‘Rulers and Rednecks’: Obama/Jim Webb 2012

We honor the fallen but around the mid-’70s we were coming to honor not only those who fell, but those who failed as well. There is nothing wrong with failure. But I'd just read Tom Wolfe's classic, The Right Stuff, about war pilots in rocket planes and by circumstances beyond my own doing and will, I’d been guarding some of these men when they flew their last mission. I'd be the last American they'd see before they hit the ground by the northern banks of the Mekong River or were captured and tortured by the North Vietnamese. We honor them today, but their fellow pilots, in Wolfe's telling, did not. America's samurai fighters in the old F-105s or 4Cs endorsed only victory in Wolfe’s telling. Later, almost everyone would get the medal and maybe find a politician's career in it. But "Rulers and Rednecks," a chapter in Born Fighting, Jim Webb's great history of the Scots-Irish journey across Europe, across the ocean, across the Appalachians, across the universe, restores the warrior moment; the vital moment from which time and history begins every single time: "On top of this mountain [out by Moccasin Gap on the farthest western edge of Virginia] you can understand the Pioneer's Creed: The Cowards Never Started. The Weak Died Along the Way. Only the Strong Survived."

This is where Obama should start again. Start again with Virginia Sen. Jim Webb as his VP.

Possibly he has this in mind. Romney clearly knows how to do things. He controls the agenda now with his trip to England and on to Israel. And when he comes back he will control it again by naming a VP. My guess is it will be someone interesting and beyond the imagination of the mainstream apparatus which seeks to sustain the old families (Bush, Bush and Bush). Romney will surprise at the moment of heightened expectations, running the ball into September. Obama should do the same directly after Romney’s announcement. He should bring in Jim Webb as VP.

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We have been these past few years in a foxfire of Jacksonian rural awakening and today all the map between the eastern cities and California is redneck red. But the true Jacksonian vision started with Jim Webb. Obama with Webb could take it back.

Obama today has one advantage: People tend to like him. Let the metalheads rant; they marginalize and embarrass their candidate. In April, a Washington Post-ABC News poll found 64 percent described Obama as likable, with only 26 percent saying they like Romney. A Romney victory would transform conservatism, leaving behind the Bush/Kissinger/National Review matrix — the Eastern Conservative Establishment — and awaken a new vision of conservatism. But likewise, an Obama/Webb ticket would awaken a new Jacksonian movement that would unite rural with urban as the Democratic Party traditionally did. It would leave behind the Roosevelt/Kennedy era (the Eastern Liberal Establishment), which has been bogging us down.

Democrats began moving forward to new thinking with Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, Wesley Clark, Jim Webb and a few others, and today a Jacksonian spirit even comes to New England with Elizabeth Warren. There was perhaps a specific time when this took its head of steam: the beginning of the war on Iraq; a war neither won nor lost at a time when we Americans no longer seemed to make the distinction.

It was then that true warriors, including John and Susan Eisenhower, Gen. Clark, Col. Larry Wilkerson and novelist and historian Webb, turned away. The Eisenhowers, Wilkerson and Webb had been prominent and distinguished Republicans. It was an astonishing collection of karma and character which gave Obama a headwind. He should start again here: Start again with Jim Webb as his VP.