Jim Webb

Webb Walks Away With It


I just got out of Senator-elect James Webb's victory rally, held in one of the many artificial town squares in the strongly Democratic city of Arlington. Right beside me, by coincidence, were American Conservative editor Scott McConnell and the magazine's Dan McCarthy (a recent Reason contributor). The libertarian-paleoconservative alliance held; delight at the Democrats' victory was overflowing. "I haven't been this emotional about an election since Giuliani won," McConnell said.

The crowd swelled as Webb made his delayed way to the square. Whoever runs "Arab Americans for Webb" (I think it's the anti-matter Charles Johnson) quickly dispatched his stock of signs, as bright-eyed white people hoisted them high. "Indian Americans for Webb" milled around right next to "real Virginians for Webb" (two Macaca references within two square yards!) next to a thicket of "Veterans for Webb." When the man arrived, he happily plunged into the crowd, shaking hands and posing for photos for a good four minutes while the national media set up their shots.

When Webb appeared onstage next to Chuck Schumer, it was hard to grasp that this guy actually beat George Allen. Schumer's reptilian charm is familiar enough from his appearances on every cable news show. But Webb? No charisma whatsoever. Nothing like a politician's charisma. Onstage he talks like a celebrity awkwardly trying to end a conversation with a fan who has all his merchandise, rotating 90 degrees left and right, gripping the microphone stand-up comic style. The only rousing moment came when he hoisted up his son's combat boots, the boots he'd worn in a deliberate contrast with faux-cowboy Allen, for the entire campaign. "The campaign is OVER!" Webb said; that got cheers from Democrats who had been on pins and needles for two days.

But like I said, the man is wonderfully shy and stolid as a public speaker. That he won against a legitimate charmer like George Allen is a testament to the strength of the anti-war message and of the degree to which Allen alienated most of the state. Remember, Webb didn't just defeat Allen—he held off a Green spoiler named Gail Parker. The (by all appearances insane) activist for "more high speed rail in Virginia" pulled about three times as many votes as separated Webb and Allen. Add her votes to Webb's and a solid 51 percent of the state handed its votes over to the anti-war left*, 24 months after giving George W. Bush a 10-point victory.

* The war was not actually a Parker issue—like I said, she's insane—but it's not too much to assume lefty anti-war voters who couldn't choke down Webb punched her name on the ballot.