Now-former prospective Democratic candidate Jim Webb swings, misses on Confederate flag

The Confederate flag is having a bad week. Steadily losing support among its most ardent defenders — Republicans in the South — and being steadily removed from the inventories of major retailers such as Wal-Mart, eBay and Amazon, this isn’t a very good time to be pro-Stars and Bars.

Even Republican candidates who are trying to curry favor with South Carolina’s racist caucus are coming out against the flag being displayed on public grounds — after they got the go-ahead from Governor Nikki Haley, of course. Since she called for the flag’s removal from South Carolina’s State House, every GOP candidate who has been asked has agreed with her that, yes, a treasonous, racist flag that was originally installed in the 1960s as a middle finger to integration has no place on public grounds. Even Mike Huckabee, who originally tried to dodge the issue by emphatically stating that he refused to emphatically state anything on the subject, eventually came around and endorsed the decision.

In other words, a consensus has formed. The Confederate flag is the political equivalent of a hanging curve that any politician can hit out of the park if they so choose.

Yesterday, likely Democratic candidate Jim Webb, displaying an inexplicable lack of understanding of his party, public policy and basic decency, took a swing and missed wildly.

As Webb wrote in a Facebook post:

Jim Webb speaks — listen and act.  Today.

Jim Webb

This is an emotional time and we all need to think through these issues with a care that recognizes the need for change but also respects the complicated history of the Civil War. The Confederate Battle Flag has wrongly been used for racist and other purposes in recent decades. It should not be used in any way as a political symbol that divides us.

But we should also remember that honorable Americans fought on both sides in the Civil War, including slave holders in the Union Army from states such as Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland and Delaware, and that many non-slave holders fought for the South. It was in recognition of the character of soldiers on both sides that the federal government authorized the construction of the Confederate Memorial 100 years ago, on the grounds of Arlington National Cemetery.

This is a time for us to come together, and to recognize once more that our complex multicultural society is founded on the principle of mutual respect.

To paraphrase: “Take down the flag if you must, but don’t be a jerk about it because DID YOU KNOW A FEW OF THE GOOD GUYS HAD SLAVES, TOO???”

Webb is right to say that our “complex multicultural society” is founded on the principle of mutual respect, which is why it’s so important for our culture — to say nothing of our government — to reject racist symbols that display an utter lack of respect for the human dignity of our citizens. It doesn’t matter if the soldiers fighting for the Confederacy didn’t own slaves, or even if they were honorable young gentlemen before they went to war. At the end of the day, they were fighting for the right to hold slaves. That doesn’t deserve our respect. And just because we decided to memorialize them before we decided that the descendants of those they fought to enslave deserved an equal right to vote doesn’t mean that decision was a good one.

There is no kumbaya moment to be had when it comes to the Confederate flag. It was a rallying symbol for those who fought in the name of slavery over 150 years ago, and it remains a rallying cry for those who think the wrong side won the Civil War today. Jim Webb prides himself on his “radical centrist” image — a pro-pollution Democrat; an anti-war veteran — but taking the wrong side of a one-sided issue just for the sake of being a “cooler head” is no way to earn anyone’s respect. It’s a great way to remind everyone that you aren’t going to be president.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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  • GreenEagle

    May I add that Germany had two chances to put its bitterness behind it: World War I and World War II. They chose not to put their bitterness behind them the first time, which led to 50,000,000 dead the second time around. They learned their lesson after that. White Southerners seem not to have learned their lesson yet.

  • lrs63

    Why not step up and say that the Civil War was bad idea that slaughtered thousands, divided the country, made us poorer and robbed families of loved ones. I’ve visited Gettysburg and real sadness of that war came home to me. This was not a noble cause, Jim Webb. It was a tragedy.
    The losers need to put their bitterness behind them as Germany did.

  • Quilla

    Snark, right?

    Once the old Confederate “graven images” are torn down, what’s to stop The Ubiquitous Them from destroying, say, the Peanuts kids in St. Paul or that French lady in New York Harbor?

    Remove the Confederate flag and be done with it.

  • Duke Woolworth

    Maybe some ISIS sappers would volunteer to help blow up the losers’ monuments. Aren’t they graven images? Craven images?

  • Jon Green

    Ah that’s good to know. We’re testing out some new mobile interfaces and haven’t settled on one yet, so this is good feedback to have.

  • Hi Jon, just a technical FYI… the light blue headlines on the iPhone layout are very hard to read.

