Jim Webb’s Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped AmericaLawrence Murray
Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America
New York: Broadway Books, 2004
Former Virginia Senator (2007-2013), Secretary of the Navy (1988-1989), Marine, and unapologetic Vietnam War veteran Jim Webb launched a quixotic bid for the Democratic presidential nomination last year, withdrawing in a few months. He shared the stage with a “democratic socialist” and a third worldist in the earliest debate, offering a stark (and obsolete) contrast to his party rivals. To those of us on the Alt-Right, it was immediately obvious why he had to drop out—there is simply no place for patriotic White male leadership in the contemporary Democratic party.
Webb wrote a book in 2004 that I picked up only recently. When I finished, it was obvious to me why he became estranged from the Democratic party—he said earlier this year that he won’t vote for Clinton but won’t rule out Trump—and left me wondering why it hadn’t happened sooner. Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America is a scholarly and personal mix of family autobiography, ethnography, popular history, Confederate apologia, revisionism, and anti-Marxism. It’s a profoundly weird text, and I say that as someone who thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s a polemic work and some of its claims are a bit of a stretch—see Albion’s Seed, which Webb cites, for a more scholarly take on the Scots-Irish—but it captures something about how at least one segment of White America conceives of itself or should conceive of itself, positively.
How was this father of five White children a Democrat if in his book he:
- defends the maligned “redneck” from potshots fired from the ivory tower,
- praises the expansion of the American frontier against the indigenous natives,
- lionizes the sacrifice and valor of the Southern soldier,
- denounces Reconstruction as “yankee colonialism” and calls Southern Whites its victims,
- condemns the left-wing takeover of academia,
- and opposes affirmative action as a form of discrimination against lower-class Whites?
And how is someone so proud of his ethnic ancestry currently married to a Vietnamese woman? How do you even write a book praising one of history’s most xenoskeptic peoples and then go full racial exogamy? Again, this is a weird but enjoyable read.
Born Fighting almost feels like a paleoconservative wrote it, and yet the author would become an elected Democrat during the lame duck phase of the Bush presidency and the rise of Obama. His centering of a group that Democrats hate as the ethnic core of the United States that millions of immigrants have assimilated to, and as the source of its working-class culture and Jacksonian democracy is at complete and total odds with the prevailing historical narrative of the United States held by the left. Webb’s identitarian separation of the Scots-Irish from the broader “WASP” group as a disdained provincial working people of distinct ancestral and class origins from those of the East Coast elite and Southern slaver-aristocracy would be lost on any contemporary liberal, who believes all Whites are complicit in and benefit from “institutional racism.” The sweeping history Webb provides of his White subgroup, from Hadrian’s Wall to Bannockburn to Derry to Gettysburg to Vietnam, is totally irrelevant to the third worldist dichotomy of people of color versus White oppressors. His condemnation of the anti-war and anti-military leftists running academia is antithetical to the sensibilities of the left, who view his villains as their heroes. His defense of Southern Whites flying the Confederate flag is unjustifiable on the left (as well as the cuckservative right) given last year’s events.
And his idea that one of the country’s largest European ancestry groups deserves its own proud seat at the table of American multiculturalism and diversity would be considered viciously racist.
Ah, but what a time 2004 must have been. Or 2006 for that matter, when Webb was elected as one of Virginia’s senators. Ten years down the line, with the polarization of the parties into White proles versus everyone else, it would seem the Democrats have hemorrhaged most White men like Webb and finally Webb himself. In fact, the views he expressed in Born Fighting would probably be considered impolite in most Republican company. If anything, people who voted for Pat Buchanan or Ross Perot in the 1990s, or Donald Trump in 2016, would be more comfortable with them.
And they are. I had a conversation recently at a bar with non-movement people that went from the Kaepernick national anthem false-controversy, to the role of the Scots-Irish in the American Revolution, to the Trump campaign. And I wasn’t even the one who even brought up the Scots-Irish. I’m not going to claim this level of historical background is typical to non-SWPL White bargoers, but there is definitely a White populism that borders on explicit advocacy that is up and coming among Trump supporters and people who think like Webb. When you have goyim who’d rather be shot dead than vote Democrat giving a Webb-esque interpretation of current events, you can really see that his narrative of a positive White role in American history and politics is something that’s been expunged from the left.
And Webb did abandon the Democratic ship. How could he not? In Born Fighting, Webb literally writes about cultural marxism (see pages 291-295 in the “expanded edition”), and calls New England liberal elites “brahmins” (322). He disaggregates the “White” demographic category to talk about income disparities between Jews and White Baptists in 1974, in order to show that the gap between them was larger than that between blacks and Whites in 1970 (323-324). It is astounding to me that he was ever a Democrat not only in 2004 but in the current year as well. At times I wondered if I was reading something from The Right Stuff or Social Matter. But how did he manage to hold together his liberalism with his illiberalism? That’s what constantly nagged me.
Born Fighting is a book that pleasantly defied expectations, but fell short of being a complete endorsement of White identity politics (though that it came anywhere near that was refreshing). It gives voice to a forgotten people who have few defenders in the power structure, but also expresses the author’s conflicted position as a liberal and what I would consider to be a pro-White author. Webb wants an integrated multicultural America to survive, and he wants the Scots-Irish to give up their fierce independence and think of themselves collectively to make sure they have a role in it. Webb is engaging in a post hoc rationalization of his own life and family history, and attempting to preserve them. And everyone does that. He takes an identitarian approach to understanding the White working class but then insists they can assimilate anyone (well his wife must be assimilable right?). He is justifying his location (and that of his people) in American history, and centering them as one of its most important blood donors. He praises their warrior ethos no matter the war in question, whether it was civil or imperial. He sees them as having lived through an on-going two thousand year journey of adversity and struggle, which continues in the face of their latest oppressors, elite “brahmin” liberals who have sided with blacks against them as “yankee colonizers.”
And he doesn’t want to play that game. He wants his slow march of social justice back, one where Whites are not enemies but partners. But it’s too late for that. The third worldists have triumphed on the left, and Clinton shared her stage at the Democratic National Convention with the blacklivesmatter movement. Only Trump is willing to defend the borders and national identity of the Empire that Webb and his Southern highlanders want to be the praetorians of. And all things considered, these are not unhealthy instincts; it’s just that they are being applied to an unhealthy state by people who’ve been mired in its sickness for too long to be fully against time.
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