Senator Jim Webb Remarks Withdrawing from the Democratic Nomination Race at the National Press Club on October 20, 2015
Senator Jim Webb
National Press Club
20 October 2015
Several years ago Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s wife Elizabeth sent me a wooden chink that had been used to put together the old school house on the rural farm where he wrote his books. We’d been talking about the kinship I felt with Senator Moynihan for his thoughtful approach to governance, his willingness to put country ahead of party, and his search for solutions rather than political expediency. She wrote on it, “square pegs in a round hole.”
Some people say I am a Republican who became a Democrat, but that I often sound like a Republican in a room full of Democrats or a Democrat in a room full of Republicans. Actually I take that as a compliment. More people in this country call themselves political independents than either Republican or Democrat. I happen to agree with them. Our country is more important than a label. Democrats in years past like Sam Nunn, Scoop Jackson, Mike Mansfield and John F. Kennedy understood this.
Americans are disgusted by all this talk of Republicans and Democrats calling each other the enemy instead of reaching across the aisle and finding ways to work together. I know what an enemy really is, from hard personal experience in combat. The other party in America is not the enemy; they are the opposition. In our democracy we are lucky to have an opposition, in order to have honest debate. It’s creative. It’s healthy. There is no opposition party in China because there are no elections in China, or in other non-democratic, authoritarian societies.
Over the years, whether I’ve worked with Democrats or Republicans my basic beliefs, principles of leadership and love of country have never changed. I’ve proudly served for four years in the Reagan Administration, and I’ve proudly served as a Democrat in the Senate.
But we must be honest here, because the very nature of our democracy is under siege, due to the power structure and the money that finances both political parties. Our political candidates are being pulled to the extremes. They are increasingly out of step with the people they are supposed to serve. Poll after poll shows that a strong plurality of Americans is neither Republican nor Democrat. Overwhelmingly they’re independents. Americans don’t like the extremes to which both parties have moved in recent years, and I don’t blame them.
And I know I’m going to hear it, so let me be the first to say this: I fully accept that my views on many issues are not compatible with the power structure and the nominating base of the Democratic Party. That party is filled with millions of dedicated, hard-working Americans. But its hierarchy is not comfortable with many of the policies that I have laid forth, and frankly I am not that comfortable with many of theirs.
For this reason I am withdrawing from any consideration of being the Democratic Party’s nominee for the Presidency. This does not reduce in any way my concerns about the challenges facing our country, my belief that I can provide the best leadership in order to meet these challenges, or my intentions to remain fully engaged in the debates that are facing us. How I remain as a voice will depend on what kind of support I am shown in the coming days and weeks as I meet with people from all sides of America’s political landscape. And I intend to do that.
I hold strong views about where the country needs to go. I will never change these views in order to adapt to a party platform as a way to get nominated for the presidency. I feel strongly that if I were nominated for the Presidency I could win, and that if I were the President I could assemble an administration filled with great minds and capable leaders from all the sectors of our society who share my vision and could bring this country back to its revered position as a beacon of fairness at home and of principled common sense in its foreign policy abroad.
I am not going away. I am thinking through all of my options. 240 years ago the Declaration of Independence from our status as a colony from Great Britain was announced. It’s time for a new Declaration of Independence – not from an outside power but from the paralysis of a federal system that no longer serves the interests of the vast majority of the American people.
The Presidency has gained too much power. The Congress has grown weak and often irrelevant. The present-day Democratic and Republican parties are not providing the answers and the guarantees that we can rely on. The financial sector represented by the Wall Street bankers is caring less and less about the conditions of the average American worker for the simple reason that their well-being depends on the global economy, not the American economy.
Our political process is jammed up. It needs an honest broker who respects all sides, who understands the complicated nature of how our federal system works, who will communicate a vision for our country’s future here at home and in our foreign policy, and who has a proven record of getting things done.
I’ve worked with both sides, and I have a lot of respect for many people who are members of both parties. I know how broken our system really is. This country needs a totally new dynamic that respects and honors our history and our traditions but is not a slave to the power structures that are failing us.
I love this country, and all that it has allowed me to achieve over the span of my life. I always have and always will put country above political party or personal ambition.
-- Jim Webb