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Jeb Bush Is Not the Answer For What Ails the GOP

George Will writes [1] a strange column about Jeb Bush:

Republicans cannot be too frequently reminded that their problem in presidential politics is the “blue wall” — the 18 states and the District of Columbia that have voted Democratic in at least six consecutive elections and have 242 electoral votes. So Republicans should welcome to their nomination competition any candidate who might remove from the blue wall such bricks as Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Jeb Bush, burdened by a damaged family brand, might not be the best potential nominee on the deep Republican bench. He does, however, deserve a respectful hearing from the Republican nominating electorate.

Republicans should welcome candidates that have a reasonable chance of winning states that have voted for Democratic nominees for decades, but it’s not at all clear that they have any available. Do any of the likely 2016 candidates stand much of a chance of carrying Michigan, Pennsylvania, or Wisconsin? No, they don’t. No Republican has carried any of these states since 1988, and the modern GOP is even less likely now to field a candidate that appeals to a majority in these states. Many of their would-be national leaders don’t even speak the same language as most voters in these states.

Jeb Bush will probably receive more than a respectful hearing inside the GOP over the next two years, and much of it will be based on the faulty assumption that he can win in traditionally Democratic states. This wasn’t true of his brother, and it wasn’t true of McCain or Romney, and it almost certainly won’t be true of him. Jeb Bush represents exactly the kind of Republicanism that makes the GOP uncompetitive in all of the states across the Northeast and Midwest that they need to be able to carry in order to win presidential elections. He is pro-corporate, pro-immigration, and pro-war, and all of these are political losers. A Republican Party that thinks Jeb Bush is the answer to its electoral woes is a party that is sure to keep losing one presidential election after another.

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42 Comments To "Jeb Bush Is Not the Answer For What Ails the GOP"

#1 Comment By SFBay On April 3, 2014 @ 1:43 am

Jeb Bush may be the brother who speaks in complete sentences, but his politics are the same as his brothers. He won’t win any states that GWB didn’t and probably not as many.

#2 Comment By Fran Macadam On April 3, 2014 @ 2:14 am

For a country that eschewed aristocracy, dynasties of elites are a peculiar obsession.

#3 Comment By Matthew Walther On April 3, 2014 @ 2:26 am

“Do any of the likely 2016 candidates stand much of a chance of carrying Michigan, Pennsylvania, or Wisconsin? No, they don’t.”

Walker would win Wisconsin, have a good shot at Pennsylvania, and even perform respectably in Michigan.

#4 Comment By Uncle Billy On April 3, 2014 @ 6:28 am

Yes, Jeb Bush is pro immigration, pro corporation, and to being “pro war,” I am not so sure about that, given the debacle of his brother and the Iraqi War. Jeb is somewhat socially conservative, however, he is not a religious right kook. A wealthy Agnostic could feel comfortable voting for him. Ditto, a Hindu software engineer.

The GOP has a problem with African-Americans, Hispanics and single women. Until these groups are addressed, they will not win national elections. The thing is however, the GOP tries so hard to please its semi-literate, Evangelical, white base, that it alienates everyone else.

#5 Comment By Leo H On April 3, 2014 @ 7:22 am

He is not only not the answer he won’t be. And I’m betting the “inevitability” of Clinton is “evitable”, too. Or are we that narcotized for stagnation as usual ?

#6 Comment By Puller58 On April 3, 2014 @ 8:50 am

Will does this every Presidential election. While not as seemingly disconnected as Bill Kristol, he certainly is politically tone deaf. Jeb Bush merely represents an alternative to the radioactive likes of Ted Cruz.

#7 Comment By karlub On April 3, 2014 @ 8:54 am

If the Republican money-men manage to force-feed Jeb Bush to us in a general election I will officially re-abandon the Republican party forever.

This is not nothing, btw. I am a county committeeman in one of the strongest county committees in the nation, and a former municipal officeholder.

#8 Comment By Mikhail the History Grad Student On April 3, 2014 @ 9:13 am

Not to mention the Bush name has about the same effect on Democrats that the Clinton name has on Republicans.

