Former Virginia senator Jim Webb, 68, has declared he will run for president in 2016, the first candidate to officially do so. He vows to win back working class whites who have deserted the Democratic Party in droves, as was clearly evident from the recent election.
He could be Hillary Clinton’s worst nightmare. Unlike Hillary, he opposed the wars in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan which looks pretty smart in retrospect. But it is on the Scots Irish and white alienation issue that he will really seek to run.
A decorated former Marine and one term US Senator from Virginia, Webb defines himself strongly as Scots Irish. He recently did a Smithsonian Channel special tracing his lineage and that of millions of Americans from Scotland to Northern Ireland to the US.
His book "Born Fighting: How the Scots Irish shaped America " was a cry from the heart to recognize what the mainly southern Americans of Irish heritage – from Andrew Jackson and Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett on down – have done to shape this country.
These days Scots Irish are the poor and working class whites who are deeply alienated from the Democratic party and who have turned the south almost all red Republican.
Webb’s raison d’etre for running is that he can change that by his own background, his military heroism and his ability to connect with poor white voters.
Expect Webb to run on that disenfranchised white vote issue – a key problem for the Democratic party, which is bleeding white voters.
Webb pointed out in a Wall Street Journal article in 2010 that those same Scots Irish he represented, especially the poorer working class, were being discriminated against by affirmative action.
The piece, entitled “Diversity and the Myth of White Privilege,” argued that affirmative action has resulted in favorable treatment for immigrants, Hispanics, Asians and Africans, who are not victims of discrimination.
The oppressed white male has become a clarion call for Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and other Fox News opinionators.
The New York Times added fuel to his argument when they showed recently that lower class white students were far less likely to be admitted to Ivy League institutions than middle and upper classes.
The Times noted that an “upper-middle-class white applicant was three-times more likely to be admitted than a lower-class white with similar qualifications.”
That is a very valid rich white versus poor white issue, especially as the Times notes, many of the working class applicants were just as qualified.
There is certainly an inchoate white anger out there, folks who feel they have been working poor for way too long and that others have benefitted from government programs.
The poverty numbers would suggest otherwise but, as the Ferguson killing clearly shows, it is still a tale of two different views on race issues.
Webb will be trying to build the momentum around his ability to speak to working poor white voters' issues. Once they were solid supporters of Democrats who spoke up for them.
Now they see little difference between them and the GOP and the embrace of big shots by both parties. They overwhelmingly go for the GOP on race and entitlement issues.
It will be interesting to see how Webb will do, running from the right. He should not be dismissed lightly by the Hillary camp.