If Jim Webb could be bothered to campaign, he’d make a much more formidable opponent to Hillary Clinton than Bernie Sanders. The Democratic Party has all but abandoned working-class voters in middle America, Webb told Bret Baier yesterday on Fox News Sunday. Sanders, Hillary, and Elizabeth Warren have pushed the party so far to the Left that Webb says “that’s not my Democratic Party” (via the Washington Times):
BAIER: Well, to your point, Senator, you know, you mentioned the Democratic race. In Real Clear Politics average of polls, you are 2.3 percent. And well behind the front runner Hillary Clinton. You have an uphill climb against this Clinton machine.
Most political analysts will tell you that Democrats have moved resolutely to the left and that basically Hillary Clinton has renounced Clintonism which was the vital core of the senator used to be in your party. In a party that seems to thrill to Bernie Sanders and maybe long for Elizabeth Warren, who are the Jim Webb Democrats?
WEBB: I believe we can — we can bring a different tone to the Democratic Party. You’re right. The party has moved way far to the left. And that’s not my Democratic Party but — in and of itself. We need to bring working people back into the formula.
Next Saturday, in the far southwest of Virginia, there’s going to be a medical clinic, a remote area medical clinic to take care of people who don’t have medical insurance. It’s out at the wise county fairgrounds. I hope FOX will go down there and take a look at it. They’re going to take care of about 6,000, at least, if historical records hold, people with no medical care. They’ll pull 3,000 teeth. And these are people forgotten by both parties. And I think they need a voice.
The topic came up because Webb specifically asked Baier to allow him to comment about Donald Trump’s rhetoric. He offered up a response from a friend and comrade in arms during the Vietnam War, and then warned about “throwing bombs” in political discourse:
So, you know, this kind of divisive, inflammatory rhetoric by people who want to be commander in chief is not helpful and we have saw — we’ve seen from the liberal side as well, we’ve seen this kind of rhetoric as it goes to Southern white cultures. We need to be inclusive, recognize that we have problems, that we can come together to solve them.
But don’t be throwing these bombs to our cultural groups.
If Webb is to have any chance in the primary, he’ll first need to campaign effectively — but then tap into the same kind of discontent that fuels support in the short run for both Trump and Sanders. Glenn Reynolds makes the argument that Trump and Sanders are only grabbing the moment because the two parties have not been responsive enough to large swaths of their voters:
Sanders’ solutions might be ill-conceived, but at least he’s talking about a problem that the incumbent, and the front-runner, are largely happy to ignore. And though, as an aged, openly Socialist, white male, he might not have been the dream candidate, Sanders draws enthusiastic crowds who are grateful that someone is speaking to their concerns.
Likewise, Trump. His signature issue is immigration. The GOP establishment likes open borders because its big corporate donors want cheap labor. (The Democratic establishment likes open borders because immigrants usually vote Democratic.) But many ordinary Americans — mostly, but not at all exclusively, Republicans — wonder what’s in it for them. More immigrants means more competition for jobs, pushing wages down, whether it’s at entry-level unskilled jobs, or at the higher-level tech jobs where employers abuse H1B visas to bring in cheap foreign labor. …
Both Sanders and Trump pose threats to their respective establishments. Sanders might be another Eugene McCarthy, who garnered tremendous enthusiasm in 1968 while sapping the energy of Democratic establishment candidate Hubert Humphrey, who went on to lose. Trump might turn out to be another Ross Perot, whose plain talk about deficits excited a lot of GOP voters who then saw George H.W. Bush as an unappetizing substitute.
In order to succeed against Hillary Clinton, Webb has to run a similar campaign, although not necessarily in a similar tone. Webb will have to tap into the resentment working-class Democrats outside of the coastal elite communities feel about becoming voiceless in their own party. Thanks to the rush to the Left, there is plenty of room for Webb to maneuver — or for an enterprising Republican candidate who can appeal to the old Reagan Democrat bloc of voters.