Why is Jim Webb the Invisible Man? (Deep South Daily)


Artwork composite created using photo from  kalexnova (Flickr/cc).

Poor white voters remain a natural Democratic constituency. So why is the candidate who represents them being ignored?

[dropcap letter=”O”]n Sunday April 12, 2016, Hillary Clinton announced that she was running for President. This ended all of the speculation on “will she run” or “when will she announce?” Like 2008, Hillary Clinton is the odds on favorite. Her candidacy for the Democratic nomination almost seems inevitable. During the months prior to her announcement, the news outlets routinely talked about Hillary Clinton’s popularity and speculated about who might challenge her for the nomination. Even the Saturday Night Live sketch just prior to her announcement suggested that her nomination was inevitable and made a joke about Martin O’Malley, the former Governor of Maryland.

According to both the mainstream media and Saturday Night Live, Martin O’Malley and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont are the only other people in the room – Democrats that Hillary Clinton might have to face prior to her inevitable coronation as the Democratic nominee. However, former Virginia Senator Jim Webb announced his exploratory committee for the Democratic nomination for President last November – more than four months ago. If Hillary Clinton is the inevitable nominee, then Jim Webb is the invisible man.

The lack of coverage for the Webb Campaign is almost comical. Saturday Night Live made jokes about Martin O’Malley running against Hillary Clinton but didn’t mention a word about Webb. In addition, the mainstream media’s coverage of the Webb Campaign almost seems like an SNL skit – The news anchor asks “I wonder who will run against Hillary Clinton and challenge her for the nomination” and Jim Webb is standing in the background, jumping up and down, and waving a sign that reads “WEBB 2016.” The news anchor goes on to add that no one is challenging Hillary Clinton from the left on the economic issues and Jim Webb jumps up and down waving the sign.

The news anchor says that Hillary Clinton is going to have to explain her vote for the Iraq War and wonders who will come along to capture the anti-war vote and Jim Webb jumps up and down waving the sign. The news anchor says that the Democratic nominee is going to have to go out and win over more white voters if the nominee is unable to hold the Obama coalition together and Jim Webb is jumping up and down, waving a WEBB 2016 sign. While this would make a great SNL skit, it is poor reporting on the part of the news media.

The question is, “Why is Jim Webb the invisible man?”

Jim Webb’s resumé is impressive to say the least. He went to The Naval Academy in Annapolis and graduated as a Second Lieutenant. He then attended the Officer Basic School in the Marine Corps and graduated first in his class. Webb is a Vietnam veteran and was awarded The Navy Cross, The Silver Star, The Bronze Star, and a Purple Heart during his career in the Marine Corps.

The Democrats would be hard pressed to find someone with more military credentials than Jim Webb. After coming home from Vietnam, Webb attended Georgetown Law School and graduated in 1975. Later, Webb was a Fellow at the Harvard Institute of Politics. In 1977, Webb worked in Veterans Affairs. During the Reagan Administration, Webb was an Assistant Secretary of Defense and was later promoted to Secretary of the Navy.

Given that the Republican Party has practically deified former President Reagan, having someone that Reagan appointed to office could be good for the Dems strategically. That might help them to get some of those Reagan Democrats to actually vote for Democrats again.

While one would think that Webb’s background might make him a war hawk, Webb wrote op ed columns for the New York Times opposing both the military escalation in Saudi Arabia during the 1990’s and the War in Iraq back in 2003. In 2004, Webb weighed in on the Presidential race by criticizing John Kerry for his opposition of the Vietnam War in the 1970’s and criticizing George W. Bush for using his father’s connections to avoid military service.

Webb then went on to criticize President Bush over his invasion of Iraq. Webb has not shied away from controversy in his op ed pieces for the Times. He has talked about women in the military, affirmative action, and class struggle. Some of Webb’s op ed pieces have landed him in hot water with the Democratic base. This might explain why the ideologues from the Democratic Party ignore Webb but it doesn’t explain why the media does it.

Webb has spent his adult life both in and out of public life. When Webb was not in public life, he was working as a lawyer and as a writer. Webb has written several fiction novels and screenplays. One of the more well-known screenplays that Webb wrote was for the film Rules of Engagement. In addition to his fiction, Webb has also written non-fiction. One of Webb’s most widely read non-fiction books is Born Fighting: How The Scots Irish Shaped America. This book is about Webb’s kinfolk in Virginia. While this book may not do him any good with the ideologues from the Democratic Party, it would do a Democrat like Webb some good in Appalachia.

Jim Webb with then Sen. Barack Obama and other leaders at a 2006 campaign rally in Virginia. Photo by carobe (Flickr).

Jim Webb with then Sen. Barack Obama and other leaders at a 2006 campaign rally in Virginia. Photo by carobe (Flickr).

Webb might be able to take some of the states that the Republican Party now takes for granted and if he cannot take those states he can force the Republicans to spend money to win them. That translates into less money being spent in battleground states like Ohio and Pennsylvania. Webb may be the only candidate for President who has ever won an Emmy, created a screenplay like Rules of Engagement, and who has taught literature at the Naval Academy.

One could go on and on about Jim Webb’s credentials and achievements but I doubt that any of that would change the fact that Webb is the invisible man. James Webb and the people like him – working class people from “fly-over country” – don’t fit into the Democratic Party’s calculus for winning elections. If one looks at the results from the 2012 election, one could see that Mitt Romney won more counties than President Obama but that Obama and the Democrats outperformed the Republicans and Romney by large margins in the metro areas. This new brand of Democrats don’t need working class white votes from Western Carolina because they can run up the score in Raleigh. The Dems don’t need rural Georgia if they have Atlanta. They don’t need the crackers in the Florida panhandle when they have Dade County and much of the rest of South Florida. They don’t need us so they don’t see us.

Maybe the press will decide that they need a race more than a coronation and maybe that will make Jim Webb and the people like him visible to the press and to the rest of America as well.

However, Webb and those of us from fly-over country who are like him don’t fit in with the progressive narrative that the Democrats like to tell about themselves. We are the gun toting country cousins that they have tried their best to distance from themselves. We are anachronisms tossed on to the slag heap of progress and not the progressives that populate today’s Democratic Party.

When today’s Democratic Party decides that they can win more elections with a little more Duck Dynasty and not so much Clinton Dynasty then and only then will Jim Webb and the folks just like him no longer be invisible.