Jim Webb: The First Casualty In The Democrats’ Purity Wars

Andrew Moore Public Affairs Consultant
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During the summer of 1969, 23-year-old First Lieutenant [crscore]James Webb[/crscore] Jr. approached a seemingly unoccupied enemy bunker concealed by camouflage in Vietnam. Three enemy soldiers jumped out, and using nothing but his .45 caliber sidearm, Webb disarmed and apprehended them unharmed. Webb and one of his men then proceeded to clear two more bunkers, but were met with heavy resistance. During the fight, Webb sprang into action when he saw a grenade land next to his teammate: “Lieutenant Webb simultaneously fired his weapon at the enemy, pushed the Marine away from the grenade, and shielded him from the explosion with his own body.”

For his heroic actions that day, Mr. Webb was awarded the Navy Cross, the second highest citation bestowed by the military. The grenade fragments that tore through his body are still embedded in his skull and kidney today.

Jim Webb is an American hero, but he’s no match for the modern Democratic Party, which demands a level of ideological purity that would make LBJ blush. Recognizing this, Webb announced Tuesday that he would no longer seek the Democratic nomination for president, but is considering an independent run.

In response to a reporter’s question after bowing out of the race, Mr. Webb expressed frustration with his former political party: “The Democratic Party is heavily invested in the notion of interest-group politics, and interest group politics, if you’re not careful, can exclude people,” he said.

Not only are Democrats invested in interest-group politics, their entire electoral strategy is based on it and it’s driving their party further and further to the left.

Democrats’ overreliance on group politics has driven out traditionally Democratic constituencies, like working class white males, who used to be an important part of the party’s moderate core and found representation in people like veteran Jim Webb, southerner John Breaux and plainspoken Evan Bayh.

Power in the Democratic Party has now shifted toward groups that are more likely to identify as liberal, including minorities, urbanites and young voters.

Democrats have become more liberal over the last decade-and-a-half. 27 percent of Democrats identified as liberal in 2000 and 43 percent identified as moderate. In 2015, Pew conducted the same survey and found that self-described moderate Democrats plummeted to 35 percent – an 8 point decrease – and self-described liberals shot up 14 points to 41 percent.

Socialism is more popular than ever among Democrats. According to a recent YouGov poll, 49 percent of Democrats had a favorable view of socialism and only 37 percent held a positive view of capitalism.

Although most Americans would not support a socialist for president, according to a Gallup poll done earlier this year, nearly 70 percent of 18-29 year-olds would. In 2008, 66 percent of voters under 30 supported Mr. Obama in the general election. In 2012, that number decreased slightly to 60 percent, but far outperformed the paltry 37 percent that Mitt Romney captured. In both elections, young people turned out to vote in historically high numbers.

In an attempt to recreate the Obama coalition, Mrs. Clinton has proposed several narrowly focused programs aimed at appeasing and pleasing core constituencies. For millennials: raise taxes and spend $350 billion on college affordability and student loan repayment. For women: require employers to provide paid family leave. For Hispanics: Mrs. Clinton would go “even further” than Mr. Obama’s executive actions. For African Americans: reverse Bill Clinton’s anti-crime laws and seemingly harsh sentencing standards.

Some Democrats, David Axelrod among them, have expressed concern about the lack of a rationale for a Hillary Clinton candidacy besides becoming the first woman president. Their concerns are well placed. Pandering to divergent groups isn’t a unifying theme, or a rationale, it’s a cynical political tactic used to cobble together enough votes to win an election, but without any mandate to address big challenges with big solutions.

As Democrats demand strict ideological purity, the Republican Party has become more powerful than it’s been in generations. Republicans hold majorities in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. They control both legislative chambers in 30 states and hold the governorship in 31 states. Democrats only control both chambers in 11 states and the governorship in 18. According to Real Clear Politics’ index of party strength, the Republican Party is the strongest it’s been since 1928.

The Democrats’ march left may be what their base demands, but it will put them in the same position they found themselves in between the Johnson and Clinton administrations – and with similar results.

It’s an electoral suicide mission; one Jim Webb wisely chose not to be a part of it.

Andrew Moore is a public affairs consultant and former research specialist at American Crossroads. Andrew and his fiancé live in Washington, DC. Follow Andrew on Twitter @MooreIam.