Sen. Jim Webb, the former Democratic Senator from Virginia who briefly challenged Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, is horrified that his party is turning so dramatically to the left.
Webb, who had served as Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of the Navy from 1987 to 1988, switched to the Democratic Party in 2006. In an appearance on Sunday’s Meet the Press with host Chuck Todd, Webb skewered the Democrats for being too unbendingly anti-Trump:
“Well, you know, there is a campaign going on on the Hill, in the media, in the academia to personally discredit not only Donald Trump but the people who are around him,” Webb explained. He added that, unfortunately for his party, the result of that is that “by ’18, when the Democrats are very vulnerable particularly in the Senate, they will not be a record of accomplishment that they can run against.”
But in addition to the Democrats’ structural problems in 2018—they have to defend far more seats than Republicans do—Webb thinks they’ll have problems attracting moderate voters, too.
“And at the same time the Democratic Party over the past five or six years has moved very far to the left,” he added. “You know, when you can’t have a Jefferson/Jackson dinner which was the primary, you know, celebratory event of the Democratic Party for years because Jefferson and Jackson were slaveholders, they were also great American in their day, something just different has happened to the Democratic Party.”
After Todd moved the conversation to identity politics, Webb had even more to say.
Democrats “lost the key part of their base,” Webb explained, due to their relentless focus on identity politics. He added: “My family history goes back to the Roosevelt Democrats, the people who believed that regardless of any of these identity segments you need to have a voice in a quarters of power for those who have no voice. And we’ve lost that with the Democratic Party.”
He further blamed his party for not heeding the lessons of 2010 and 2014—where Republicans swept into some of their largest majorities in the House, Senate, and in state offices in nearly a century.
“The Democrats have not done the kind of self-reflection that they should have starting 2010,” Webb said. “And I was talking about this in the ’10 elections. You’ve lost white working people. You’ve lost flyover land.”
He added that Democrats fundamentally misunderstood the rebellion against the establishment that had been brewing in both parties during the age of Obama, beginning with the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street.
“You saw in this election what happens when people get frustrated enough—that they say, ‘I’m not going take this aristocracy.’… But there is an aristocracy now that pervades American politics. It’s got to be broken somehow in both parties. And I think that’s what the Trump message was that echoed so strongly…”