Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Webb's Strong Suit

Since the mid-1980s hundreds of my commentaries on politics have been published under various mastheads. Hardcore rightwingers are usually sure I’m a liberal, perhaps even a communist. Yet, plenty of lefties disagree sharply with my views on this, or that, and get angry about it. Libertarians tell me I’m one of them. I tell them I’m not.

With my political writing, I'm usually trying to point out an angle others may be missing. In the long run I want to change minds and being the voice of a political party doesn't facilitate that end. So, there you have it, I like to call 'em as I see 'em. Although I’ve been a maverick of a sort for a long time, in some ways, my credentials as a longtime supporter of Democrats go back a good ways, too. See below:
The handbill above is one I did for a fundraiser at the Biograph Theatre, a Fan District repertory cinema I managed, 1972-83. (R. Crumb's trucking man style was deliberately imitated in the McGovern caricature trying to appeal to hippies.)

The other movie theater operators in town and lots of other know-it-alls told me I was crazy to take sides in politics by sponsoring a McGovern benefit. That was still in our first year of operation at 814 W. Grace St. Soon they learned the Biograph was going to be something different from business as usual in Richmond. It was as independent a cinema as it got, in the heyday of art theaters.

James Webb is said to be a maverick. That scares some people. Not me, I like a guy who does his own thinking.

Today I think Webb’s candidacy is probably the best chance Virginia Democrats have had in a long time to reconnect with the authentic roots of their own party -- the Commonwealth’s workers and families who live off their paychecks, everyday people.

There’s a shift in the wind now. A lot of voters who had drifted toward the GOP during the last two decades, because it seemed more modern or righteous to them, have recently had their faith in Republican leadership shaken. Some are now looking for a new style of leadership. Will the Democrats open their arms to welcome these voters, some of them wandering former Democrats? Or will the Democrats bog themselves down with petty disputes over who is or isn’t a “real Democrat,” or who was wrong on this issue or that, back when?

When Webb says the Republican Party of Ronald Reagan has left him, I recognize he’s speaking for a whole lot of others, too. Some of them would like to vote for a president who won't break the bank -- maybe a Democrat. The cynical and short-sighted style of Karl Rove and Dick Cheney must have a lot of smart Republicans thinking about crossing to the other side of the aisle. That’s good. The panel above I did for STYLE Weekly, as part of a five-page spread on the colorful four-way Robb/North/Coleman/Wilder senate race in 1994.

George Allen, who actually said Democrats had “soft teeth” and “whiney throats” at the 1994 Republican convention that nominated Ollie North, is no longer in the catbird’s seat. Times have changed; his proteges Jim Gilmore and Jerry Kilgore don’t look so good anymore. As a Bush yes-man in the Senate, now Allen faces an election that should have everything to do with the Bush administration’s failed policies and inept performance.

OK, on a debate stage, can you imagine semi-glib George Allen referring to James Webb as a whiner? Not likely. (I never have figured out what that "soft teeth" thing was. Like chalky, or rubbery? Or what?)

Democrats who want to defeat Allen should 86 the challenges to Webb’s sincerity. They ought to take the man’s word when he says he has found a home in the Democratic Party. Turning the authenticity of his donkey credentials into an issue is not unlike calling him an imposter, or an infidel.

Have Democrats gotten so inward-looking and shrill they want to be seen as tantamount to a flock of religious zealots demanding utter conformity?

In truth, "authenticity" is probably James Webb’s strong suit. Webb’s rich real life experiences in several fields offer a rather stark contrast to what Allen has actually done on his own. Smart Democrats who want to win should be licking their chops at the prospect of Allen having to contend with Webb.


The Richmond Democrat said...

Damn Terry, that's an amazing piece of writing!

hayden said...

Great piece. I couldn't agree more.

Dannyboy said...

You need to post this thing EVERYWHERE, dude! Seriously, it's brilliant.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely perfect! Super read...


Anonymous said...

Very interesting! Thanks!