran, the long-term threat,” Webb thinks the administration’s neoconservative nation-builders “are so far to the left they seem to be on the right.” His challenge will be to harvest financial support, much of it from outside Virginia, from anti-war liberals, without forfeiting his appeal to Virginia’s moderate Democrats and many military families. He is being endorsed by some of the retired generals now denouncing Don Rumsfeld. And he will attract attention if he continues to charge that the Bush administration is “deliberately miscounting the casualties in Iraq,” minimizing them by “counting only those evacuated out of theater.”

Webb says, “I’m pro-choice, pro-gay rights, pro-Second Amendment.” Two out of three might not suffice, given that Democratic primary voters often have little tolerance for heterodoxy. And he says, “I’m not saying what anti-war people want to hear – ‘Get out last Tuesday.’ “

Will is likely overstating the “two out of three” (which may morph into “two out of four” if he expect it to drag into the “How to extricate from Iraq” — though perhaps Will realizes the Democratic mixed mind on the subject which ends up as “Just so long as they realize we have to leave sooner or later”). But Virginia’s Democratic primary voters. They own guns, don’t they? My vague awareness of Virginia geopolitics is that you have Suburban Washington DC — Yuppie form of Democratic Blue — and you have … the rest — Republican Red. Except, the last governor ripped through the rural red area by referring to Jesus in every other sentence — William Jennings Bryan would be so proud, as might Tom Franks. Doesn’t this supposed “Jacksonian Democracy” uprising that Webb and Webb’s supporters believe him to be helping foster include Two Guns in Every Garage?

“Jacksonian Democrat” was a code-word used by Segregationist Democrats from the end of FDR’s tenure on through the dawn of the political realignment that gave the South to the Republicans. Perhaps there are some things to be gained with it — surely the absolute most onerous part of Jackson’s legacy is no longer even possible. As it were, Jackson lead a rowdy crew into the white house to break John Quincy Adams and company’s dinner plates, as the aristocratic figures of the John Quincy Adams administration looked on and sneered at the “rabble”, and it is for that that we celebrate the legacy of Andrew Jackson.

Referring to James Webb’s book “Born Fighting”, the vision is that the Ivory League Intellectual proponents of “Political Correctness” are the Aristocrats that have been thumping their nose at the the Redneck fans of NASCAR, evidentally all Scotch – Irish Americans. In the strange celebration that Webb has written, thumb their nose at the hyphenated markers that come with “political correctness”, though this doubles back on itself as something that is a source of pride for a group that should assert itself — and I can make out two hyphens in the group listing.

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