“Yesterday, yesterday,” Paul McCartney once sang. Yesterday I felt my knees buckle and cold beads of sweat form first in my palms, then on my forehead. I tried to scream but only a dry, exasperated yell came out. I felt the weight of the universe pushing down on me as the floor seemed to give out. I felt millions of moderates cry out in terror and suddenly be silenced.
Yesterday, Jim Webb withdrew from the Democratic primary campaign for president.
That was my first reaction, sheer terror. How could the former Assistant Secretary of the Navy, for Chrissakes, give up just as polls were about to catch up to his commanding debate performance?
It has long been said that when a door shuts, a window opens. The ex-Marine ex-Senator brought me out of the deep crevice I had plummeted into by telling the National Press Club that he was leaving the door on an independent run wide open. Here’s why that’s good news for him and for the country.
All the loud, aggressive partisan bickering coming out of Washington has driven millions of voters to declare their independence from the two major parties. No doubt, 2016 is shaping up to be the Year of the Independents. And these voters are on the hunt for an alternative. A radical alternative. A radical independent. A radical independent doing the most radical thing one can possibly do in 2016: be aggressively moderate.
A Webb candidacy would appeal to the millions of diehard Michael Bloomberg fans who have been forced to wander from polling station to polling station like Moses and the Jews, seeking their Land of Milk and Honey (a centrist candidate with military experience). These are the folks who clamored close to watch Joe Lieberman speak in 2000 when he singlehandedly brought Al Gore’s Presidential bid back from the dead with his moderate blend of Joementum. This silent majority of Olympia Snowe loyalists would stand in a platoon behind the officer who led men in Vietnam, staking out the Vietcong of partisanship, wasteful welfare spending, and defense cuts.
Yes, things are complicated by Joe Biden’s impending candidacy (both he and Webb appeal to the same coveted bloc of slovenly working class whites). However, my gut tells me Webb is primed to pick up the surging “Hispanic” and “other” demos off the strength of his oft-touted non-American wife. In a three-way race between Webb, Hillary/Biden, and Donald Trump, the patriot could roll up his sleeves, then take his shirt off, oil up, and tackle the electorate to the ground to give it what it deserves.
Jim Webb needs to run for President, and the only question left in my mind is who his running mate should be: Perhaps a widely-beloved moderate icon Senator Alan Simpson or Ross Perot, or a straight-shooting CEO like Lee Iacocca or Bloomberg, or even a gravitas-oozing actor like Jeff Daniels or Martin Sheen, both stars of cerebral Aaron Sorkin dramas. (Excuse me while I wipe the drool off my keyboard!) Any of these picks would complement Webb’s military experience nicely and send a message that he’ll cut through the Washington horse-hockey and enact the Social Security means-tests, charter school subsidies, and military strikes in Ukraine that hundreds of millions of moderate Americans are clamoring for.
Deep down, whether red or blue, Progressive or Tea Party, hip hop or country, every American is still excited by the greatest bipartisan victories of their lifetimes. Victories like No Child Left Behind, the Afghanistan War, the Clinton-Gingrich kick-the-bums-off-welfare bill, and the inspirational TARP bailouts that saved our financial institutions. At the end of the day, these weren’t just laws. They were triumphs of common sense, exemplars of what we as a country do when a rough man gave us the smack we deserved, told us our childhoods weren’t extraordinary in any way, and marched us aboard Good Ship Leadership to sail straight forward into the wind.
I don’t know about you, but I think a certain ex-Navy man could be the sailor that America needs.
Carl “The Dig” Diggler has covered national politics for 30 years, and is the author of “Think-ocracy: The Rise Of The Brainy Congressman”. He currently resides in New York, but also spends time in Washington DC and Los Angeles (but most of all, airports!).