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Ditto, Mr. Edsall

I read this book. It was pretty good. 4 sponges

Thomas Edsall, professor of journalism at Columbia University, gives a pretty accurate diagnosis of the problem with the Democratic party in the NYTimes today. In this piece, he speculates on the prospects of Jim Webb, former senator from Virginia. Here are some money quotes:

Webb is one answer to the weaknesses of today’s center-left, the so-called “upstairs-downstairs” coalition described by Joel Kotkin, presidential fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University. Kotkin argues in his recently published book, “The New Class Conflict,” that the Democratic Party has been taken over by what he calls “gentry liberals,” an elite that has undermined the historic purpose of the Democratic Party.

Kotkin contends that

“The great raison d’être for left-wing politics – advocating for the middle- and working classes – has been refocused to attend more closely to the policy imperatives and interests of small, highly affluent classes, as well as the powerful public sector.”

I asked Kotkin what he thought of the themes Webb intends to raise, and he wrote back “I think he’s onto something.”

The Democrats, Kotkin believes, need “someone — Sherrod Brown, Webb, Jon Tester, somebody! — who speaks to the issues of upward mobility and incomes.” Both Senator Brown and Senator Tester have staked out populist positions in support of their working-class constituents in Ohio and Montana.

I’m not sure that Jon Tester would be the right person either. But in general, this is what I think I was trying to get at with my proposal the other day to revive our old blogtalkradio show. We’re not the “gentry liberals”. We might not be Jim Webb’s cohort either but there’s definitely an intersection on the Venn diagram.

Then there’s this:

“Today,” Fiorina writes,

“We have a situation where voters can choose between a party that openly admits to being a lap dog of Wall Street and a party that by its actions clearly is a lap dog but denies it. At least vote for the honest one.”

Asked about Webb, Fiorina replied, “the emotional side of me loves him.” But, Fiorina cautioned, “the rational side is worried about how he would actually behave if he were president.”

Well,  it’s about time that the pundit class openly admits what those of us on this blog have suspected since the day after Super Tuesday 2008. The party was highjacked during the 2008 primary campaign. That’s why the nature of discourse on Daily Kos changed almost overnight. Almost immediately it felt like the guys from Enron took the place over. And the super delegates started falling like dominos with the rush of money into party coffers. We know retrospectively from Michael Lewis’s book, The Big Short, that there were plenty of people who knew the collapse was coming and wanted to set themselves up before the fall. You didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that the bubble was going to burst with very grave consequences for the economy. The traders and bankers put their money on the enabler.

But one thing I disagree with is Edsall’s characterization of Hillary as polished and over produced. Maybe that was the case early in the 2007-2008 primary campaign season. But as the race became tighter and Florida and Michigan delegate numbers were withheld from her win column to create an artificial narrative that she was always behind, she transformed as a candidate and became much more authentic. We all saw her become a different person. That is why she continued to win primaries right to the bitter end and more and more voters responded positively to her as a person. Underdog status didn’t polish her. It forged and hardened her, like steel.

There’s another problem with the current Democratic party opinion makers that I think they need to sit and think about. For all the talk about Hillary being in the pockets of the corporate and financial elite, those donors abandoned her in 2008 for Barack Obama. I find it curious that no one wants to talk about that.

Plus, it’s my sense from reading all the commentary in the past 6 years that the gentry elite has never really liked the Clintons. Anglachel had a series of riveting posts on the subject back in 2008 about how the liberal elite thought of the Clintons as Arkansan podunks who didn’t know which soup spoon to use. They were rather too authentic in their support of working class economic issues. Bill was channeling the Jacksonian/Truman wing while the gentry liberals are all Adlai Stevenson. The class issues are stark and the bridge very hard to span. Maybe that’s where all the misleading “Clinton is a Third Way, neoliberal, DLC loving, puppy eater!” comes from. If you’ve never lived in poverty, crafting policies to address it become a mental exercise for the reader the results of which resemble intellectual masturbation. I don’t remember Clinton being about that kind of process. He rather enjoyed politics and making friends with everyone. He is the ultimate LinkedIn profile.

Nevertheless, I think it would be a good thing for Jim Webb to jump into the race. I think he would appeal to a lot of people in the Appalachia area and a lot of people that the Democrats wrote off in 2008. He might have a following here in Pittsburgh as well. Sure, why not have him run? Hashing out issues of class, opportunity and income would be a very good thing. We don’t hear enough of that kind of campaign rhetoric and the results of the last 6 years shows that Democrats in Exile, such as ourselves, have been completely ignored by the Democratic party. As Edsall speculates, Webb’s political skills might not carry him as far as the White House but he does represent a throwback to the New Deal era and the Tennessee Valley Authority and championing the little guy, not just some carefully data mined groups.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing for Hillary Clinton.

10 Responses

  1. Is that NYT article Pro-Webb or Anti-Clinton?

    Or both?

    • Pro-Democrats in Exile. It remains to be seen who our champion will be or whether the party will be smart enough to appoint one in 2016.

  2. Clinton/Webb would be a killer ticket in Appalachia.

    • megadittos. But in many respects, Webb is more of a social conservative than Clinton. And I’m not sure he’d want to work for a woman.

  3. No, a Webb run and a debate on class, opportunity and working/job issues would not be a bad thing for Hillary Clinton. In my mind, she needs to come out swinging on those very issues–the chronic inequality, economic issues that the vast majority of middle-class or former middle-class families are facing. You’re absolutely right that HRC became a much better candidate as the 2008 primary went on. I sound like a broken record but the speech in Ohio–in the rain, fist raised, calling on everyone who had been knocked down and told they couldn’t get up: This win’s for you!

    Reignite that and Hillary can’t go wrong because it’s what ordinary people are yearning for, someone who knows the struggle and is willing to represent them, fight for them. Forget the Republican-lite nonsense; we’ve had six years of the bipartisan BS with no love in sight. As Truman once quipped if voters want Republican they can always vote for the real thing.

  4. I hope Clinton and Webb both seek the nomination. Neither would be likely to give up before the bitter end. Neither would allow the party to back them down out of a floor fight if it came to that. Not Webb ever, and not Clinton ever again.

    As to Mr. Bill, perhaps people call him “DLC” because he was a member of the DLC. And supporting NAFTA was a very anti-working class thing to support. As was WTO membership. As was MFN status for China. And that is why I have never understood upperclass opposition to President Clinton. ( As to the gentry liberals, I understand their regional cultural petty-gentry class snobbery quite well. Christopher Hitchens was a specimen of the type. So was Howell Raines . . . . that scion of one of Arkansas’s ( I believe) Fine Old Families.

  5. […] Riverdaughter thinks a Jim Webb challenge would be good for Hillary Clinton [The Confluence]. […]

  6. Jim Webb is a hypocrite and a jackas$. When push came to shove he voted for FISA. As a constituent and someone who supported his campaign for Senate we got the opportunity to ask why. His rationale? It would never get past the House. How that work out for Americans? There will be snowballs in Hades before I’d vote for the guy.

    • If I’m not mistaken, he decided to leave the senate because he didn’t like having his issues always buried, which had to do with economic issues for poor Appalachians. I think he was disgusted by the internal wheeling and dealing.
      Anyway, it’s not important in a way because I’m not suggesting that you vote for him. I’m saying that it would be a very good thing for Hillary to get challenged from her political economic left.

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