Steve Benen called Jeb Bush to task for all the politicking he has been doing with some offensive characters, apparently in his pursuit of the Republican nomination for president in 2016. It got me thinking, “Would the country really vote in a third Bush as president?” There seems to be a bit of a contradiction to the whole idea. I’m sure that most people would not have a problem with it on its surface. After all, Jeb Bush is an individual; he really shouldn’t be judged based upon his father and brother. That idea is fundamental to who we are as a society. Just the same, if he did become president, there would be no denying that the Bush family was a dynasty in a way that the Adamses and the Kennedys were not.
Regardless, I’m not at all clear that people would vote for him in large numbers. Although I think it is wrong, people see George Sr as a mediocre president—riding on the coat tails of the great Reagan. And George Jr is still seen as a total disaster. That would be a heavy lift. In addition to that, there is something that binds all of these Bush men together. None of them are particularly ideological at their core. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t the worst kinds of demagogues, of course. Just think back on Sr’s Willie Horton ad or Jr’s push poll, “Would you be more or less likely to vote for John McCain…if you knew he had fathered an illegitimate black child?” But what really binds them together is what they do care about: corporate power—especially of the fossil fuels industry.
Benen complained about Jeb Bush’s recent fundraising for Ken Cuccinelli and Paul LePage. But I disagree with him here:
I’m not sure what is this “ridiculous wing of the GOP” to which he is referring. I’m only partially facetious here. Bush and the other “thoughtful, forward-thinking mainstream conservatives” are in no fundamental way different from the “ridiculous” conservatives. It is all a matter of style. As Benen himself noted previously: Jeb Bush doesn’t actually know much about immigration and education reform. On both issues, he is simply shilling for corporate interests.
The example of education “reform” is telling. He may claim that it is all about giving poor children the same access to good schools as rich children. But he isn’t. He is opposed to doing anything about our disgraceful policy of tying educational resources to local tax collection. He just happens to be for a policy that (1) gives rich parents money to pay toward private schools they would send their children to anyway; and (2) undercuts the power of teachers’ unions. Just because he doesn’t say that his primary aim is destorying teachers’ unions and giving poor children bad educations doesn’t mean he is a “thoughtful, forward-thinking mainstream conservative.” It just means that he is a more capable and urbane politician.
The example of abortion is even more telling. He claims that he is not an extremist. But it is hard to take that as anything but a strategic position. He’s pushed mandatory counseling for women seeking abortions—as though they are children who don’t know what they are doing. He is against abortion is all cases except for rape, incest, and life of the mother. As I’ve argued, that is not the reasonable position and it indicates a hatred of women—especially independent women. What’s more, this position on abortion means that he thinks that not only is a fertilized egg a full human being, he thinks it is a full citizen with equal rights to that of the host woman. He is also against the use of government funds for stem cell research. It is true that he’s never called giving birth to a rapist’s child turning a “lemon situation into lemonade.” And he’s never claimed that some rapes are legitimate and others aren’t. But when it comes to policy preferences, Jeb Bush is no different than Sharron Angle and Todd Akin.
There are some people in the Republican Party who don’t actually care about social issues. But I don’t see any of them with much in terms of power. Even the great “libertarian” icons Rand and Ron Paul are social conservatives. It isn’t that many of the elites care about the social issues. But they understand perfectly well that they would not have a base if they didn’t have people voting for them because of the social issues. Jeb Bush will only be able to further enrich his wealthy friends by giving the social conservative base their restrictive laws—or at least rhetoric. It costs him nothing. If his daughter ever needed an abortion, he could just fly her to France. Where Bush differs from someone like Todd Akin is that Akin actually believes the social conservative claptrap. But the fact that Jeb Bush lies to get elected doesn’t make him any less ridiculous. It just makes him far more dangerous.