Skip to comments.Webb spins his Ulster-Scots heritage into the US elections
Posted on 11/13/2006 10:13:53 AM PST by Wallace T.
There have been many US presidents with Ulster-Scots roots, but for Virginia Democrat, Jim Webb, being Ulster-Scots or Irish Scots has become a rallying point for his supporters and a focus of his astonishingly popular campaign for a Senate seat.
As last week's New Yorker magazine put it, Webb has presented Ulster-Scots heritage as "the DNA of red-state America".
And it seemed to be working as last night he claimed victory in his tightly-fought Senate race with Republican George Allen, even though a recount now looks to be on the cards.
Throughout the heavily Ulster-Scots mountain towns of Virginia, Mr Webb referred time and time again to his book, 'Born Fighting, How The Scots-Irish Shaped America', telling supporters that they had built America, yet their ethnic background had been deliberately besmirched by the establishment in favour of more "politically correct" ethnic groups.
His view of US history has been a huge hit with voters, particularly in the Scots-Irish strongholds in southwest Virginia.
It helped him close in on the incumbent Mr Allen, who looked certain to win the race at the start of the election.
Mr Webb's "love your inner Ulster Scot" message also won some big-name supporters - most noticeably commentator Christopher Hitchens in the Wall Street Journal, who wrote that Mr Webb "is right to stress the huge rage felt by those of Scots-Irish provenance who feel that they have borne the heat and burden of the day in America's wars, and been rewarded with disdain".
Mr Webb is a hugely contradictory - an anti-war candidate who revels in celebrating the military and who toasted his son's departure for Iraq as a US marine.
Mr Webb is nominally a Democrat yet was Republican president Reagan's navy secretary - a fact he used time and again in his campaign commercials.
His basic Scots-Irish message pulls these contradictory strands together with a new message: "The Scots-Irish were pushed out of Scotland, battled Catholics in Ireland, came to the US where they fought everyone from native Americans to the French and were packed overseas to fight the Germans, the Viet Cong and the Iraqis and what do you have to show for it? You're treated as Bible-thumping rednecks by cultural elitists in Hollywood, New York and Washington."
It's a message that has proved to be political dynamite in the Republican heartland, leaving many Republicans and moderate Democrats to ask why they didn't tap into this resentment a long time ago.
According to Mr Webb, the real number of Ulster-Scots in America could be as high as 30 million, their numbers vastly underestimated by confusion on census day, with many voters filing their ethic background as Irish, Scottish, British, Ulster-Scots or Scots-Irish and that many who wrote "Scots-Irish" were placed in the "Scots" and "Irish" ethnic groups.
With Mr Webb's enormously popular campaign rewriting politics in conservative Virginia (helped on by stupid gaffes by his opponent), the election could well see a clamour among politicians for an analyst who can help them tap into this new Scots-Irish pride.
Although he lives in the boring, utterly middle-class Washington suburb of Falls Church, his language on the campaign stump has been that of the Virginia Hills, and his Scots-Irish relatives who still live there.
They are the kind of people that Mr Webb describes in Born Fighting as having "unbending individualism" and an "ingrained hatred of aristocracy".
He links their "individualism" to their alleged dislike of liberal policy makers and to their love of religion and military service.
The Scots-Irish have "been in conflict with a variety of authoritarian power structures, and it remains so in today's America", he wrote in Born Fighting.
He says that for complicated reasons, many Scots-Irish are still mired in poverty and he lists off the stereotypes he most resents: "Rednecks. Trailer-park trash. Racists. Cannon fodder."
The ingratitude of "the establishment" was burnt into him after he came back from Vietnam to find privileged college kids belittling the war and making it sound as if they were taking a brave step by refusing to fight.
Repeatedly citing that the Scots-Irish have fought for America in numbers way above the national average, he never missed a chance to attempt to stoke that pride in his audience.
In Christiansburg in southwest Virginia last Saturday, he arrived in military garb.
