Jim Webb May be Viable … Just Not as a Democrat

 

Webb-102507-18373- 0041Well, the 2016 presidential race has begun in earnest, with the opening shot fired by … someone you may only dimly remember. From Ken Thomas of the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb launched an exploratory committee to consider a Democratic presidential campaign in 2016, taking the first official step in what could become a challenge to Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Ouch, that stings. Webb even has to share the lede of his own announcement story with Hillary. If you’re wondering how you missed the announcement given the pageantry that usually attends such affairs … well, it’s because, for all we know, Webb made it in his underwear while nursing a tall boy and working through season two of Alf on Netflix (a classic never dies, people):

Webb announced the exploratory committee in a message posted from his Twitter account late Wednesday, making him the first candidate of either of the two major political parties to take the initial official step for the White House.

Regular listeners to the flagship podcast may remember that Rob floated Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper — a Mountain West moderate — as a potential threat to Hillary Clinton’s shot at the nomination. I didn’t think Hickenlooper had the potential to appeal that widely — nor do I think Hillary will ultimately be dethroned, though it’s likely inevitable that somebody is going to put serious pressure on her — but I conceded that someone of that cast could be a factor in the primaries. In the modern, “coalition of the ascendant” Democratic Party, however, I’m not sure they can win the nomination anymore.

That’s what makes Webb such a puzzle. Though he voted as a conventional Democrat during his single Senate term, he talked a fiercely independent game prior to his election (Webb is, you may recall, a former Secretary of the Navy in the Reagan Administration). The truth is that, while I wouldn’t vote for him, Webb actually fits the moment pretty well … but as an independent, not a Democrat. As I wrote in my Orange County Register column back in September:

… With both parties in foul odor, the prospects for an independent candidate are probably better than at any time since Ross Perot’s 1992 White House bid. Based on the current sentiments of the electorate, that fact may work to the benefit of Jim Webb, the former Virginia senator.

What does Webb have in common with the voters? Well, for one thing, he hates Washington. Narrowly elected to the Senate in 2006 as a Democrat, he chose not to run for a second term in the upper chamber, never having been much enamored of life on Capitol Hill. Notably, the highest public station Webb had occupied prior to his tenure in Congress came in a Republican administration, when he served as an assistant defense secretary and, later, Navy secretary, in the Reagan Administration.

In today’s political climate, Webb doesn’t have a logical home in either political party. He’s defied liberal orthodoxy on several occasions, having called for an end to most affirmative action programs, been a forceful defender of the Second Amendment and criticized Obamacare (which, it should be noted, he voted for). Those positions may delight Republicans, but his pro-choice views, his longstanding concern with economic inequality, and his opposition to the Iraq War (which began before the war commenced) will not.

Indeed, on foreign policy, Webb – a Naval Academy graduate and highly decorated Marine lieutenant in Vietnam – has cast a pox on both party’s houses, castigating President Obama for his intervention in Libya and the broader lack of coherence in his international goals.

Yet, Webb is no isolationist. He resigned from the Reagan administration to protest cuts in the size of the Navy and reportedly refused for 20 years to shake John Kerry’s hand because of Kerry’s anti-Vietnam War protests. This is a Jacksonian of the old school – extremely circumspect about engaging in war but determined to achieve nothing less than victory if war is a necessity.

Not my guy to be sure, but put yourself in the position of a fairly non-ideological voter who’s sick to death of the status quo. Is it crazy to think that you take a considered look at Jim Webb when your other choices are Hillary Clinton and whoever the Republicans put up? He doesn’t strike me as someone who could win — partially because his personality (which runs to surplus in private) evaporates on camera. But he does strike me as someone who could create a lot of chaos on the electoral map.

Thoughts?

 

There are 17 comments.

  1. Coolidge

    Most of the Democrats I know are, at present, holding their nose over Hillary. Now, understand, I live in the most liberal county of a liberal state. So these people are real, in-the-wild progressives. They don’t really want Hillary for President. They are just waiting for someone to come out of the woodwork. Webb may be the guy. Heck, I’d vote for him over some of the Republicans that are out there.

