As you have probably heard, Jim Webb has dropped out of the Democratic presidential race. I was planning to write an Onion style article, “Jim Webb: Running for President Harder Than Killing Gooks.” But I thought better of it. The truth is, I admire people like Webb who are willing to put themselves out in the public. That takes a hell of a lot more courage than trying to stay alive in a war. And the fact that he came off as a serial killer when he wasn’t complaining about no one calling on him was more a function of his relative inexperience than of any dysfunction on his part.
Of course, there has been buzz that Webb is considering an independent run for the presidency. And at the press conference this morning, he didn’t rule it out. If he does that, then I might go ahead with an Onion kind of article. Of course, the big reason he’s dropping out is not his curious debate performance; it is his lack of funds. So maybe the Third Way folks will flock to him. After all, that’s what they do. They know that the Republicans are terrible. And they posit that the Democrats are the same. So someone more conservative than Hillary Clinton and less conservative than Ted Cruz is just right.
Last night on All In With Chris Hayes, Third Way’s Senior Vice-President for Public Affairs Matt Bennett was on to talk about how America would never vote for someone who calls himself a socialist. He actually made that blanket statement. It was not that Americans would not vote for Bernie Sanders unless he was running against Donald Trump or Ben Carson. It wasn’t that he would lose unless he was running against a fascist (which the Republicans may well nominate). It was just that he couldn’t win.
That’s the point of Third Way: to guard against the Democratic Party’s left flank. They don’t seem much interested in doing the same for the Republican Party’s right flank. In fact, other than setting up the Republicans as the equal and opposite of the Democrats, they don’t seem much interested in the Republican Party at all. Right now, the Third Way gang seems fairly happy with Hillary Clinton. But that’s just because of Bernie Sanders. If he hadn’t run, I’m sure that Jim Webb would be just what they wanted — not because of anything about him, but because he just seems to the right of what the Democratic Party wants.
But the main thing that I hate about Third Way — and actually a whole lot more people than that — is how they claim to speak for the American people. In the All In segment, they quoted from a poll that showed that only 47% of Americans would vote for a socialist. I’ve seen it before. And I think it means absolutely nothing. Back in June, an Iowa poll found that only 34% of Republicans would even consider voting for Donald Trump. The Real Clear Politics average now has Trump at over 22% in Iowa — 5 points ahead of his nearest rival. It just is no longer true that only 34% of Iowa Republicans would never vote for him. The same is true of their support for “socialist” — which means a lot less given it is an out of context word and not a person.
The truth is that Third Way and others like it are not telling the truth. It is not that Bernie Sanders could never be elected. It is that they are terrified that he could get elected. Sanders has caused the Overton window to open a bit. And Third Way hates that. They want to limit the world of political discourse to Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton. And if they could just get rid of Bernie Sanders, they could narrow the debate even more: to Jeb Bush and Jim Webb.