Thursday, December 31, 2015


Nate Cohn of The New York Times has noticed something about Donald Trump's backers:
[Trump's] geographic pattern of support ... is similar to a map of the tendency toward racism by region, according to measures like the prevalence of Google searches for racial slurs and racist jokes, or scores on implicit association tests....

... In many of these areas, 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.

... Many Democrats may now even identify as Republicans, or as independents who lean Republican, when asked by pollsters -- a choice that means they’re included in a national Republican primary survey, whether they remain registered as Democrats or not.

Mr. Trump appears to hold his greatest strength among people like these -- registered Democrats who identify as Republican leaners -- with 43 percent of their support.... Similarly, many of Mr. Trump’s best states are those with a long tradition of Democrats who vote Republican in presidential elections, like West Virginia.
This is the group of voters that's most supportive if Trump, though he's still doing quite well among actual Republicans. Cohn isn't sure that these people will actually vote for Trump in primaries -- in some states, legally, they can't. But the mere fact that Trump is leading in the polls has pulled his party further to the right on the sort of nativism that these voters want. Trump's candidacy has made clear the desire for this brand of politics.

Which makes me think that Jim Webb should have returned to his Republican roots and run in the GOP primaries this year. He was probably the most forthright defender of the Confederate flag among presidential candidates in either party in the immediate aftermath of the Charleston church massacre earlier this year (“'This is an emotional time and we all need to think through these issues with a care that recognizes the need for change but also respects the complicated history of the Civil War,' Webb said in a statement posted to his Facebook page") -- at least until he walked back his defense of the flag a few weeks after the mass shooting. He's attacked affirmative action for years:
Webb said in 2000 that 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."
See also the Wall Street Journal op-ed he wrote in 2010:
Forty years ago, as the United States experienced the civil rights movement, the supposed monolith of White Anglo-Saxon Protestant dominance served as the whipping post for almost every debate about power and status in America. After a full generation of such debate, WASP elites have fallen by the wayside and a plethora of government-enforced diversity policies have marginalized many white workers....

Unfortunately, present-day diversity programs work against that notion, having expanded so far beyond their original purpose that they now favor anyone who does not happen to be white.
He would have been entering a crowded field if he'd run as a Republican, and he would have done so with a seemingly disqualifying history of skepticism about the Iraq War and about traditional corporatist Republican economic policies. But the same can be said about Donald Trump. So it's possible that somewhere along the line he might have challenged Trump in a poll or two, maybe as a result of support from Scots-Irish Americans who wave the Confederate flag and take pride in their own whiteness, a group he's long championed. They might see him as an ethnic champion in the Trump mold and as the tough guy Trump and Ted Cruz pretend to be. The voters he'd be attracting might be the very people Trump is appealing to.

In any event, if he does run as a third-party candidate for president (as Bloomberg Politics, a few days ago, said he might), he's highly unlikely to draw voters from the Democratic nominee. The kinds of people who'd vote for him stopped voting Democratic in presidential elections many years ago, even though some are still registered as Democrats.

I think he missed his chance. He should have run as a Republican.


sdhays said...

It's an interesting thought, on paper. He could have been a very interesting Republican candidate - quite heterodox, solidly more sane than the others, projects strength and seriousness, and his white-centric worldview gets him in with people who might otherwise ignore him. He could have provided a strong contrast and run past the other Republican candidates as they fell over themselves trying to figure out what to do about Trump. In practice, though, Webb's problem has always been the same as Rand Paul's; they hate running for election. Webb quit the Senate rather than go through it again, and he won his election to the Senate in the first place on a massive anti-W wave election. He wasn't even disciplined enough to make up his mind on running in the Democratic Presidential primary before his own deadline (according to the linked article). I respected him for admitting in 2012 that the Senate just wasn't for him, but how far up your own ass does your head have to be to think "Running for Senate sucked! I know, I'll run for President!"? The reality is that he doesn't have a head for politics, regardless of party, and he doesn't want it bad enough to attempt to close that gap.

He's a vanity candidate, and that's why he didn't go anywhere in the Democratic primary. If he had been more serious, he wouldn't have defended the Confederate flag while the bodies in Charleston, SC weren't yet cool (no matter what he really thought). Most of the time, successful candidates figure out what they want, and focus on that like a laser. Clinton, whatever you think of her, is focused on becoming President. Sanders is focused on changing the economic status-quo, regardless of the results of the primaries. Trump is focused on getting people to stoke his ego - being elected President would be the ultimate ego trip. What does Webb want? He wants people to listen to him, damn it! But since that's not a compelling reason to actually follow him, he will never go anywhere except on the jaw-flapper TV shows.

I also have to call BS on his threat to run as an independent. Raising the necessary funds, drumming up support, and organizing an independent run across all 50 states (or even a handful) is a massive effort. You need a massive amount of funds upon which to draw and/or a massive natural following. Webb has neither. Now, some billionaires could organize and fund a SuperPAC to try to get this off the ground in the hopes of harming Hillary, but 1) as you point out, that's not necessarily a safe bet and 2) with the outcome of the Republican primary still so unstable, many billionaires may not be certain just how invested they want to get into helping the Republican nominee win.

So, I think Webb's threats to run as an independent are insultingly empty. He's a joke, and for the sake of himself and his family, he should go back home to podunk, Virginia and STFU.

Ten Bears said...

I think he's just trying to crack into the grift, but doesn't have the boobs.

If anyone is keeping track, Webb is another of the reasons I am as disgusted with democrats as I am repelled by republicans.

Victor said...

Well, after reading the first two comments, I really don't have anything at all to add - outside of the fact that I liked Web for his anti-war/W position, and that I appreciated that he brought up prisoners, sentencing, and jails, to talk about, to the Senate floor.

Welcome back, Steve!

Feud Turgidson said...

I wonder if these Dem-registered Trump supporters are largely made up of residents of districts where the Dems either largely nominate African-Americans or where Dem-nominated candidates typically just don't beat the Republican candidate.