Thanks to my mother, I sometimes read political blogs. However, recently I've been feeling like I've just been reading the opinions of many white upper middle class guys. And reading the largely positive responses to Jim Webb's State of the Union Response and how great it was, this feeling has only become stronger.
When Webb was elected, he was dubbed a populist or a "people powered candidate." My far left politics nonwithstanding, I'm somewhat wary of white populists. According to my understanding of American history, many populists and labor organizers have historically mobilized working class whites against those swarthier than they. The questions of race and exclusion have played a large part in the history of organized labor. And anti-immigrant sentiment has always flared when jobs are scarce. Asian American history is an excellent example of this.
Looking at Webb's response to GWB's State of the Union address, there were a couple things that sort of bothered me. One of course was the mention of the "good American jobs" that were going overseas. It marks Webb to me as a populist to some extent. He positions himself in support of the working classes and the have nots. However, the flipside of the good American job line is that it has been frequently used in anti-immigration rhetoric and still is. I found its presence in Webb's speech rather disturbing. There was nothing overt about it, but to me it felt like a line was being drawn in the sand.
Furthermore, the presidents he referenced in his speech, Teddy Roosevelt, Andrew Jackson, Eisenhower, were all war hero presidents. Given the circumstances surrounding the State of the Union address it's really not all that surprising. I find it sort of interesting to note, however, that many of these presidents became war heroes by imposing American imperialism upon those swarthier than they. Webb even identifies as a "Jacksonian Democrat." As I recall, Old Hickory, who was a populist president, spent a large part of his career murdering Native Americans. Populism has often widened divisions between white people and people of color rather than it's united them.
For all that he's married to an Asian American lady and has a half Asian kid. And for all that he won his election based on the racial remarks made by George Allen to his South Asian staffer. For all that I still prefer him to George Allen. (I would probably prefer Pauly Shore to George Allen.) Webb isn't a populist for Americans who look like me.
Oh yeah, Webb's Vietnamese American wife account of how "her husband often teases her about the escape. "He says that if [U.S. troops] hadn't rescued me, I'd be snaggletoothed and selling pencils on the streets of Saigon," she said. "It wouldn't be too far from the truth. If I'd stayed behind in Vietnam, I wouldn't be where I am today."
doesn't really make me want to jump on the bandwagon either.