#9 Comment By KHW On April 3, 2014 @ 9:16 am

“A Republican Party that thinks Jeb Bush is the answer to its electoral woes is a party that is sure to keep losing one presidential election after another.”

preach

#10 Comment By Bill H On April 3, 2014 @ 9:46 am

Republicans also need to get a firm grip on the fact, repeat fact, that the Bush name is still an anethema in this country. After voting Democrat once and third party once, I am more than ready to return to my tradition of voting Republican, but not in a million years will I vote for a Bush.

#11 Comment By Max Planck On April 3, 2014 @ 9:52 am

Frankly, the way the country has divided along Civil War lines, I don’t see how any candidate bridges the gap. The only possible exception is Hillary, who COULD cross over and make some states “purple,” but we have a binary political dialect in this country, and both are descending into self parody as our structural problems deepen. The voters can be blamed, too. Stupefying ignorance.

#12 Comment By VikingLS On April 3, 2014 @ 10:08 am

“Will does this every Presidential election. ”

I’ll say this again. George Will has made a career out of looking and sounding like a smart guy no matter how stupid what he says actually is.

#13 Comment By Noah172 On April 3, 2014 @ 10:30 am

Uncle Billy wrote:

A wealthy Agnostic could feel comfortable voting for him. Ditto, a Hindu software engineer

No, a Hindu software engineer is still going to like the Democrats better. The Democrats can always outbid the Republicans on mass immigration (just as the Republicans can always outbid the Democrats on, say, tax reduction); on top of that, Hindus are quite liberal on abortion, and wary of Christian conservatives (even if Bush himself is not especially strident on social issues, which I don’t know for a fact).

The GOP has a problem with African-Americans, Hispanics and single women. Until these groups are addressed, they will not win national elections

The Republicans have had a problem with blacks since the New Deal, and yet managed to win a fair number of elections.

Why is it always that Republicans have problems with certain groups? Can’t we just as easily say that the Democrats are weak with men, the married, white Protestants, Mormons, and the elderly?

The thing is however, the GOP tries so hard to please its semi-literate, Evangelical, white base, that it alienates everyone else

The median IQ of African-Americans is 85; for Hispanics, 90. The Democrats win voters with only high school diplomas or less (outside the South, they do especially well with the low end of the ed scale). Just whose voter base is “semi-literate”?

#14 Comment By Fran Macadam On April 3, 2014 @ 10:33 am

There doesn’t appear that there will ever be a choice the voters can make that won’t already have been vetted by donorists. Every one of them now comes “pre-owned” by the likes of an Adelman. With the mania for interference in the politics of other countries, America has offshored democracy promotion for ordinary folks just like it has jobs. We sure could use some here at home instead of being a rubber stamp for the oligarchs’ choices.

#15 Comment By Joe the Plutocrat On April 3, 2014 @ 11:09 am

Uncle Billy, Fran Macadam, and Max Planck seem to “get it”. It’s not about blue vs. red or even ideological purity, so much as it is electoral math (demographics). a party can have a “base”, but in a nation of 300+ million, what is the value of “vetting” or recruiting candidates based on the “values” or voting habits of the GOP base? and it’s really no different on the other side of the aisle, but the Democrats have embraced the “you can’t govern if you don’t win” mantra. fair or unfair, the Democrats have established a wider base. what happens AFTER the election is a whole ‘nother conversation.

#16 Comment By Uncle Billy On April 3, 2014 @ 11:10 am

Note to Noah172: yes, the Democrats have more than a few imbeciles in the party, that I will not argue. That being said, I stand by my comment about the “semi-literate, Evangelical white base.” Some of these buffoons actually think that the earth is only 6,000 years old, and the GOP elite actually tries to appease these people.

Yes, you may be correct about a Hindu Software Engineer not voting Republican, when he sees the party has become a refuge for a bunch of charactes out of the movie “Deliverance.”

I am a white, middle-aged, affluent, educated, married male, and a lifelong classic conservative who got disgusted with the GOP by its takeover by a bunch of semi-literate, bible thumping buffoons, who seem to think that African-Americans should know their place, Hispanics should go back to Mexico and women should be barefoot and pregnant.

