JIM WEBB-- NOT LIKELY TO BE GOING SOUTH ON US ANYTIME SOON
Jerry McNerney, whose challenge to the loathed Dirty Dick Pombo (CA-11) was interfered with every step of the way by Rahm Emanuel's Inside-the-Beltway political machine, owes nothing to nobody-- except to the grassroots voters who financed him and cast their ballots for him. Imagine that! He might actually represent the values and principles of the people who elected him. I love independent-minded candidates. Jerry McNerney was one of the first candidates we added to out Blue America page. And every time slimy machine pols like Emanuel or his yap-dog-in-California, Ellen Tauscher, would do something else to undermine Jerry's campaign, grassroots fundraising would ramp up.
Why am I bringing this up? Just a little context for a Jim Webb story in tomorrow's Washington Post. You see, I'm not afraid of independent minded legislators; I prefer them-- as long as they have their heads on straight. The endorsement process for being a Blue America candidate isn't that complicated. We look for independent-minded grassroots, populist progressives. In the initial checkup we want to make sure our candidates are committed to the kind of electoral reform that will remove big money from the system (which immediately puts us at odds with the careerist sleaze-balls like the DLC, especially Emanuel and Schumer); we want to make sure our candidates understand that the weakest and most vulnerable in society need representation, not just the most well-off; we look for candidates who will fight for simple all-American values like equality and fairness. We expect our candidates to completely understand the importance of protecting women's right to choice. We expect our candidates to not flinch even when tough red herrings-- like gay rights or immigrants rights-- are thrown at them by the dark and divisive forces in our society.
Earlier today, I told a smiley face story about how we helped-- even if just a little -- Jim Webb win his Senate race in Virginia. (Of course he only won by a little.) Tomorrow's Post has a headline that could be something to be overjoyed about-- or... it could be ominous: Webb May Be Senate Maverick.
Webb, a former Republican and Reagan administration official, said he might be a bit of a maverick in the Senate, which could frustrate Democratic leaders who poured more than $6 million into his campaign.
"I have my own views, and I have a lot of experiences, and I think I can bring the experiences I had to issues rather than having to read off a party briefing sheet," Webb said Friday in an interview.
Webb said he will model himself after former New York senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D), whom he described as someone "who had government experience that was shaped by the intellectual world."
As an anti-establishment, outsider candidate, Webb attracted a great deal of support-- even above and beyond the disdain many thinking people felt towards an incompetent and bigoted clod like George Felix Macacawitz Allen. Now he's a U.S. Senator, at the pinnacle of the Establishment he had campaigned against. "In Washington, the lobbyists and corporate executives he railed against during the campaign will be vying for his attention around the clock."
When we okayed the use of the Blue America PAC name to place spots to remind northern Virginia voters that Macacawitz has been a shameless rubber stamp for Bush, we very much had an idea that even if we didn't agree with Webb on all our issues, he had demonstrated a strength of character that could be counted on to keep him from becoming part of the cesspool of corruption that many politicians-- all Republicans and too many Democrats-- fall into once they get comfy inside the insular world of the Beltway.
He is widely expected to be a pro-military/pro-veterans spokesperson for anti-war Democrats, not unlike Jack Murtha's hugely admired role in the House. The Post quotes former VA lieutenant governor Donald Breyer Jr on Webb: "He is very bright, strong-principled and apparently fearless. I think he can be a very strong voice in the Senate. He will be very comfortable working with 99 other senators to solve problems."
The Post, though, does stir the pot by emphasizing that he is a former Republican and may become a swing voter who will form alliances with reactionaries like McCain and Warner. This could set off alarm bells among progressives. I'm not overly concerned. First of all Webb is basically a libertarian on social issues. Sure, he's for gun-rights, but he's not likely to stand by idly while Bush further erodes constitutional freedoms the way Republican rubber stampers (and too many Democrats with a similar mindset) have done. I don't expect to see Webb ever support domestic wiretapping or weakening of habeus corpus. That's not what the man is about. He thinks Big Government should not routinely interfere with people's lives.
Remember, Webb left the GOP for two (excellent) reasons: their unconscionable Iraq policies and their far right stands on economic issues. "On the campaign trail, Webb talked about the 'three Americas'-- rich, poor and middle-class-- and how society was breaking down over 'class lines.' Webb, who vows to never change what he believes for a 'dollar or a vote,' said he wants to close corporate tax loopholes and pay closer attention to escalating salaries for chief executives. Webb also has an affinity for the labor movement, even though Virginia is a right-to-work state. He plans to push to raise the minimum wage and said that 'organized labor is very important because everyone needs an agent.'"
Earlier I joked about watching closely to make sure he doesn't turn into a Zell Miller or a Joe Lieberman. So far, there's no reason in the world to think he will. We'll let you know if anything changes. (I've been wrong before.)