Democrats have lost touch with working-class whites who mattered to presidents such as Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman, and the bond needs restoring to avoid another blowout like the 2014 midterm elections, Democratic presidential prospect Jim Webb said in a radio interview broadcast on Friday, CNN reports.
Webb, the former U.S. senator from Virginia who is exploring a White House run, told National Public Radio's
Steve Inskeep that his party "can do a better job with white working people" and that "I think this last election clearly showed that."
"If you look at the candidates that were getting beaten in areas where traditionally they had won, they were getting well less than 40 percent of the white vote," said Webb. "And that doesn't need to happen."
A Vietnam veteran, author, and former secretary of the Navy under President Ronald Reagan, Webb said the estrangement between the Democratic Party and working-class whites predates the presidency of Barack Obama.
"And I think that there's a lot of misunderstanding about the motives of the people in this group," said Webb, explaining that "in many cases" the party's decision-makers incorrectly shunned working-class whites as bigoted.
Racial resentment of the African-American president does not explain the 2014 midterm losses that cost Democrats their Senate majority and further shrank their House caucus, said Webb.
But Webb suggested that in presidential election years, it's the Democrats who have emphasized race, making "different calculations" — apparently with ethnic constituencies in mind — to reach the 270 national electoral votes needed to win.
He argued that, post-Obama, Democrats cannot rely on the same formulas.
"[Y]ou're not going to have a situation again where you have 96 percent of the African-American vote turning out for a presidential candidate," he said. "We need to get back to the message that was being developed — a return to the principles of the Democratic Party, that we are going to give everyone who needs access to the corridors of power that kind of access regardless of any of your antecedents."
Webb invoked his party's "Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Andrew Jackson roots" in the NPR interview.
A boxer in his Navy days, Webb hasn't officially stepped into the 2016 ring, and he told NPR that he dislikes raising campaign cash — which he he will have to do to challenge the party's early favorite, former secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
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