I don’t like the Democrats and all their goofy social engineering, but the GOP has become insufferable due to religious right buffoons like Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann and a host of others. Any party that nominates someone like Sarah Palin for Vice President cannot be taken seriously any longer.

#17 Comment By Richard W. Bray On April 3, 2014 @ 11:13 am

Hillary is pro-corporate, pro-immigration, and pro-war too.

#18 Comment By Warren On April 3, 2014 @ 11:40 am

@Uncle Billy

Believing that the Earth is 6,000 years old does not in any way imply semi-literacy, or ignorance in any issue outside of the age of the Earth.

And it’s amazing to me that while adding a new attack against Middle Americans you agreed wholeheartedly with Noah’s attack against underprivileged minorities. You seem to have a contempt for the poor and uneducated that I find is remarkably common among leftists. Yes, most people who are struggling to make ends meet have not found the time to read through Stephen Hawking’s brief history of time. That doesn’t mean they deserve your scorn, whether we’re talking about rural Evangelicals or inner-city blacks.

#19 Comment By Joe the Plutocrat On April 3, 2014 @ 11:52 am

@Richard W. Bray, well that’s the point, isn’t it? it’s simple math. which candidate will get more votes: pro-corporate, pro-immigration, and pro-war; or pro-corporate, pro-immigration, and pro-war – AND pro-choice, pro-gay rights, etc., etc.? as noted by another reader, the GOP has kind of painted itself into an electoral math corner with its binary/blue or red thinking. the Democrats employ the same “reasoning” when it comes to the GOP, but within its own ranks it is less “strict” in terms of the proverbial litmus tests related to ideological purity. and, it goes without saying, most of the plutocrats (big ag, big pharm, big DoD, big insurance, etc.) really don’t care which “brand” they stake – Coke or Pepsi, you’re still getting cola. it is very much a cut off one’s nose to spite your face approach, with the to be expected result.

#20 Comment By Joe the Plutocrat On April 3, 2014 @ 11:58 am

oops, one more thing, one need look no further than the flirtation/courtship with the “tea party” to see the “short sale” mentality of the GOP. let’s be honest, issues like same-sex marriage, immigration, abortion, are legit political discussions; but to spend political capital proffering theories about birth certificates, FEMA internment camps, or creationism as science, etc.; really isolates the GOP. and as I said, there really is no value in targeting such a “niche” in a nation of 300 million.

#21 Comment By Uncle Billy On April 3, 2014 @ 12:09 pm

Warren, Believing that the earth is only 6,000 years old does indeed imply ignorance about a lot of things. It implies a basic ignorance about science, logic and common sense. The “Young Earth” people do not deserve respect, they deserve contempt and the back of your hand. If they believe this nonsense, what other foolishness do they believe? The GOP elite foolishly cultivates these intellectual eunuchs and does all us a disservice.

I am not a leftist, quite the contrary, being a classic consrvative, and I regard the Democrats reverence for “The Hood” just as disgusting as the GOP reverence for the backwoods.

George W Bush, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann and others in the GOP have instituted a glorification of ignorance that is disturbing. Republicans should be people who can think critically, like the Jesuits. Instead we have become a tent revival, complete with buffoonish Evangelicals spouting nonsense and foaming at the mouth. Does anybody remember what religion Eisenhower was? No. Then why now are we subjected during the GOP primaries to a collection of half wits who prattle on at so called “debates” about how much they love “Jay-Sussse” and other nonsense.

I never thought that I would say this, but I hope that the plutocrats take back the party before we become a rerun of Hee-Haw. Sarah Palin? Mike Huckabee? Michele Bachmann? These are actual GOP Presidential candidates. Your Honor, I rest my case.

#22 Comment By SteveM On April 3, 2014 @ 12:41 pm

Here’s the thing. The 2016 Republican presidential platform will pretty much look like Romney’s 2012 platform – i.e., a sop to war mongers and plutocrats. And if Jeb Bush is the nominee, it’s not like he’ll be saddled with the document, rather he’ll embrace it.