    Further, I think that we put way too little emphasis on the outsider effect. It will have a huge impact on the election, I think. And let’s face it, Hillary is as far from an outsider as you are going to find.

    That’s my two cents, anyway. Is it required to say that it’s your two cents? I don’t think so. I’m going to delete this now.

    • #1
    • November 21, 2014 at 12:26 pm
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  2. Member

    I’m intrigued by his politics, but he’s kind of a weirdo. He has a long passage in one of his novels of men performing oral sex on prepubescent boys – not the kind of issue you want to explain away during a political campaign.

    • #2
    • November 21, 2014 at 12:34 pm
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  3. Coolidge

    Petty Boozswha:I’m intrigued by his politics, but he’s kind of a weirdo. He has a long passage in one of his novels of men performing oral sex on prepubescent boys – not the kind of issue you want to explain away during a political campaign.

    I take back what I said about him. That’s bizzare…

    Wait, what are you doing reading that stuff?

    • #3
    • November 21, 2014 at 12:45 pm
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  4. Inactive

    He is typecast awfully well to run as an indie, if he had the dough.

    I wonder what a credible indie campaign for President would cost these days given the organizational disadvantages… maybe two billion?

    @Petty: Yuck.

    • #4
    • November 21, 2014 at 12:57 pm
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  5. Member

    He’s usually a very good writer on military matters – I wasn’t looking for that kind of material I promise.

    • #5
    • November 21, 2014 at 12:57 pm
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  6. Member

    If Webb could win the Dem nomination he’d be very strong against a Republican — far stronger than Hillary I believe.

    The trick would be for him to draw minority voters from Hillary in the primaries, which could be possible if Hillary slips up in trying to thread her anti-Obama needle. Webb’s got natural appeal to working class whites, which formed the base of Hillary’s 2008 run, so if he could make a little run with AfAms, Hispanics and Asians (he’s got an Asian wife), Hillary might flame out just as unexpectedly as before.

    She’s well aware of Webb, you can count on that.

    • #6
    • November 21, 2014 at 1:56 pm
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  7. Contributor

    Get real. Jim Webb is not running for the presidential nomination. What he wants is the vice-presidential nomination. Choosing him would be a nod to working-class whites, He is a war hero, a Reagan Democrat . . . you get the picture. With Webb on the ticket, you could fool the rubes . . . again.

    Webb is also, as a politician, shameless. He voted with his party down the line, and he is as responsible as anyone for our being saddled with Barack Obama and Obamacare. Never once did he display any real independence.

    Webb is a talented novelist and should write another novel. He is also a very angry man — angry about Vietnam and about Iraq — and he has allowed his anger to get in the way of sober judgment time and again..

    I hope that, as a presidential candidate, he falls on his face.

    • #7
    • November 21, 2014 at 2:58 pm
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  8. Member

    Paul A. Rahe:

    He is also a very angry man — angry about Vietnam and about Iraq — and he has allowed his anger to get in the way of sober judgment time and again.

    As shown in the way he was repeatedly uncivil to GWB, refusing to shake his hand, etc. On one occasion Bush asked him how his son was (the lad was in Iraq). Webb snapped at him about foreign policy. Bush said levelly “I asked you about your boy”.

    Paul A. Rahe: Choosing him would be a nod to working-class whites,

    He is also the author of the historical survey, Born Fighting, a paean to rednecks, er . . . the Scotch-Irish in America.

    Were he to run as an independent, I predict that he and Rand Paul would present themselves as co-Oval Office candidates, rather than president–vice-president.

    • #8
    • November 21, 2014 at 3:43 pm
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  9. Inactive

    Just for entertainment value, imagine an independent ticket with Webb and his running mate, Ron Paul. We’ll name it the Klonopin Party (or the Donner Party – dealer’s choice).

    • #9
    • November 21, 2014 at 4:35 pm
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  10. Inactive

    If Webb wants to run as an indie, he’d better get Bloomberg on the ticket.

