Democratic presidential candidate Jim Webb said the Democratic party has “moved way far to the left,” in an interview with Fox News Sunday; he also backed southern White cultures during a discussion about the Confederate Flag.
Isolating himself from the liberal likes of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, Webb told Fox News’ Bret Baier that the recent removal of the Confederate battle flag from a number of establishments is just as “divisive” as Donald Trump’s disparaging comments against immigrants.
In recent days, Trump, also a presidential candidate, has defended comments he made that suggested immigration is the cause of the influx of crime in America. He also called Mexican immigrants “rapists.” During Webb’s defense of White culture, he criticized the statements, but used the opportunity to align the conversation surrounding the polarizing flag with Trump’s sentiments.
“This kind of divisive, inflammatory rhetoric by people who want to be commander-in-chief is not helpful, and we have seen from the liberal side as well this kind of rhetoric as it goes to Southern white cultures,” the former Virginia senator said, apparently referring to recent debates over the Confederate flag. “We need to be inclusive and recognize that we have problems and that we can come together to solve them,” Webb said. “But don’t be throwing these bombs to our cultural groups.”
Webb has seemed eager to distinguish himself as the only Democratic candidate with a really nuanced take on the flag, in an apparent effort to win over white working-class voters who increasingly vote Republican. On Sunday, Baier asked Webb whether he thought efforts to remove Confederate symbols from public places were racial healing or political grandstanding. In response, Webb again compared the Confederate debate to Trump trashing Mexican immigrants.
“Unfortunately, I think you’re seeing it from both sides, which is why I mention the situation with Donald Trump with respect to Mexican-Americans,” Webb said. “We’re seeing an issue which should have been resolved and now is resolved, flying the Confederate battle flag in public places, morphing into something different.”
Dismissing the hurtful past of the flag and what the symbol means to many Black Americans, Webb then leaned on the all-too-familiar Black friend anecdote to support his argument that the discussion about the flag — a discussion that was sparked by the recent mass shooting at a historic Black South Carolina church and ultimately resulted in the removal of the flag from U.S. Capitol grounds — is a distraction of sorts.
Webb’s close friend, who happens to be Black, said this to the presidential candidate:
“‘I was just at the barbershop and I asked the brothers what they thought about this, and they said, ‘Here we go again,’” Webb said. “‘When are we going to talk about jobs? When are we going to talk about education? When are we going to talk about harmony and bringing people together?’ And that’s what inclusive leadership needs to be.”
While Webb did suggest moving beyond the conversation to propel real racial healing, it’s not clear if he understands that discussions about race, jobs, and education aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, to combat the systemic exclusion of Black people from education and job access, race is an all too important ingredient.
For now, however, Webb is set on distinguishing himself as a “different” kind of Democrat.
“I believe we can bring a different tone to the Democratic party,” he said to Baier. “You’re right, the party has moved way far to the left. That’s not my Democratic Party in and of itself.”