The Republican Party is the party of Conservative Inc. and its presidential candidate will be a front for its theology of World Cop diplomacy, sanctification the of National Security State, sanctification of the mythical “small business owner”, antipathy towards labor and a general social Darwinism.

If Jeb Bush is the nominee, voters know that they will be voting for Conservative Inc. That’s why he’s not the answer.

The Democrats are totally messed up. Only they don’t induce fear in an electorate that has plenty to be afraid of.

#23 Comment By Lou On April 3, 2014 @ 12:59 pm

Everyone seems to have missed the key underlying issue that Will only hints at when he writes, “Bush represents exactly the kind of Republicanism that makes the GOP uncompetitive in all of the states across the Northeast and Midwest that they need to be able to carry in order to win presidential elections. He is pro-corporate, pro-immigration, and pro-war, and all of these are political losers.”
The key to winning for the Republicans is to put forth a legitimate platform that captures the hearts and minds of blue collar/middle class. Of course, this will never happen, because all political money comes from the deep pockets of the special interests. All political battles in this country will continue to take place around the fringes between the polarized extreme groups. Meanwhile regular citizens will be merely used as pawns and misled around by continual media frenzies feeding of scandals and various obsessions. {Sigh}

#24 Comment By T. Sledge On April 3, 2014 @ 1:06 pm

What ails the GOP was best stated by Barry Goldwater when he mused that “he and his ilk were the ‘new liberals of the Republican party.’ ” If someone ran on Barry Goldwater’s version of conservatism today he’d no doubt be labelled a ‘RINO’.

What passes for “conservatism” in the GOP today is statism based on corporatist greed and religious zealot bigotry; what passes for “progressivism” among the Democrats is statism based on the primacy of finance capitalism and the resentments of economically redundant.

There are no real “principled” people in the political class. A “principled” person would have to state that being born into poverty doesn’t give you license to behave in a socially destructive manner; it does not give you a free hand to commit the most vile of acts, and fall back on the excuse of having been materially deprived.

A “principled” person would have to state that a collection of men and women drawn primarily from this country’s most elite colleges, knew perfectly well that bundling together loans that had been granted to the most un-creditworthy people in society, slicing and dicing those loans and issuing bonds based on them, duping a rating agency into stamping “AAA+” on the bonds and peddling the bonds to the rest of the world was a CONSCIOUS criminal act.

A “principled” person would demand equal treatment under law for BOTH classes of criminals; a “principled” person would not and could not be bought.

A “principled” person would state that a young middle class couple, who share a tiny townhouse with their one child has a RIGHT to resent having to pay high taxes to subsidize unwed mothers who get subsidized housing for themselves and their multiple out of wedlock children. A “principled” person would state that BOTH the unwed mothers and the “banksters” ought to be held accountable for the choices that they made.
We don’t have “principled” choices for POTUS — we have Bushes, Clintons and (worst of all) Obama.

#25 Comment By Joe the Plutocrat On April 3, 2014 @ 1:10 pm

again, people (and corporate overlords) vote because the believe one candidate will serve their interests. it is a given that the corporate overlords are served by BOTH tweedle dee and tweedle dumb; so it comes down to the unwashed masses, doesn’t it? read @SteveM. when it comes to the meat and potatoes (national security state, perpetual war, and even entitlements (Medicaid D vs Obamacare) there really is not difference between the current POTUS and previous POTUS. so why did women, Hispanics, African-Americans, and the GLBT communities more often than not vote for Obama over Romney or Obama over McCain? because reality or perception, they believed Obama had more to offer. as has been noted 100 times before; what do the likes of Bachman, Cain, Huckabee, Santorum, Gingrich, et al offer the aforementioned “democratic” base? I mean, even liberals know the US is gonna drop bombs (now send drones) somewhere. it’s not about how (people perceive) US policy affects people in Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, etc.; it’s how it affects people in Detroit, Los Angeles, Omaha, New Orleans, Phoenix, etc. 1+1 = 2, which makes sense, but 1+1+1 = 3, and in an election, 3 beats 2. it is that simple.

#26 Comment By C. L. H. Daniels On April 3, 2014 @ 1:39 pm

“Walker would win Wisconsin, have a good shot at Pennsylvania, and even perform respectably in Michigan.”

