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The Dreadful Prospect of Another Clinton-Bush Election

A Clinton-Bush race would guarantee an endorsement of the status quo no matter which side prevailed.
Jeb Bush CPAC

Michael Gerson asks a silly question:

In what parallel universe is Jeb Bush — a tax-slashing, school-voucher-supporting, pro-gun former Southern governor — some kind of moderate?

Gerson may be genuinely befuddled about this, since he is himself a “centrist” on a number of issues that put him at odds with most conservatives. As one of the few remaining cheerleaders for George W. Bush’s domestic policies, Gerson probably can’t fathom that most conservatives aren’t interested in reviving a “compassionate” conservative agenda or that they regard most of that agenda with suspicion and even loathing. He doesn’t seem to recognize that Jeb Bush is perceived to be a “moderate” in the GOP for many of the same reasons that he is. In fairness, Jeb Bush was a fairly conventional Republican for the mid-2000s. His political problem is that the GOP and the country have changed enough in the last ten years that his pro-corporate “centrism” and pro-immigration views separate him from most of his party to a much greater degree now than they would have when his brother was still president. Being the preferred candidate of corporate America might have been considered a very large advantage before 2008, but now it is a much greater liability than it used to be. Gerson doesn’t see any of these things as political weaknesses because these are all things that he presumably likes about Bush, which reminds us that he is not a very reliable guide to how most conservatives in the GOP see things. It is also a reminder that Bush’s long time away from retail politics has left him mostly oblivious to the changes that have taken place since he left office, and that is why he seems even more out of step with the rest of the GOP than one would assume just by listing the differences he has on policy.

Gerson continues by making an even sillier statement:

A Clinton-Bush presidential contest would be among the clearest choices in modern political history.

This is the sort of nonsense that partisans usually save for the fall of a presidential election year. They feel obliged to exaggerate the differences between bland “centrist” nominees in order to make core supporters turn out to vote. Yes, there are obvious differences between Clinton and Bush because there are obvious differences between their parties, but there would probably be far more overlap in their positions during the campaign than there has been in any recent presidential election. No matter who wins such a contest, there will be no meaningful reform of the financial industry, nor will there be any change for the better in U.S. foreign policy. A Clinton-Bush race would guarantee an endorsement of the status quo no matter which side prevailed, which is why it is so unwelcome to many conservatives and progressives. The fact that a Clinton-Bush race seems interesting and desirable to someone like Gerson is yet another reason why the rest of us should be dreading it.



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