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« Mitt Romney: We all need him, simple as that | Main | The bigness, boldness, and fresh steaminess of Scott Walker »

February 01, 2015



I recall a candidate for the Dems back in the early 1990s who came to a local university to meet with interested folk, discuss strategy, concerns, and etc. Several people questioned his emphasis on "getting the American economy working for the middle class," and why he wasn't more concerned about the poor? His answer was short and brutal: "The Democrats can't be the party of the poor anymore, because the poor don't vote."

Peter G

I was waiting for your take on this. Your comments on prior presidents are spot on. Roosevelt in particular is among the greatest examples of doing what was achievable. So Social Security didn't include too many blacks. And depression era farm aid didn't get to black farmers. Japanese were interned and stripped of all they owned but the clothes on their backs. Still SS came into being and grew to be what it should. And millions who might have starved found work through Keynesian employment projects. He did what he could and remains, to me, among the greatest of presidents. I judge him by the times in which he lived.

Now Webb has a laudable goal but I don't see quite how, given the current power structure of the Democratic party, he aims to deliver on that goal. Hypothetically he aims to find the poor and the middle class a common enemy. That's nice but it doesn't even come close to addressing the actual problems. The main one, of course, is that the poor and the middle class are in no way natural allies.
The public and private sector unions do not even share common goals. The public sector unions want job security wages and benefits which they wouldn't dream of securing for ordinary citizens. They are naturally willing to squeeze whomever they can to get what they want. That means either the other ordinary citizens or businesses. But the private sector unions know what that means when it comes to their job security. The problem isn't even China but Texas. Their wage growth and benefits are constrained by competition. But both groups want healthy corporate profits because that's where their pension funds are invested. And, of course, the protectionist trade policies they advocate will be lethal to the poor. Inescapably awfully bad.

Ah the working poor ( and just plain poor) is there no shitty end on the stick that is not theirs to hold? So how is Webb going to parse this conundrum? Aid to the poor in the form of every type of social program can in bulk only come from the middle class. The middle class pays for pretty much everything and they will still be doing that even if dramatic changes to the tax code eliminate things like carried interest. That's because you have a tax on income but not on wealth.

If Webb thinks he can form a natural alliance of poor Whites and Blacks and Hispanics ( and persuade them to vote) he is going to have to explain to the disproportionately White middle class why it is their duty to pay for almost all of it. I don't think he can. Because the Scott Walker's of this world are going to be right there pointing out who is actually benefiting and getting stuff and who is paying for it. And the only way that can be achieved is by raising taxes on the middle class. The very minute he admits that Webb is a dead duck.


Another excellent example of why Webb will never be nominated. Citing white supremacist Andrew Jackson as a model is symptomatic of how out of touch he is with the Democratic Party, and how to navigate its minefields. Everyone has a problem now and then with the occasional gaff ("clinging to guns," etc.) but Jackson? That's a howler. And it represents a big part of his self-consciously Scots-Irish identity. This is no misstep. More of a peak behind the curtain.

But it will never come to that. He's been married three times. He's left a long and (ahem) interesting paper trail, both fiction and non. He joined Democrats for Ford in 1976, and served in the Reagan administration. The Democrats are only slightly more likely to nominate Webb than they are Reince Priebus.

There would be the ever-so-slight possibility of overcoming those liabilities were he an Obama-level campaigner and a shmoozing, networking chit-collector. Instead, he's just ok in the former category, and an uncompromising, very principled, loan-wolf, bridge burner in the latter. American politics has few places anymore for someone like that.


Excellent points, btw.

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