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Why Might Former Democratic Candidate Jim Webb Support Donald Trump?

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Why Might Former Democratic Candidate Jim Webb Support Donald Trump?

Former U.S. Senator Senator Jim Webb speaks during a news conference

At the very first Democratic debate in Las Vegas, each candidate was asked which enemy they were proudest of.

While others listed the coal lobby, Republicans, and special interests, former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb answered: “I’d have to say the enemy soldier that threw the grenade that wounded me. But he’s not around right now to talk to.”

A few scattered laughs from the pews. Webb smiled fondly.

For many Americans, that was the first and last time they heard from or thought about Jim Webb.

Until last week, when Webb lunged back in the news after telling MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that he would not vote for Hillary Clinton — and had in fact flirted with the idea of voting for Republican front-runner Donald Trump.

Webb continued: “If you’re voting for Donald Trump, you may get something very good or very bad. If you’re voting for Hillary Clinton, you’re going to be getting the same thing.”

This is unthinkable for most Democrats. While there has been widespread and vocal opposition to Hillary Clinton’s semi-coronation as the Democratic nominee, supporting Donald Trump as a Democrat is just about as crazy as supporting him… as a Republican. What gives?

Webb presents himself as the voice of a supposedly forgotten corner of the Democratic Party: rural middle and working class white men.

The descendant of Scottish-Irish immigrants and a son of rural Appalachia, Webb has said that the Democratic establishment, “[has] kind of unwittingly used this group, white working males, as a whipping post for a lot of their policies.”

Webb’s also an active supporter of gun rights and wants to limit the scope of affirmative action, particularly for groups other than African Americans. As Anderson Cooper noted duing the first Democratic debate, in 2000 Webb said affirmative action “has within one generation brought about a permeating state-sponsored racism that is as odious as the Jim Crow laws it sought to countermand.”

Webb actually hasn’t even been a Democrat that long, having switched parties to challenge Republican Sen. George Allen in Virginia in 2006. He’s still some conservatives’ favorite Democrat.

Webb’s pleas to the Democratic Party find no greater support, strangely, than in Donald Trump’s success.

The former senator argues that the Democratic Party should devote itself to a program of economic uplift aimed at all Americans generally, and to poor and working-class whites specifically. Trump’s positions on immigration and trade stem from a stated commitment to improve the economic prospects of that group, ostensibly by deporting undocumented immigrants that are taking “American jobs,” and “winning” trade deals.

On his webpage, Trump states that by negotiating better trade agreements, “The results will be huge for American businesses and workers. Jobs and factories will stop moving offshore and instead stay here at home. The economy will boom.”

In 2014, Webb told an audience in Richmond, Virginia that the Democratic Party “has lost white working-class voters by becoming ‘a party of interest groups.’” Similarly, Trump has said that the GOP is “controlled by lobbyists…controlled by their donors, they’re controlled by special interests. … If you’re looking at making our country great again, they’re not going to do it.” The party establishments, to believe Webb and Trump’s pitches, aren’t representative of white voters.

Webb seems to sympathize with the disaffected white men at Trump rallies, and he’s not alone. Nate Cohn, writing about Trump supporters for the New York Times, observed that “a large number of traditionally Democratic voters have long supported Republicans in presidential elections. Even now, Democrats have more registered voters than Republicans do in states like West Virginia and Kentucky, which have been easily carried by Republicans in every presidential contest of this century.”

The Democratic Party has been losing white voters — particularly white male voters — by increasingly large margins in recent elections. According to exit polling from November 2014, Democratic candidates won only 34 percent of white men, and the 30-point difference amongst the parties in this demographic is at its largest in 20 years.

Trump’s message could very well appeal not only to Webb, but to a significant subsection of Democratic voters as well.

More than one in ten people in Virginia live below the poverty line. It’s also 70% percent white. Webb’s home state has typically been a swing state in presidential elections, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the state went to Trump in November, should he be the party’s nominee.

Jim Webb might make sure of that himself.

Follow Benjamin Powers on Twitter @bnpowers8.

Photo: Former U.S. Senator Senator Jim Webb speaks during a news conference in Washington October 20, 2015. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas



  1. Daniel Jones March 7, 2016

    Jim Webb’s a sack of hypocrisy. I have seen this crap from him in both parties, he’s been a Dino and a Rino, but what he really is.. is a carpetbagger.

    1. votedemout March 8, 2016

      Actually Jim Webb is a certifiable war hero who has led Marines who loved him in combat and bled actual blood, so that people like you have the right to disparage him. While I was disappointed when he went to the dark side in 2006, you can never say he lacks character, courage or love for country.