  • nicho

    Dixiecrat liberals inaction.

  • Bill_Perdue

    Liberal? That’s how he and other right wing Dixiecrats like the Clintons describe themselves.

    ““I think this is where Democrats screw up, you know?” former Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.), who says he may run for president, told Yahoo News recently. “I think that they have kind of unwittingly used this group, white working males, as a whipping post for a lot of their policies. And then when they react, they say they’re being racist.”http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-0419-mcmanus-whites-20150419-column.html

    Clinton: Obama Not Winning Over “Hard-Working Americans, White Americans” “I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on,” she said in an interview with USA TODAY. As evidence, Clinton cited an Associated Press article “that found how Sen. Obama’s support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/05/08/clinton-obama-not-winning_n_100763.html

  • Dixiecrat? Yes. Liberal? Meh.

  • Bill_Perdue

    Dixiecrat liberals in action.

  • 2karmanot

    “pride of the south” and the ass wipe traitor rag….or is that an oxymoron?

  • nicho

    The South has a varied and complex history that covers 400 years. The Confederacy and the traitor’s flag accounts for five of those 400 years, and the whole affair was a disgrace. How in the name of dog does that rag signify the “heritage” of the South?

    And the Confederate rebellion took more American lives — on both sides — than World War I, World War II, and Vietnam — combined. All because of racism and the desire to hold other human beings as slaves.

    And please spare me the revisionist rhetoric that it was about anything but slavery and racism. The record says otherwise.

  • Demosthenes

    The good news is Mr. Webb can now go back to writing steamy novels . . .

  • dcinsider

    The confederate flag showed a resurgence in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s in reaction to the civil rights movement. It was not on the grounds of either the Alabama statehouse or the SC statehouse prior that time. It was resurrected not to display the “pride of the south” or to honor any former traitor “veteran” who fought against the US, but to recall a time when those seeking civil rights were enslaved.

    That is the sole purpose of the confederate flag today. Anyone who pretends anything else is either a liar or a fool.

  • nicho

    What a weasel.

  • 2karmanot

    It is simply to delicious not to mention ironic, that the old traitor rag has been lynched.

  • Indigo

    That’s odd. I wonder what demon advised him to straddle that fence.

  • Don’t you love how certain people act like no one has ever brought this issue up before? They do it with the name of the Washington NFL team too. Like suddenly everyone decided to be PC and make a big deal out of nothing rather than people having talked about this for decades and been ignored. Meanwhile the so-called liberal media bends over backward to be fair to outright racists. Ugh. Webb is wrong on this one and I don’t see why he doesn’t see that. Who is he defending besides some redneck racist relatives. I have them too. They’re the reason we have the ability to block people on social media!

  • gratuitous

    I like Jim Webb for many things, but he’s stranded on the shore here. This may be an “emotional time,” but that emotion has been building for decades, culminating in one more massacre by one more racist. The measure of “how far we’ve come” is that Dylann Roof was swiftly apprehended (unlike, say, Byron de la Beckwith). Millions of Americans are sick at heart and sick to death of this murderous hatred, a leftover from a bygone era that should have been confronted and wiped out a long time ago.

    Now that the dam has burst, it’s time to get on with a laundry list of things that we should have taken care of in the last 100 years. We’ll start with racist displays honoring bigotry on public lands. I don’t know what’s next or where we’ll stop, but it isn’t going to end with taking down one disgusting display on the capitol grounds in South Carolina. Sen. Webb, it’s time to stand down from race hatred.

  • Quilla

    The flag has to go and the only place it should ever wave is over a Confederate cemetery. But…but…please don’t tear down Confederate memorials. That would, indeed, elicit a nasty and unnecessary back-lash.

  • I don’t think the problem is what the flag was 150 years ago. Yes, lots of bad things, but those are way in the past. No one is complaining about it being in a museum or shown in a movie about that era.

    No, the problem is that since the early 1960s this particular flag became the symbol of segregation and against civil rights and EVERYONE KNOWS THAT. I’m not against SC flying this flag over their state capital because they were once part of the Confederacy. I’m against it because in 1962 they put it up to show their defiance against the civil rights movement and against the Brown v Board of Education Supreme Court ruling ordering them to integrate their public schools.

    Regardless of what it meant in 1862, from 1962 and up to now it has been a symbol of racism. If you are displaying it people assume you are a racist because you are.

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