There's a myth among some Democrats that few people can challenge Hillary Clinton or be as effective in 2016 against an opponent like Jeb Bush. Sadly, this myth is wrapped within a paradigm that places name recognition far above any other attribute. It also ignores the fact that people like Martin O'Malley and potentially Elizabeth Warren (if she changes her mind before next year) can win important battleground states just as easily as Clinton; without being on the defensive from email and donor scandals.
This mindset conveniently forgets that Clinton was against same-sex marriage, against marijuana legalization, voted for both wars, still hasn't taken a stance on Obama's Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade deal, and has a foundation (promoting women's rights and other human rights) that accepted up to$25 million from Saudi Arabia. Clinton tops most polls primarily because people know her name, not because Democrats in Iowa, New Hampshire, and nationwide stand by her stances on social issues or voting record on war. The flawed belief that few in the Democratic Party can challenge her or defeat Bush in 2016 is simply the result of Clinton having been on the national stage since the early 90's. However, Clinton's vast experience hasn't stopped The Economist from publishing its latest cover with the words, "What does Hillary stand for?"
Furthermore, this narrow viewpoint doesn't take into account the foreign policy experience, impressive resume, character strengths, and leadership attributes of former Virginia Senator Jim Webb. Webb is a decorated Vietnam War Veteran, which is important since recent wars have involved counterinsurgency conflicts that remind many Americans of Vietnam. While Clinton and most other Republican candidates haven't witnessed the horrors of war, Webb knows firsthand why greater debate is needed pertaining to unbridled American military endeavors. As stated in a Nation article titled Why Jim Webb Could be Hillary Clinton's Worst Nightmare, the former combat Marine offers Democrats a real alternative to more hawkish politicians:
Instead of becoming more hawkish as defense intellectuals often do when they acquire status and influence, Jim Webb has become more skeptical and critical of how US military force is being used and misused. His biography is what gives his candidacy potential significance. It is not that he has much likelihood of winning the nomination, but Webb has a chance to do something far greater for the country. Given his resume and valor in war, Webb has the authority (and the guts) to provoke a profound national debate about the nature of US militarism...
Webb has laid down caveats for foreign interventions that probably would have kept the United States out of some wars if political and military leaders had listened to him.
It's important to note that Webb's careful analysis of war (he's written 10 books on the topic) and experience as assistant secretary of defense and Secretary of the Navy doesn't mean he's a pacifist. It simply means that unlike the neoconservatives who've aligned with Hillary Clinton, Webb has the knowledge and experience to evaluate war and conflict from a personal vantage point. After wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and 57 percent of Americans willing to send ground troops to fight ISIS, America needs a president who won't allow polls or public opinion to shape foreign policy.
In the 2008 Iowa Caucus, Clinton finished third behind Barack Obama and John Edwards, although far ahead of Bill Richardson. Clinton barely beat Obama in the 2008 New Hampshire Primary and after narrowly losing the Missouri Primary, Clinton went on to lose most of the other primaries to Barack Obama. Therefore, why can't Jim Webb emulate Obama in 2016?
While Hillary will be constantly defending herself against perpetual scandals and threading a centrist high wire, Webb will focus exclusively on communicating his bold ideas on economic growth, national security, and other major issues important to Americans nationwide.
According to a Washington Post article titled Jim Webb says Democratic Party has lost its way, the former Marine and Virginia Senator makes a thought-provoking observation:
"The Democratic Party has lost the message that made it such a great party for so many years, and that message was: Take care of working people, take care of the people who have no voice in the corridors of power, no matter their race, ethnicity or any other reason," Webb said. "The Democratic Party has basically turned into a party of interest groups."
Can even the most ardent Hillary supporters imagine Clinton making such a forthright statement? Also it's doubtful the former Secretary of State would ever mention the word "race," considering it took her three weeks to make even the most benign statement regarding Ferguson.
As for Hillary Clinton's experience, Jim Webb never had the luxury of being part of a political dynasty and his resume highlights hard-earned accomplishments. According to James Webb.com, Webb's accomplishments are the epitome of meritocracy:
Jim Webb, former Senator from Virginia, has been a combat Marine, a counsel in the Congress, an assistant secretary of defense and Secretary of the Navy, an Emmy-award winning journalist, a film-maker, and the author of ten books...
Mr. Webb graduated from the Naval Academy in 1968, receiving a special commendation for his leadership contributions. First in his class of 243 at the Marine Corps Officer's Basic School, he served as a rifle platoon and company commander in Vietnam and was awarded the Navy Cross, the Silver Star Medal, two Bronze Star Medals, and two Purple Hearts. He graduated from the Georgetown University Law Center in 1975...
Mr. Webb served in Congress as counsel to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs from 1977 to 1981. In 1982 he led the fight to include an African American soldier in the Vietnam Veterans memorial on the National Mall. In 1984 he was appointed Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs, and in 1987 became Secretary of the Navy.
Therefore, the more Democrats in Iowa, New Hampshire, and around the country learn about Jim Webb, the more they'll see that he offers a great deal more than Hillary or any other Democratic candidate in 2016.
Jim Webb can defeat Hillary Clinton, he can defeat Jeb Bush or any other GOP challenger, and he has the character and experience to be one of our better presidents. Few people have his knowledge of war, concern for working class issues, and understanding of Washington. Unlike Clinton, his bold views and a clear vision for America won't be muddied by never-ending scandal or disingenuous centrism. You might not have heard much about Jim Webb, but odds are that if you did, you'd find him a worthy candidate for the White House in 2016. Democrats in Iowa and New Hampshire should compare Clinton to Jim Webb, and honestly evaluate who's better for Democrats and America.