The Republican Party is about to embark on the most interesting primary process it’s ever had, and the message from the establishment is that the best candidate to go against Hillary Clinton is–wait for it–a centrist retread with a last name from a recent era that most of us would rather forget.
Jeb Bush is probably a decent guy who comes from, by all accounts, a good family. But after eight years of Obama and the wreckage that has come from it, we simply can’t afford to botch this nomination. Ever since the end of the magnificent Reagan era, the GOP has for too long nominated subpar presidential candidates for no reason other than that he has “paid his dues” and was next in line. What a recipe for losing a general election!
A perfect reverse barometer for the Republicans would be to take the candidate whom the Democrats claim they fear the most and immediately discard that candidate. Far too many Democrat operatives and pundits have said they fear Jeb Bush more than any of his GOP rivals. This is a trap, and a pretty obvious one. All that matters is how the candidate matches up against Madam Secretary.
Giving Jeb the nomination neutralizes some of the best arguments against Hillary. She’s a relic from the 20th century? So is Jeb. She’s a longtime member of the political ruling class who thinks she’s entitled to the presidency because of her last name? So is Jeb. She supports an immigration policy that rewards lawbreakers and dilutes our cultural identity? So does Jeb. She’s charisma-challenged and is propped up not by grassroots enthusiasm but rather by the largesse of big money donors? So is–you get the idea.
All the faux fear of Jeb by the Democrats preys on the electorate’s gnat-like attention span. Am I the only one who remembers how the left spent the entire second term of George W. Bush destroying his name in the minds of many voters? How much he deserved the criticism is another debate. The fact is that the Democrats largely succeeded to equate the Bush name with ideas like “Iraq quagmire” and “economic meltdown.”
How easy would it be for Team Hillary to dust off that old playbook and convince enough voters that electing Jeb would be a second helping of everything they were taught to hate about the W. years? The Democrats would be ecstatic at the idea of a Jeb nomination.
In previous election years, Jeb may have been the choice as a compromise candidate from a yawn-inducing GOP field. That is far from the case this time around. After a weak menu of options in 2012, the GOP candidates this time are young, diverse and inspiring. Ted Cruz, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul–any of them would be a great contrast to Hillary. Whether we like it or not, much of politics in the 21st century has to do with optics and imagery. A successful candidate absolutely must be articulate and good on television. Just imagine the debates in the fall of 2016 with the right candidate. Any of the aforementioned GOP candidates would play the part of the youthful, bold JFK-type figure against the older, stiff, and uncharismatic Nixon. They could even ask Hillary why she is so Nixon-like with the whole email server fiasco.
Another failing of recent GOP presidential nominees has been a lack of killer instinct when it was desperately needed. I wanted to throw a Molotov cocktail at my television in 2012 every time I heard Mitt Romney say something like “I believe Barack Obama is a good person, he just has bad ideas.” Wrong, wrong, wrong! This was particularly galling when Obama’s personally-approved commercials accused Romney of being a heartless financier who caused a factory worker’s wife to die from cancer. Given the Bush family’s history of working with Bill Clinton on charity fundraisers and the like, does anyone really believe Jeb has the fire in his belly to counterpunch against the viciousness that the Clinton campaign is sure to throw at him? Walker, by contrast, has fought cage matches against the left in Wisconsin and come away victorious each time. Cruz is a skilled orator who has fought members of his own party in the Senate as well as Democrats. The times call for a silver-tongued pugilist, not a patrician too gentlemanly to return fire.
The GOP establishment has spread fear that nominating a true conservative will result a landslide defeat akin to Barry Goldwater’s loss to LBJ in 1964. However, there is far more recent evidence that the fastest way to defeat is to pick a moderate who stands for nothing, excites no one and lacks the stomach for the blood sport of presidential campaigning. A Jeb Bush nomination would continue that trend.