Like Michael Crowley, I had no idea that Jim Webb is an opponent of the death penalty. I’ve followed Webb’s rise pretty closely, given that he is my Senator, so it has been quite interesting to see the boom of Webb related content that’s hit the web in the last couple of days. There have been people who claimed he is too independent to be Vice President. That he hasn’t been a Democrat long enough and his past views on cultural issues, particularly race and sex. That his views about the Vietnam war are insufficiently orthodox.
Webb’s biggest national appeal is supposed to be his cultural conservatism. Yet he is an ardent death penalty opponent and one of the few figures to have spoken out against the rate of imprisonment in the US. He is pro-life. Yet he has held that affirmative action is state sponsored racism, in the process of coming out for a more class based affirmative action program.
Basically, to me, the appeal of Jim Webb is pretty simple. He’s much more of an average guy than almost any other prominent politician. Nobody I know who doesn’t work in politics takes a party line stance on every issue they think about. People who are generally liberal agree with Republicans on some issues and people who are generally conservative agree with Democrats on some issues. Webb is like that too. In part because he hasn’t been a political creature for most of his career, in part because he’s switched back and forth between parties and in part because he’s iconoclastic, he doesn’t take a party line stand. Like most Americans he agrees with conservatives and liberals at different times. That is what is so refreshing about Jim Webb. He seems like a normal guy who just happens to serve in high office.