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Jim Webb's seeming sudden appearance on the national political stage is something very special, very personal for me. Way beyond what he might be able to do in reining in or bringing down this administration. That first quote, about a realignment in American politics by bringing together the Scots-Irish and African-Americans, was and is quite literally the single most interesting political statement I have read in my lifetime. I do not exaggerate when I say that.
I am one of those people Webb describes in that WSJ article and in his book. I come from the same people Webb does. Almost every anecdote he tells about members of his family might easily apply to my own. For almost every stereotype about poor white working class, Appalachians, redneck Southerners, I can point to perfect examples within my own family.
And for the few of us who have come to have, may I say more enlightened views, I can point to a direct correlation with better education and better economic opportunities. The majority who try to make do with high school educations or less at menial jobs, mostly fit the stereotypes to a remarkable to degree. To the extent that some of us have been able, one way or another, to acquire more and better education and more and better economic prospects, we tend to be less like the stereotypes and more like the general population around us. Those who are left behind in ignorance and poverty comprise a significant portion of Bush's twenty some percent dead enders. The few of us who managed to escape the cycle look back in sadness and in anger at a system that perpetuates that cycle.
I have thought for most of my life that poor working class blacks and poor working class whites, of whatever ancestry, have more in common with each other than either does with the wealthy and privileged few who own and control almost everything about our society. Yet since the days of Reconstruction, when newly freed black slaves suddenly became new competition for the poorest white underclass in the post Civil War South, the two have been set against each other like two cocks in a pit. Two centuries of tragic history have made them into enemies and rivals when they should have been natural allies.
Occasionally black civil rights or religious leaders have tried to make this point, usually to no avail. Occasionally one or another white liberal, usually wealthy and educated and not from the South, tries to make the point, also to no avail. In both cases they are dismissed or ridiculed or threatened into silence.
Along comes Jim Webb. He represents the other side of the table. He is not an outsider, some effete latte sipping liberal from San Francisco or Boston. He is one of us. One of the few who escaped the cycle to be sure, thanks to Annapolis and Viet Nam, but one of us nonetheless. He is an authentic war hero, a lawyer, a deep thinker and prolific writer, and now by all accounts a promising political figure. He is perhaps the only person on the planet who can make that case from the other side of the table and win a fair hearing. I don't think he can be dismissed or ridiculed. I am quite sure he cannot be intimidated. And I think the more they try to silence him, the louder he will get. We're kind of like that.
We all bleed the same color.
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