@Matthew Walter: Maybe, if he ran today and now on his record as Governor. After he wins the Republican primary though? Not so much. He’ll have to tack right, and hard, to have a chance. By the time he puts himself in sync with the national Republican primary electorate, he’ll probably be just as sunk as John McCain and Mitt Romney were in the general election.

Just because Massachusetts (for example) was willing to elect Mitt Romney as Governor doesn’t mean that there was any chance in hell of him taking the state in a Presidential race as Republican nominee. Plenty of blue states will elect Republican governors from time to time and vice versa; that doesn’t necessarily say anything about how they behave in Presidential elections, however.

#27 Comment By KXB On April 3, 2014 @ 1:52 pm

The GOP will need to have its own Sister Souljah moment. When Bill Clinton publicly lambasted some of the loonier aspects of his party, he re-assured the middle of the road voters that he would not be hostage to his left-wing.

Now, Ron Paul challenged some GOP gospel, such as the never ending war. But, the party needs their nominee to say something publicly. It can be either pulling back the security state apparatus, or telling corporate chiefs that the cannot subsist on tax code goodies, cheap immigration, and low taxes on capital gains forever. They will need to start investing in the country.

#28 Comment By steve in ohio On April 3, 2014 @ 2:00 pm

@Uncle Billy. If the GOP is so dominated by Evangelicals, how did a Mormon got the nomination in 2012? How did McCain (somebody who refused to meet with Billy Graham until very late in the campaign) win the nomination in 2008? I think we would agree that most Americans don’t want a President who wears his religion on his sleeve. However, Ronald Reagan, who respected people of faith, did quite well with both Evangelicals and Catholics.

#29 Comment By HyperIon On April 3, 2014 @ 2:05 pm

re: the deep Republican bench

???

If the Republican bench WERE deep, nobody would be talking about Jeb. I think “scraping the bottom of the barrel” is an apt description of the current situation.

#30 Comment By Uncle Billy On April 3, 2014 @ 2:28 pm

Steve in ohio: Romney, the Mormon got the nomination in 2012, because he was the best of a very bad lot. Kind of like being the hottest girl in the nursing home…..

#31 Comment By Just Dropping By On April 3, 2014 @ 3:20 pm

Why is it always that Republicans have problems with certain groups? Can’t we just as easily say that the Democrats are weak with men, the married, white Protestants, Mormons, and the elderly?

Yes, you can make the latter points. However, those latter points are largely irrelevant to the question of winning presidential elections — Democrats have won a majority of the popular vote in 5 of the last 6 presidential elections. Further, demographic changes mean that the populations that are most likely to support Democrats are an increasing percentage of the electorate, while the populations that are most likely to support Republicans are, in most instances, a decreasing percentage of the electorate. That means that for Democrats to keep winning the presidency, they merely need to not do worse with the electorate. Republicans need to do actively do better with the electorate if they want to win the presidency again.

#32 Comment By Jim On April 3, 2014 @ 5:35 pm

I’m still dumbfounded that George Will wrote an entire column pronouncing Mitt Romney would win Minnesota based on one outlier poll.

#33 Comment By Connor Bannon On April 3, 2014 @ 6:08 pm

I think the GOP’s best chance to win would probably require nominating an Ohioan like John Kasich or Rob Portman and then adding a quite dynamic VP candidate like Gov. Brian Sandoval of Nevada.

#34 Comment By CharleyCarp On April 3, 2014 @ 7:37 pm

The floor is still open, Daniel, to tell us who you think has a better chance than Jeb in the general.

#35 Comment By CharleyCarp On April 3, 2014 @ 7:46 pm

The GOP will need to have its own Sister Souljah moment.

Bob Dole did a thing at the 96 convention that qualifies, inviting racists to leave. GWB’s whole ‘compassionate conservative’ line wasn’t about any particular policies, but distinguishing himself from the House leadership, the impeachment, etc.

