The Spectacle Blog

Obama, Webb, and the White Working Class

By on 5.28.08 | 12:11AM

Daniel Larison writes:

[T]he selection of Webb validates the attack on Obama by acknowledging that there is some sort of liabiliity or vulnerability that Obama had to balance out by choosing Webb. Choosing Webb is another way of saying, "Yes, Democrats must have a military veteran with culturally conservative attitudes on their ticket in order to demonstrate their fidelity to the United States, which is otherwise suspect." Selecting Webb and selecting him specifically because of what he represents, rather than what he can do, accepts the judgement that Obama's patriotism and American-ness need bolstering. This has the risk of being every bit as self-defeating and embarrassing as John Kerry's "reporting for duty" moment at the national convention.

But there clearly is this sort of vulnerability for a Democratic nominee, this has been a line of attack in more elections than not since 1972, and it is particularly a problem for Barack Obama now with certain working-class white voters in his own party. You can say that it can't be fixed. You can say that attempts to fix it are likely to be self-defeating and embarrassing, as John Kerry's reporting for duty line surely was. You can say you disagree with this critique of Obama. But the political liability clearly exists and doesn't require any Democratic validation. Democratic acknowledgement may or may not not help, but it doesn't seem arguable that this is a problem. It only seems arguable whether it can be solved.

By the way, pre-Cheney didn't major parties always pick their running mates on the basis of what they represented or could at least deliver electorally rather than what they could do?

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