The Democrats picked Jim Webb to offer their response to the President’s State of the Union Address for the same reason they anointed him to face Republican Sen. George Allen in the November 2006 election: his opposition to the war in Iraq, which is bolstered by his surpassing valor in Vietnam.
The risible aspect of Webb’s sudden political ascendancy is that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans understood Webb during the campaign, and they don’t understand him now. The Republicans tried to portray Webb as a leftist for the same reason Democrats think he is one: their obsession with the war in Iraq and their fantasy that anyone who opposes the war must favor “marriage” for homosexuals.
An Allen campaign advertisement suggested as much, but the fact remains that, in the race for Virginia senator, the visceral conservative won. Of the two men who addressed the nation on January 23, the liberal spoke from the House floor. The conservative replied.
More interesting than Webb’s laconic answer, however, is Webb himself. In a campaign profile of Webb in the Weekly Standard, writer Andrew Ferguson called Webb a “blood-and-soil conservative,” which no one seemed to grasp despite Webb’s explaining himself in novels and his nonfiction history, Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America. Observed Ferguson: “All his ideas are reactionary.”
Indeed. Born Fighting is not only a paean to the Confederacy but an indictment of the cultural Marxists who declared war on middle-class, white Americans in the 1960’s. Ferguson begins his piece with a quote from Webb’s book: “The culture so dramatically symbolized by the Southern redneck [is] the greatest inhibitor of the plans of the activist Left and the cultural Marxists for a new kind of society altogether. . . . [Rednecks] are the greatest obstacles to what might be called the collectivist taming of America, symbolized by the edicts of political correctness. And for the last fifty years the Left has been doing everything in its power to sue them, legislate against their interests, mock them in the media, isolate them as idiosyncratic, and publicly humiliate their traditions in order to make them, at best, irrelevant to America’s future growth.”
To this, Ferguson replied, “Yowie.”
At the end of Born Fighting, Webb dissects the political, cultural, and intellectual elites and their war against American culture in terms that would sound familiar to readers of Chronicles: “The most visible fault line between the people of this culture and those who so adamantly shape modern America’s intellectual and political agenda began during the turmoil of the civil rights movement and continues today in a variety of related issues.”
For Webb, Born Fighting was nothing new. In 1990, he gave an inspiring oration at the Confederate Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery. In 2000, he called affirmative action “a permeating state-sponsored racism that is as odious as the Jim Crow laws it sought to countermand.” He even named his son after Robert E. Lee. One wonders why the Southern Poverty Law Center did not come out for Allen. Hilariously enough, Democrat activists smelled something but could only tell Ferguson they planned to “educate” Webb. A few Democrats understood Webb, but again, their chief concern was the war in Iraq. Webb opposed it; that was good enough.
The irony of it all is that Allen was the liberal. Granted, the Democrats roasted Allen for his Confederate sympathies, the “Macaca” remark, and allegedly playing pranks on blacks and using the “n-word” in his youth at the University of Virginia, but Webb escaped any serious condemnation for his views. Allen the legislator wanted the Yankee Leviathan to cure every imaginable societal ill, and he even sponsored the “Pool and Spa Safety Act” to protect kiddies from accidental drowning. He did nothing to return government to its constitutional mooring. He was known as a conservative only because he backed the Bush Imperium and opposed homosexual “marriage,” hardly a radical position in Virginia.
Allen enlisted female Naval Academy grads and others to call Webb a misogy-nist because of his writings (for which Webb apologized) attacking the feminization of the military. In other words, the alleged conservative ran to the left of Webb on one of the most important cultural issues of our time: women in combat.
In delivering the Democratic response to President Bush, in which he spoke about overpaid corporate executives, lost jobs, and the reckless expenditure of American blood and treasure in Iraq, Webb touched on the political and cultural theme of Born Fighting. To Webb, it was personal, and not just because of his book. Webb’s son, unlike the Bush Twins, is fighting in Iraq.
The struggle of Webb’s rednecks against the elites in Born Fighting foreshadowed his battle against Allen and Bush and their ilk—the rootless, plutocratic oligarchs who amass power and wealth by exploiting the fierce, proud patriotism of this country’s Webbs in war, then dispossess them economically and culturally by advancing the interests of global corporate elites and by helping cultural leftists wage unremitting war against their children in school and their ancestors in history books.
No wonder Webb snubbed Bush when the President met with new legislators and inquired after Webb’s son. “That’s between me and my boy,” the senator-elect grumbled. Columnist George Will, avatar of bespectacled, bow-tied “conservatives” everywhere, called him a “boor,” which also harks back to Webb’s cultural theme: Pasty-faced elitists like Will think guys like Webb are slack-jawed bumpkins. Maybe, but Webb began manhood by graduating from the Naval Academy and earning the Navy Cross. Will schlepped paste pots for Bill Buckley.
Given Webb’s stardom, we have to wonder whether he contemplates higher office. One hint? His BornFighting.com website now represents his Born Fighting Political Action Committee, and everyone knows what those do: raise money. Once he measures Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the latter being one of those cultural Marxists who have long tried to dispossess and delegitimize Webb’s people, he may run for president. If he outwits the Democratic intellectual and cultural elites to win the nomination, the Republicans are doomed.