A lot of liberal bloggers have been trying to bat down the idea of an Obama-Webb ticket: Kathy G on Matt Yglesias’s blog and Ezra Klein at The American Prospect. James Joyner over at Outside the Beltway provides a good summary of the arguments being used against Webb.
Having first met Webb nearly thirty years ago – and having co-written an Atlantic cover story with him, and having broken my rule against giving money to political candidates two years ago when he began his Senate run – I can’t imagine a job he would enjoy less than the vice presidency.
Jim Webb has arranged his life so as to maximize his intellectual and personal independence, and minimize the things he “has” to do and the bosses he must answer to…The federal government office that least matches Webb’s lifetime path is the vice presidency.
…what separates Webb from, say, a John Kerry or a John Edwards – both of whom appealed to Democrats because they seemed to (but didn’t really) shore up the party’s weaknesses on national security and with the white and Southern working class – is that he really is a different kind of Democrat. He isn’t a conventional left-liberal who happens to have a military record and/or a Southern accent; he’s a more sui generis figure, a cultural (though not social) conservative with heterodox views on a variety of issues.
This is why, were I Obama, I would look at the left-liberal case against Webb – on the grounds that he’s too anti-feminist, too pro-military, too skeptical about affirmative action and immigration, too hostile to Hollywood and academia – as an advertisement for the pick. An Obama-Webb ticket wouldn’t send just a message that people who share the same ethno-cultural identity as Jim Webb can have a home in the Democratic Party, the way Kerry and Edwards were supposed to show that veterans and Southerners could too be Democrats; it would send a message that people with Webb’s views can have a home in the party. It would lend substance to Obama’s thus-far insubstantial claim to be something other than a party-line liberal, and in the process it would have the potential to achieve at the national level what the Congressional Dems have successfully done at the local level – namely, expand the definition of what it means to be a Democrat. That’s the promise, as-yet-unfulfilled, of the Obama campaign. And that’s how you build a lasting majority.