Letting Webb Be Webb

To my suggestion that an Obama-Webb ticket would widen the Democratic tent, Ramesh responds:

But since joining the Senate, on what issue has Webb himself been "something other than a party-line liberal"? Has he even said anything that marks him as a different kind of Democrat?



By and large, the answer is no - to the disappointment of his paleo admirers, among others. And there's no question that for the symbolism of an Obama-Webb ticket to work, it would have to be wedded to something more tangible than what Webb has brought to the table in the Senate - some specific policy proposals, for instance, that would allow Webb to act like a heterodox figure, rather than a guy with a history of interesting views who's sublimated them all in service to his party's orthodoxy. But taking some positions that clash with the Democratic establishment's views is something Obama ought to contemplate anyway - so why not pick Webb and then make him the point man for, say, an embrace of class-based rather than race-based affirmative action? (He sounds like he would be happy to oblige.)

Basically, if Obama thinks the country has shifted far enough to the left that he can run the way he's run to date - as the Democrats' Reagan, the most liberal major-party nominee in years - and win handily, then it might make sense to double down on that bet, pick a conventionally-liberal running mate, and try to win a sweeping mandate for a left-liberal revival. But if he thinks the race will be close, and that he'll need to tack toward the center to win it, then picking Webb and giving him something heterodox to say would be a pretty good way to go about it.