Yet Webb also seemed like a much needed reinforcement for a once common political species that had become quite endangered: the independent-minded, even conservative Democrat. Even liberal Democrats could once oppose abortion and wasteful government spending, like William Proxmire, or question the benefits of continuous mass immigration, like Eugene McCarthy.
As late as 1993, there were so many conservative Democrats that Bill Clinton could barely get his tax increase through a Senate that had a Democratic majority that was 57-43 at its peak, just three shy of the filibuster-proof supermajority that enabled the passage of Obamacare 17 years later. The 42nd president only prevailed courtesy of Al Gore’s tie-breaking vote.
I never operated under the illusion that Webb would be some kind of antiwar Zell Miller, a nominal Democrat who mostly voted with conservatives in his later years. But it never occurred to me he would be a mostly party-line Democrat and Harry Reid loyalist, independent only by the partisan standards of today’s Congress.