    Troy Senik, Ed.: This is a Jacksonian of the old school – extremely circumspect about engaging in war but determined to achieve nothing less than victory if war is a necessity.

    Maybe two weeks ago I saw a truck with an “Andrew Jackson for President” bumper sticker. You are on to something Troy, but I think you’d need an aggressively populist, glad-handy type to deliver it.

    • #10
    • November 21, 2014 at 4:55 pm
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  11. Member

    It’s early, but my current take is that whoever the Dem candidate turns out to be, that person will have been embraced by the PajamaBoy – Lena Dunham base of the party. So Webb is a no-go.

    And on a national scene, it’s hard for me to imagine how Webb gets past the infamous…err, “inverted boy” passage.

    • #11
    • November 21, 2014 at 9:43 pm
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  12. Thatcher

    Troy Senik, Ed.: The truth is that, while I wouldn’t vote for him, Webb actually fits the moment pretty well … but as an independent, not a Democrat.

    Picture this scenario:

    1. Webb runs against Hillary, loses the Democrat nomination.

    2. Republicans nominate another loser.

    3. Webb runs as an independent.

    4. Webb siphons votes from the Republican nominee.

    5. Hillary wins in a landslide, and claims a mandate.

    6. The 2016 NR post-election cruise becomes a real bummer.

    7. The cruise ship docks minus a couple hundred NR subscribers and staff . . .

    • #12
    • November 22, 2014 at 5:31 am
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  13. Inactive

    Troy, in comment #21 of the podcast you reference I threw the Webb/ Manchin ticket out there. (I’m not claiming that it was an original idea, btw.) The good news for Republicans is that Webb can’t get the nomination in the post Obama Democratic Party. But if his longer game is to get attention through the D debates and coverage to launch a third party run in 2016 then things could get very interesting.

    Say the Republicans nominate Jeb or Mitt and the Democrats nominate Hillary or Liz Warren. A Webb/ Manchin ticket could get 25-30% of the popular vote and do what Perot never did– actually carry a few states.

    I was one of the handful of people who watched his video announcement. He’s not a great speaker but his message will be clear and it will be directed at working-class people who feel deeply that America is against them. Not neglecting them, not ignoring them, against them.

    I’ve never read any of his fiction but I did read his non-fiction work, Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America

    It was pointed out above that Webb is an angry man. I don’t disagree but would add that there are millions of Americans who are just as angry and not in the pocket of either party.

    • #13
    • November 22, 2014 at 5:35 am
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  14. Member

    I’m from Virginia. Webb is yet another fake moderate Democrat. I heard an interview with him when he was a senator on “Washington Post Radio” (before it went back to being WTOP) and he TRASHED Ronald Reagan mercilessly. It was disgusting.

    If you’re wondering why I was listening to WaPo radio, we live in a rural area and it is the ONLY station we get. Our alarm is set to that station so we can hear the traffic and weather first thing in the morning.

    Although I doubt Webb’s candidacy will go anywhere in the Democrat primary, I do worry about an independent run that could draw a lot of votes away from the Republican nominee. Now I wish I had a recording of that interview.

    • #14
    • November 22, 2014 at 6:38 am
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  15. Member

    Stad: 2. Republicans nominate another loser.

    This seems inevitable. :-(

    • #15
    • November 22, 2014 at 6:43 am
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  16. Thatcher

    Theodoric Freiberg:

    Stad: 2. Republicans nominate another loser.

    This seems inevitable. :-(

    Yeah, and they problem is that they do win the nomination. The loser types get enough votes to make it through an overly thick field of candidates.

    • #16
    • November 22, 2014 at 12:59 pm
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  17. Member

    Anybody know Webb’s stance on illegal immigration? He’s described above as a champion of the white working-class but also as someone who supported the Democratic party line 100%.

    That is a contradiction.

    “Elect No Democrat Anywhere, Ever.”

    • #17
    • November 23, 2014 at 1:09 pm
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