It’s tough to see what voters the next Republican nominee can afford to alienate. They can drop some of the right in the South in exchange for some centrists in the Midwest, I suppose — not through identity politics (which is nearly always the wrong way to look at things) — but through positions taken on issues. SSM, maybe is a place to go on that, some other culture war issues where there are more votes in contested states to win by being moderate than votes to lose in non-contested states by being more extreme.

(I have this conversation with my Democratic friends all the time.)

#36 Comment By Seth Owen On April 3, 2014 @ 10:52 pm

As this comment thread illustrates, there is little evidence that the GOP has the slightest clue what their problems are. Considering that the party in in thrall to empiricism deniers such as young earth creationists and climate denialists i suppose that’s no surprise.

Like Uncle Billy I am a former reliable GOP voter who will be hard pressed to ever vote for another Republican standing for any office higher than the municipal level because the party has completely lost the plot. Lord knows the Democrats are the same party I usually voted against, but what the hell happened to the sober, fiscally responsible and pragmatic GOP I knew?

That 242 electoral vote wall is a serious handicap. It’s one that won’t be breached with better “messaging,” either. Voters know the message. They don’t buy it. If the Republicans were an actual POLITICAL party they would make the necessary policy adjustments to regain competitiveness. But they don’t and won’t because they have become a cult-like movement with purity tests. They have essentially given up on persuading voters and are now relying on voter suppression, gerrymandering and piles of laxly regulated political money to hold on.

That can’t last, of course, but it will buy then a few more electoral cycles of dysfunction to thoroughly kneecap our country before they’re finally sent to the wilderness.

It’s becoming harder to see how yep he country resets from this mess without some real unpleasantness.

#37 Comment By Barry On April 4, 2014 @ 10:11 am

Just Dropping By says:
” Republicans need to do actively do better with the electorate if they want to win the presidency again.”

Or suppress the vote, which is what they’re actively working on.

#38 Comment By Uncle Billy On April 4, 2014 @ 10:27 am

Gerrymandering and voter supression of minorities will help the GOP in the short run, perhaps 2014 and 2016, but when the demographics really kick in, which would be in 2020, things could get fairly difficult for the GOP.

Even in so called “red states” like Texas, the Hispanic population is growing much faster than the Anglo population. By becoming a de-facto “whites only” party, the GOP is wading deeper and deeper into the big muddy.

I fully expect the GOP in 2014 and even 2016 to double down on all the gay bashing, Hispanic immigrant bashing, and irrational blather about women’s reproductive rights. They have a window of opportunity for 2016, but in 2020 and beyond they cannot win another national election.

The GOP bigshots know this, but they have painted themselves into a corner, and things will only get worse.

#39 Comment By Tim D. On April 4, 2014 @ 11:09 am

Jeb Bush is ideologically, at his core, in the same field as his brother, dear ole W. The biggest problem with the GOP is that the conservative movement is now a racket. Republicans (!= conservative) stand for entrenched interests, for expanding the welfare state to their constituents (e.g. big business) at the expense of the rest of the country. Till the party acknowledges that principles of plutocracy control the party, they (thankfully) cannot win the presidency, and launch yet another war, explode our diminishing deficits, disrupt government services, etc.

#40 Comment By ML On October 6, 2014 @ 12:24 am

If Obama is stuck at his current low level of popularity, the Republicans could nominate a Cruz-Palin ticket and still win.

Most presidential elections are referendums on the incumbent, and I think what the out-party does and who it nominates only makes a slight difference.

#41 Comment By wyclif On October 27, 2014 @ 10:21 pm

Uncle Billy wrote:

the GOP tries so hard to please its semi-literate, Evangelical, white base, that it alienates everyone else.

I think those evangelicals are a lot more literate than you’re giving them credit for. A glib, media-fueled generalisation if ever there was one.

#42 Comment By Nelson On October 28, 2014 @ 11:59 am

Pro-immigration is not a political loser. George W. was pro-immigration and he won back to back elections. Compare to “let them self-deport” Mitt Romney. If anything, the GOP could use more pro-immigration candidates. Immigration restrictions are some of the most “big government” anti-liberty laws we have. They’re comparable to Jim Crow laws. Using the “rule of law” to keep a certain segment of humanity down.