Jim Webb: White working-class people don't believe Democrats like them

You know why that is? Because Democrats don’t like them.

Here’s a leftover from Tucker Carlson’s new show on Fox News last night. Three quick points. One: It’s a remarkable irony of the election that Webb is giving Democrats exactly the sort of lecture here about ignoring a key racial constituency that Democrats have been giving Republicans for years about Latinos. You need to get right with Latinos on immigration, the left is forever saying, or else you’ll never convince them that you don’t dislike them as people. Webb’s making the same point from the other direction: You, Democrats, need to get right with working-class whites who are worried about their jobs by adjusting your own attitudes about immigration. Blue-collar white America is convinced that you look down on them. What are you going to do to show them you actually feel their pain? It’s amazing to think that 110,000 more votes for Clinton across Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania plus a bit stronger turnout by Latinos in Florida would have meant we’d be having the Democratic version of that conversation this week instead of the Republican one. (Although Webb, to be clear, is a Democrat himself.)

Two: When Webb says he’s been saying things like this for years, he’s not joking. Go back and read this piece from 2010, for starters, about how race-based affirmative action policies are badly out of tune in a country where downscale whites are struggling as much as many downscale blacks are.

Generations of such deficiencies do not disappear overnight, and they affect the momentum of a culture. In 1974, a National Opinion Research Center (NORC) study of white ethnic groups showed that white Baptists nationwide averaged only 10.7 years of education, a level almost identical to blacks’ average of 10.6 years, and well below that of most other white groups. A recent NORC Social Survey of white adults born after World War II showed that in the years 1980-2000, only 18.4% of white Baptists and 21.8% of Irish Protestants—the principal ethnic group that settled the South—had obtained college degrees, compared to a national average of 30.1%, a Jewish average of 73.3%, and an average among those of Chinese and Indian descent of 61.9%.

Policy makers ignored such disparities within America’s white cultures when, in advancing minority diversity programs, they treated whites as a fungible monolith. Also lost on these policy makers were the differences in economic and educational attainment among nonwhite cultures. Thus nonwhite groups received special consideration in a wide variety of areas including business startups, academic admissions, job promotions and lucrative government contracts…

Nondiscrimination laws should be applied equally among all citizens, including those who happen to be white. The need for inclusiveness in our society is undeniable and irreversible, both in our markets and in our communities. Our government should be in the business of enabling opportunity for all, not in picking winners. It can do so by ensuring that artificial distinctions such as race do not determine outcomes.

Webb was preaching this sermon to the literati years before Charles Murray did in “Coming Apart,” and the educated/uneducated distinction among whites he’s focused on here smartly anticipated the educational divide in white support for Trump last week. If Democrats are serious about undoing the damage in the Rust Belt and in winnable states like Kentucky, this is a guy they should be paying attention to.

…Unless the Trump White House snaps him up first, that is. That’s the third point. I remember writing this summer that Webb would have made a fascinating dark-horse VP choice for Trump: “He’s a war hero, a former secretary of the Navy under Reagan, an accomplished author, and a retired Democratic senator… [H]e’s the sort of heterodox centrist populist that I think a lot of Trump’s middle class fans would respect, even when they disagree with him.” He and Trump are in sync in that each has switched parties over time; each wants more of a voice for “the forgotten man” in rural white America; and each is very, very alpha — the last of which, in hindsight, would have posed problems in a president/VP relationship. But Webb would still make a terrific cabinet choice, partly as an olive branch to Democrats who are wary of the Trump administration. Trump seems to be struggling in particular to find a Defense secretary right now: Tom Cotton would be awfully young to head the Pentagon and Jeff Sessions would seem like a better fit for AG or head of DHS, given the role of those positions in immigration enforcement. Between his war record and his Jacksonian outlook — willing to punish an enemy but skeptical of adventures abroad like Iraq — Webb’s view of conflict seems to line up surprisingly well with Trump’s. If the campaign doesn’t know him well enough to hand him a job as big as SecDef, they should try to find some role for him somewhere. He’d lend gravitas and bipartisan support to certain parts of Trump’s agenda. And as I say, if Trump doesn’t try to recruit him, Democrats probably will.