Last week, former Virginia senator Jim Webb gave the keynote address at the American Conservative’s conference titled “Foreign Policy In America’s Interest.”
This is whole speech in video.
Webb was a brief entrant in the Democratic presidential primary. He obviously left somewhat embittered by his experience. Back in March he had this to say:
Former Democratic presidential candidate Jim Webb won’t be voting for Hillary Clinton, but he hasn’t ruled out casting his ballot for Donald Trump.
Webb, who briefly flirted with an independent bid before deciding against it, said on Friday morning that the Democratic front-runner wasn’t inspirational.
“I would not vote for Hillary Clinton,” Webb said on MSBNC’s “Morning Joe.”
When asked whether he’d vote for Trump, Webb said he wasn’t closed to the idea. “I’m not sure yet. I don’t know who I’m going to vote for,” he said.
He said Clinton would simply continue President Barack Obama’s policies, but that with Trump, things would change — but he’s not convinced it would be for the better.
“If you’re voting for Donald Trump, you may get something very good or very bad,” Webb said. “If you’re voting for Hillary Clinton, you’re going to be getting the same thing.”
There is a lot of stuff in the speech that makes it worth listening to or reading. Some of it is cheap low-rent agitprop — my gosh how I loathe people who rely upon the chickenhawk argument to make a point — some of it is pretty good. Where it is most interesting is when he departs from the meat of his address and speaks about the election and Trump’s win.
You know, this conference is about foreign policy, but the reach of the American Conservative Magazine is far broader than that. With what has happened in our political system over the past year or so, I think we should start with this. Who were the so-called deplorable people who repudiated Secretary Clinton’s insult and put Donald Trump over the finish line?
Bill mentioned a little bit about this in his introduction, to my surprise. What were they thinking? As someone who unsuccessfully contemplated the presidency from inside the Democratic Party, let me give you a conclusion and some thoughts.
The basic unavoidable conclusion is that for a very long time both parties abandoned the hardworking people out in fly-over land, who have done so much to make this country great. It took an outsider, whatever his wealth and lack of government experience or credentials, to speak the truth unencumbered by the boundaries of political correctness, and the need to grovel before millionaires in order to finance an election.
I attempted to do this as a Democrat, I quickly learned the power of pay-to-play political machines in an era where it takes either a billion dollars or a lot of luck on social media. With few exceptions, we know in this country that a hardwired elite now controls or dramatically influences our media, major media, our financial institutions, and in many ways our political system itself.
I look back on the turning points in this campaign. I think of a great friend of mine, a fellow marine named Mac McDowell, who served in my company in Vietnam. In fact, we were wounded on the same day. Mac has been very loyal to me, even though he was a conservative Republican. He runs a gun shop on a shooting range in Erie, Pennsylvania.
When I decided not to continue the attempt at the presidency, he sent me an email. He said, “This guy Donald Trump,” he says, “the Republicans hate him, the Democrats hate him, the media hates him, I think I found my guy.” So, I would like to salute Donald Trump for his tenacity, and for the uniqueness of his campaign.
I think it is sort of naive that a man of Webb’s years and experience seems to be shocked that the most deeply corrupt political party in the history of the republic is a “pay to play” operation. And I’m not a fan of Webb, either his politics or his books, but we do, as far as I can discern from reading biographical sketches and some of his speeches, have some similar experiences and outlooks… though I will say I think Webb betrayed his own history by becoming a Democrat politician. Here, though, he hits the nail on the head here. Hillary lost the election but the GOP, in general, and conservatives, in particular, didn’t win it.
Webb goes on to discuss some of the impulses that led to Trump’s win. No doubt many will disagree with Webb’s statements but I think very succinctly captures the issues from the perspective of the people who did win this election.
The most important thing that Webb says is a theme that is gaining more and more attention. The Trump coaltion is both nationalist and populist. And while the elites have gone a long way towards making both dirty words (full disclosure, I’m an unabashed nationalist with a strong populist streak), the fact is that nationalism and populism have the ability to build long term winning coalitions in the way identity politics and social issues can never. Most of America thinks the nation is rule by elites. Most of America fears its children will be worse of financially than they are. Most of America does not pay federal income tax. That alone should be a road map for anyone interested in winning elections.