The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

The Pragmatic Democrats’ Webb

I admit, I held my breath when I heard about Democrat Jim Webb’s win in the Virginia Senate primary, because he’s a “netroots candidate” with a noticeable tilt to the right; or, as one blogger put it, a “pragmatic candidate” for the Virginia Senate. Considering that Virginia has one of the most hateful anti-gay marriage amendments on record, and knowing how a previous “pragmatic candidate” in that state handled the issue, I didn’t expect much when I went to Webb’s campaign site to see if there was anything there about his stance on the issue.

I didn’t find anything there, but a Google search yielded this recent Hardball transcript which included an interesting exchange between Webb and Chris Matthews concerning Virginia’s anti-gay marriage ban.

MATTHEWS: OK, let me go on to gay marriage. Do you think Virginia‘s ban, that is on the ballot right now, should be approved or not? Would you vote for it, are you going to vote for it?

WEBB: No, I‘m not going to. I think it is a bad amendment. It‘s a bad amendment, first of all, as someone who used to write legislation, as a committee council. The second paragraph is extremely vague. On the other side of it, or in addition to that …

MATTHEWS: … Are you for gay marriage?

WEBB: I think, I‘m very civil unions, and I believe that this issue was deliberately …

MATTHEWS: … This would not permit civil unions. So you‘re for civil unions.

WEBB: I am for civil unions and I‘m opposed to the amendment.

MATTHEWS: Are you for civil unions Mr. Miller?

MILLER: I support civil unions and I also oppose the amendment. This is the first time Virginia‘s have ever considered an amendment which would limit the rights of individuals. It is a bad idea and I oppose it.

Not ideal, but still, a conservative Virginia Democrat opposing the anti-gay marriage amendment and supporting civil unions is enough to make me sit up and take notice, because in a state like Virginia — which seeks to outlaw not only same-sex marriage, but civil unions and another legal arrangements between same sex couples that offer similar benefits to marriage — that’s actually a pretty progressive stand. It’s more than the leading Democrat in the Maryland governor’s race can manage.

I do wonder, though, if even that message is something Webb will be able to maintain when he faces George Allen in the general election. He’s being touted as Allen’s worst nightmare, and it will be interesting to see if his stand on the amendment and civil unions will be used against him. My guess is that it almost certainly will, and what will be more interesting to see is whether Virginians take the bait or not. I tend to be biased in favor of the the power of personal stories, so maybe hearing stories like that of Barbara Kinney and Tibby Middleton will appeal to fair-minded Virginians. I’d advise Webb t talk about personal stories like that if questioned about his stance.

But, despite his stand on the anti-gay marriage amendment and civil unions, Webb’s win and his support from the netroots are matters of concern to some of us.

As a liberal, I’ve listened over the years to various demographics within the Democratic base echo a common complaint. Blacks, women, and union workers have groused that their interests aren’t being served and they’ve warned the Democratic Party not to take them for granted. The Party has largely ignored that message, figuring few would abandon them for the less appealling Republicans.

And they’re right.

But they have lost and will continue to lose a growing number to any viable third party or, in the regular absence of that, to the greater group of those who simply refuse to vote.

… I edge closer to promoting a third party that I’m certain will come. It does not have to be non-mainstream, either. All it has to be is the Paleo-Dem Party, the real party that won on Social Security, World War II, the GI Bill, Civil Rights, Women’s Liberation, the rights of migrant farmworkers, environmental protection, and the minimum wage.

I’m easily marginalized and dismissable. But the majority of Americans are choosing not to vote, and neither party is displaying any serious interest in reaching that majority, the fastest growing demographic in this country.

I can’t imagine a scenario in which I would actually choose not to vote. But I can imagine a scenario in which I can’t find anyone to vote for. My parents raised me to be an active voter, and my dad always said “if you can’t find someone to vote for, find someone to vote against, but vote.” It’s not the most optimistic approach to politics, but given the detectable rightward drift of the Democratic party in pursuit of regaining majority status, it might be the only “pragmatic” choice, aside from actually casting a third-party or write-in vote.

And, as with any choice, making that one means giving up something. It’s clearer now what some Democrats/progressives are willing to give up in order to regain majority status. The question is: what am I willing to give up?

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