Democratic presidential candidate Jim Webb has not excelled in his party’s polls as we get closer to the first presidential primary elections, but by his own admission, Webb isn’t too keen on the direction of the party itself.
In July, Webb told “Fox News Sunday”:
“I believe we can bring a different tone to the Democratic Party.
“The party has moved way far to the left, and that’s not my Democratic Party, but in and of itself. We need to bring working people back into the formula.”
At the time of that interview, Webb’s was polling at about 2.3 percent in the RealClear Politics average of polls. Currently, Webb is a 1.8 percent.
Webb, who served as secretary of the Navy in the Reagan administration and later a Democratic senator from Virginia, delivered the same message in August, with an emphasis on white voters and racial demographics.
Webb told Fox News:
“I believe that the Democratic Party is the party that has taken care of working people for many generations and I think that the Democratic party needs to get back to its basic message.
“It has to understand, the leadership inside the Democratic party need to understand that, if you look at the election cycle of ‘10 and ‘14, they need to reach out and include white working people in a way they haven’t been.”
“Clay County, KY is the poorest county in America, and it’s 94 percent white. And they vote Republican because they do not believe the Democratic party has a place for them.”
Indeed, in the 2014 midterm election, whites made up 75 percent of theelectorate and voted for Republican House candidates by a 24-point margin (62 percent to 38 percent). In 2012, whites voted for Republican House candidates by a 20-point margin (60 percent to 40 percent); and in2010, whites voted for a GOP House by the same margin as 2014.
Webb, who is a long-time advocate for prison reform and as a senator offered legislation to repair racial disparities in the judicial system (which was filibustered by Republicans in 2009), nevertheless has said more than once, in reference to poor white communities across the country:
“Let’s be honest: If you’re poor and white, you’re out of sight.”
Consider Vermont senator and fellow Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. Sanders hails from a state that is 95 percent white and less than 2 percent black. He supports raising the national minimum wage to $15 per hour and is one of the United States’ most prominent economic populists.
Sanders seems like a natural ally of the white working class voters Webb is referring to. But, when asked by NPR about the party’s prospects with that demographic after the 2014 midterms, Sanders demurs:
“I am focusing on the fact that whether you’re white or black or Hispanic or Asian, if you are in the working class, you are struggling to keep your heads above water.”
This election, Sanders has been courting minority voters to expand his appeal, even reaching out to Black Lives Matter activists after theyinterrupted two of his public appearances.
Despite Webb’s calls for inclusion, the recent voting history of the white working class places them squarely in the Republican camp. And Webb may be stumping for a voting bloc that is unlikely to boost him in his party’s polls.