Already, The New York Times identifies the rising Democratic governor of Rhode Island, formerly a venture capitalist, as the "anti-Warren." Already, the Hillary Clinton campaign sets its sights on former Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.). The Wall Street Journal on Dec. 29: "Hillary Clinton's allies say she can bring white, working-class voters back to the Democrats." Meaning those to whom Webb appeals. Who will win in the street fight that is clearly ahead for the Democratic Party?
But this is not good news for Republicans. The Democrats' energy rises again as it has not since John F. Kennedy rose against the posh parlor-politics of first lady Eleanor Roosevelt and Gov. Adlai Stevenson (D-Ill.). Time itself made even the world-shaking Franklin Roosevelt era irrelevant to the rising post-war period. Bad news for Republicans, because the fight which would determine the next half-century was intramural among Democrats. Republicans after President Eisenhower were sidelined.
We may be there again. Webb is a complex and able archetypal figure; a rare and exotic leader in combat or in Congress. A sudden, unpredictable paradigm shift is suggested by his recent appearance. Anything could happen. Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenSenate GOP blocks defense bill, throwing it into limbo Restless progressives eye 2024 Poll: Harris, Michelle Obama lead for 2024 if Biden doesn't run MORE (D-Mass.) and Webb bring dynamism to the rising century, unseen and unanticipated even a year back; energy which could shake America and the world as it has not been shaken since President Teddy Roosevelt.
In the past decade, we have seen conservative heartlanders adapt Presidents Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson to their own situations. What we see now is the rise of the Teddy Roosevelt Democrats.
Theodore Roosevelt was the turn-of-the-century Republican president who went on to form the Progressive Party. It came to be known as the Bull Moose Party when Roosevelt said "I'm feeling like a bull moose." But the century got in the way and the Bull Moose adventure was short circuited by wars in Europe. Possibly only to be born again with Webb and Warren in 2015.
Lowell Feld, an early political blogger in northern Virginia who helped found the "Draft Jim Webb" (for Senate) movement saw it first. Is Webb "a 21st century Teddy Roosevelt?" he asked on Virginia's Raising Kaine political blog way back in 2006.
Any time he saw "qualities of Teddy Roosevelt — independence, dynamism, courage, Progressivism, conservationist — in a leader, I get excited," he wrote. He called then-President George W. Bush the "anti-Teddy Roosevelt."
"I can just imagine what the 'Bull Moose' would do to George W. Bush if he got him 'mano a mano,'" wrote Feld. But "here in Virginia, we can do our part by electing Jim Webb [to the Senate], a man who shares many of Teddy Roosevelt's best qualities."
Webb met that early promise in his response to Bush's State of the Union speech in 2007:
Regarding the economic imbalance in our country, I'm reminded of the situation Theodore Roosevelt faced in the early days of the 20th century. America was then, as now, drifting apart along class lines. The so-called robber barons were unapologetically raking in a huge percentage of the national wealth. The dispossessed workers at the bottom were threatening revolt. Roosevelt spoke strongly against these divisions. He told his fellow Republicans that they must set themselves "as resolutely against improper corporate influence on the one hand, as against demagoguery and mob rule on the other."
It is not hard to see Webb as a Teddy Roosevelt "trust buster." Elizabeth Warren likewise. She directly cited Roosevelt as model in her famous, fierce speech before Congress just before Christmas.
Quigley is a prize-winning writer who has worked more than 35 years as a book and magazine editor, political commentator and reviewer. For 20 years he has been an amateur farmer, raising Tunis sheep and organic vegetables. He lives in New Hampshire with his wife and four children. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.