His red, white and blue campaign signs read "Jim Webb: Born Fighting".
He immediately appeals to voters by referencing Scots-Irish hero and former President, Andrew Jackson, who represents the values of "the traditional Democratic Party" before it was 'hijacked' by tree huggers, gays and Vietnam protester, Jane Fonda (whom, he once said, he would not cross the road to see, "even to see her slit her wrists").
In the likely event that Mr Webb wins this race, he will have done so by tapping into something very deep in the Virginian psyche.
And he will then become part of the establishment he bemoans.
"Why are the 30 million Scots-Irish, who may well be America's strongest cultural force, so invisible to America's cultural elites?" he wrote in an opinion article in the Wall Street Journal two years ago.
Like Andrew Jackson before him, that's a question that he himself will now have to answer.
If you look at the areas where the GOP lost House and Senate seats, you will notice that many were in areas with large Scots-Irish populations, like Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. In contrast, the Republicans held their own in the Deep South, where the white population is more English than Scots-Irish.
My Ulster-scots American ancestors would probably spit on his political party....
Webb won the White House last Tuesday? Must have missed that FOX News Alert.
Yah so why is Webb enlisting with the party of cultural elitists?
The House seat that we lost in Kentucky is compeltely urban, has large African American and Hispanic minorities and very little of the "scots-Irish" that you refer to. Northrup lost because she has a Republican incumbent in a bad year for Republicans.
What are Ulster Scots?
I heard that Webb has this annoying little habit of listening to the arguments and making up his own mind. This may not go over well with the Dem leadership. Maybe we can get him to re-join the 'Pubs. ;-)
And another thing...with his "Born Fighting" schtick...why isn't he pro Iraq war?
Also, Webb won by doing the same thing that Mark Warner and Tim Kaine did before him: protrayed himself as a pro-gun, pro-life, social and fiscal conservative while campaigning in the suburbs and rural areas while sticking true to his anti-Bush, "I'm a Democrat" message while in Fairfax Co and Alexandria.
Sadly, the majority of voters in Virginia fell for this trick AGAIN.
A neighbor of mine confessed she was voting for Webb because he was anti-war. I laughed out loud. "Do you really think Webb, a veteran, a Navy Cross winner, a former Defense Department official, would have voted differently in 2002?"
Uh, no thanks he isn't welcome anymore. Webb is still a perv waiting for a scandal.
This should have been a barf alert in deference to all of us Scottish Americans. My mother's mother is Scottish, my fathers Irish Scot.
The majority of whom did not vote for him. Webb lost significantly in those "Scots-Irish" areas of the state, including his "home" county.
My roots are in the Christiansburg/Blacksburg area.
This jackass Webb doesn't know anything other than how to spin a good yarn.
And he was good enough at that to have a few books printed and get elected.
I recall seeing some "blue" counties in the southwest area of Virginia, where the black population is minimal.
However, the Anglo-Irish elite based in Dublin required these Presbyterians to tithe to the (Anglican) Church of Ireland, refused to recognize Presbyterian marriages and baptisms, and limited their right to vote. While not treated as harshly as the Irish Catholics, the Scots-Irish were very disaffected by this discrimination. Large numbers of them emigrated to the United States, and are the most important population element in Appalachia and other areas such as the Ohio Valley and the Ozarks. They are an important element in Texas and Oklahoma as well.
They are a population distinct from both the Irish Catholics of the Northeast and Upper Midwest and the mostly English settlers of the Deep South and the Puritan descendants of greater New England.
By the way Scots fans this week is St Mary Queen of Scotlands feast day.
This article has given me a great idea for a great Chruch fundraisor next year
I've never considered the population of the Deep South to be "mostly English." But maybe I just hang out with the wrong crowd, Scots-Irish descendants.
I wonder if you mean Margaret (not Mary) Queen of Scotland, whose day is November 16? I took her as my "saint" at confirmation, which is why I ask. She was the wife of Malcolm III of Scotland, and founded and supported the monastery of Iona.