      1. The lucky one March 9, 2016

        I don’t disparage Webb’s “character, courage or love for country” but I do question his judgement because Trump lacks all three of those qualities.

  2. Otto T. Goat March 7, 2016

    Despite being a Democrat Webb cares about working class whites.

    1. itsfun March 8, 2016

      How can anyone care about the “evil white male”? Doesn’t Webb realize the “evil white male” is responsible for every bad thing that ever happened and will happen the in the US, and has done nothing good for our country.

      1. Alex March 8, 2016

        The evil white supremacist is the worst…. your sarcasm has merit… just check out what white supremacists have done to this country and they are ruining the country today. Put that under your hat.

    2. The lucky one March 8, 2016

      Only their votes goatman, only their votes.

  3. itsfun March 8, 2016

    Trump does want what some Democrats want. One thing is a one payer health care system. He also wants to tax the heck out of companies that leave the US.

    1. nana4gj March 8, 2016

      There will be nothing any Republican President will be able to do that is not what the Republican Congress wants and they will not do anything that their own “special interest groups” want, being those who remain undisclosed but to throw money at Congress, not in paying taxes, but in “bonuses” and re-election campaigns.

      There will be nothing a Democratic President can do without a Majority in Congress. In spite of all flaws of Democrats, it is proven we are all better off when they are making the decisions and Conservative Republicans are disastrous.

      1. itsfun March 8, 2016

        With Trump owning to anyone, he may be able to make the money takers public and that may help to get things done.

  4. The lucky one March 8, 2016

    Boy it’s hard to follow the plot in this “election”. The front running repub is a former democrat while the front running dem is a former repub. Now we have a dem who is a former repub endorsing, sort of, the repub. It’s like big time wrestling which the front running repub is well acquainted with and is part of his success. It takes the kind of an idiot that believes professional wrestling and reality tv shows are not totally scripted to support a Trump.

    1. Wayfarin' Stranger March 8, 2016

      Did Americans current penchant for politics, particularly presidential races, as entertainment begin with the running of the Old Actor, Ronald Reagan, and subsequent administration of policy by quip?

      At least Webb doesn’t seem to tend intentionally to entertain — just covering the options: Trump either “very good or very bad,” whatever the risks.

      Frankly, as someone who has admired Webb, I find this disappointing.

      1. The lucky one March 8, 2016

        That’s a good guess. The elections have been manufactured events for longer than that but the “entertainment value” has become dominant. Now it has sunk to the level of a circus. I wish I could recall when it was that “the news” became a profit center for broadcasting companies. It wasn’t at one time when the entertainment based shows were supposed to carry the load so that news could be dull, meaning more objective and comprehensive.

        1. Wayfarin' Stranger March 8, 2016

          The Lucky One, thank you for your reply.

          “Sunk to the level of a circus”? How about with innuendo in most public (now pubic, without shame?) of forums of what were once called “private parts” equal opportunity burlesque (to rival the Chippendales?)?

          With regard to “when it was that ‘the news’ became a profit center for broadcasting companies” I recommend reading (whatever one may think of George W. Bush (who however entertaining probably was never intentionally so)) Dan Rather’s book Rather Outspoken. However, even more than that ” ‘the news’ became a profit center for broadcasting companies” even further it became incidentally a profit center for conglomerates for which the broadcasting acquisitions were another incidental part along with other accessories to profits in mass communications, including entertainment. Marx was a naive dilettante in deriding “religion” as “the opiate of the people.” He had no idea of the massive soporific power perpetrated in the 21st century “capitalist” bastion United States in the guise of “entertainment”, whether explicit or insinuate.

          But how about them ratings and advertisement revenues from the inconsequential, outrageous, and shameless?

          Have Americans become a people with all the choice in the world about things that do not matter and little if any at all in the things that do — even oblivious to what they are or should be?

          1. The lucky one March 9, 2016

            “Have Americans become a people with all the choice in the world about things that do not matter and little if any at all in the things that do — even oblivious to what they are or should be?” Probably yes, if Trump is elected then positively yes, at least the majority.

          2. Wayfarin' Stranger March 10, 2016

            The lucky one, thank you. You help probably us all keep our heads on straight.

    2. nana4gj March 9, 2016

      The front running Democrat grew up in a Republican Father’s home and may or may not have been old enough to vote for a Republican President, I don’t know. But, after she left her home, and was exposed to different environments, beginning with college and law school, she was no longer Republican. That is, when she was old enough to become her own person, make her own decisions and choices, like the rest of us, she did just that, and she chose to become a Democrat.

