Dems should look to Jim Webb in 2016

If former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) has been suddenly swept away by a toxic conservative tide, can former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton be far behind? The Tea Party is gone as well, leaving a few stalwart governors still standing in the middle of America at the sea change. The press has done its weary best to weed them all out. But will they flip on Hillary as well?

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There is a law in politics derived from the writings of Heraclitus called "enantiodromia." It means the one begets the other: U.S.S.R. vs. U.S.A., Democrats vs. Republicans, Ford guys vs. Chevy guys, Hillary v. Jeb. But then if the one disappears entirely, the season has passed. The law of enantiodromia means: if no Jeb, then no Hillary. And as Christopher Caldwell wrote recently in the Financial Times, "[d]onors who believe that nostalgia for the Bush era is widespread are nuts."

"Dynasties are a sign of corruption," he says.

And so that companion of dynasty, political nostalgia. Hillary Clinton — aloof, pontificating, ill-informed but as Russian Empress Catherine I was to Peter the Great, an icon of the '60s generation as "Wife of Bill" — rises to the times today as Eleanor Roosevelt and Gov. Adlai Stevenson (D-Ill.) each rose to the President Kennedy era: as an anachronism.

These are not the times of Vietnamese communist leader Ho Chi Minh, Jefferson Airplane and Buddhist monks in yellow robes burning to death in the streets of Saigon. Instead there is Russian President Vladimir Putin and Khal Drogo, consort to Kalessee, earth mother and avatar. And how much like Khal Drogo is Putin? A fierce, intuitive barbarian who burns through the waning age of lighter-than-air political abstraction and aloof college coffee-shop ideology. Today it is Russian troops on Ukraine's border and ancient priests in their midst with excellent beards and old robes holding up icons of the Black Madonna.

Putin will change the leadership paradigm everywhere and here too. He, in contrast with Secretary of State John Kerry today in the Middle East or Vice President Biden in Kiev, is seen as a "strong leader." We will need a countervailing approach; a man of courage, earthy character and a sense of place and belonging. That would be Jim Webb of Virginia.

Because the law of enantiodromia today demands a warrior, an equal and opposite counterpart to the age's rising threats and graces: if Khal Drogo, then Jim Webb. And if Vladimir Putin, then Jim Webb.

Because Webb, secretary of the Navy under President Reagan and Democratic senator from Virginia until recently, was first and always, a warrior.

"Jim Webb, novelist, warrior and senator, leaves the Senate this year," I wrote here in admiration two years ago. "Man of honor, man of contrasts. He is a man as comfortable in the redneck hollers [of Virginia] as he is among South Asia's Buddhist sangas. We have not seen his likes since Davy Crockett graced the halls of Congress."

Politics is the intuitive art of getting to who we are. When we find it, it suddenly fits. There are other good people out there — Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D) comes first to mind and also Mark Warner, another Democratic senator from Virginia — but they are buried under the weight and burden of the Clinton apparatus and money machine. And none match Webb. Each time I have mentioned the possibility of Webb 2016 to a Democrat they have thrilled to the idea, but most often felt it was beyond their reach.

But there is still time and the possibilities are still endless.

Quigley is a prize-winning writer who has worked more than 35 years as a book and magazine editor, political commentator and reviewer. For 20 years he has been an amateur farmer, raising Tunis sheep and organic vegetables. He lives in New Hampshire with his wife and four children. Contact him at quigley1985@gmail.com.