      It’s important to note, that, while a teen living in her Father’s Republican home, her mother insured she develop a social awareness through her church’s teen programs of social causes, babysitting migrant workers’ children, and others. During those years, Republicans also were more socially responsible and not as “conservative” as they are today.

  5. Eileen Whelan March 8, 2016

    I guess Mr Webb needs a job to or his name in the paper. Why he as a sensible man even think of voting for Trump, or than again maybe he is not sensible. One thing about fade away politicians they always like to stay in the limeligh, and
    will say anything to get there name in the news.

    1. 01010011001B March 9, 2016

      shut up. trump is the most moderate republican candidate since Reagan. jim webb will vp. youre the one thats not sensible.

  6. nana4gj March 8, 2016

    Webb, I believe, has held many government positions before, as a Senator, no? and as a Secy of something in the military. He was nothing to write home about. In fact, he seemed to me to be a bit “unstable” to me back then.

    I wouldn’t want him anywhere near any elected office.

    1. votedemout March 9, 2016

      Why don’t you read a little about this man before making such an adolescent comment. The Marines don’t hand these awards for those like John Kerry who did nothing and knew it when he just casually threw them over the WH wall.
      Jim Webb is a USNA grad who chose to enter the Marines as an infantry officer rather than take the easy course that most of his classmates chose. He was later named Sec of the Navy and unlike the current moron holding that position actually listened to his Admirals and Generals. This man is a strong leader who just happened to lose his way in 2006, but appears to have awakened to the terrible danger of another Clinton presidency.

      1. nana4gj March 9, 2016

        I believe anyone who volunteers to serve in the military, especially during war, is honorable and comparisons to who is more honorable than the other, is not something I like to do. Viet Nam vets were drafted and they went; others fled the country. John Kerry was as heroic as any other, and returned to provide his opinion on that experience, which was also valuable, and having fought, ostensibly, for the right to express his opinion, which was necessary, does not make him less honorable.

        Jim Webb also served in the military honorably. As citizens in or out of public office, however, their personalities, character, stability, and judgments for where they are today, are up for judgement. I have no complaints re Jim Webb, re his military experience. I believe he is ill suited for elected office for other reasons, based on the perceptions I have of him now, today, as he is today.

        1. votedemout March 9, 2016

          You are certainly entitled to your opinion, but on the matter of Kerry you do not have a clue. When the men you served with go to great lengths to dispel any notion of honorable service, a thinking person would listen. I’m not talking about one or two disgruntled individuals, but virtually the entire cadre with which he served. I find him just a little less despicable than Pvt Bergdahl who by your reasoning is also honorable..

          As to VN vets being drafted, yes some Army personnel were drafted and even a few Marines, but the bulk of us were not.

          1. nana4gj March 9, 2016

            I am not going to argue with you. I am also not going to put anyone who has had to face Viet Nam or these ME “combats” down and condemn any one of them.

            There are many who never should have been accepted for active duty, and, when they had been removed from one branch of service for deficits, they never should have been accepted to serve in another branch, and/or, if their behavior is so weird in active duty, they should have been discharged, sent home. I cannot condemn anyone who cannot do that kind of work. I’ve never been in that position; only in the position of having friends and loved ones go off to Viet Nam and never come home, or, come home vastly changed from when they left. The years of Viet Nam, et al, were challenging, in every aspect, for all of us, but none so challenging as those who served in that war.

            I had not seen much of Jim Webb when he served as Secy of Navy, but in his brief Senate term, he had a cynical, bitter attitude, IMO, and I saw it again, in his brief run as a primary candidate. There is something I find lacking in principled beliefs and loyalty. It may be an undercurrent of arrogance, in the sense that he knows more than anyone, yet, doesn’t use what he knows very significantly. It is simply an opinion, to which I am entitled, as you are to yours.

            We differ on John Kerry, as well. I have said all I have to say about Jim Webb, which is that he is not “despicable or dishonorable”, simply, IMO, a complex personality. I also do not care to hear anymore insults directed at John Kerry, or individuals who lacked the character, mental stability, or whatever, to cope with what it takes to serve in combat, because not everyone can do that. So, I will not be continuing this discussion with you. Peace.

  7. dummiessuck March 9, 2016

    We’d all benefit from Webb being Trump’s VP pick. Webb is a Georgetown-educated lawyer and unlike Trump has knowledge of basic laws like the Bill of Rights. If Trump is elected president, at least the VP would be capable of running the country while the president played golf.


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