Whisper it quietly, but the US needs another Bush
Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, is contemplating running for the Republican party nomination in the 2016 presidential election. There is an argument to say America needs him, even as the world reels at reports of CIA torture that took place under George W Bush’s presidency.
Firstly, it should be stated that he does not represent any hope for the revival of the progressive strand of the Republican Party typified by the late Nelson Rockefeller, a governor of New York State and vice president to Gerald Ford.
That wing of the Republican Party has long ceased to exist, part of the century-long reversal that has seen the Democrats go from being the party of the conservative south to that of the liberal north, and vice versa with the Republicans – confirmed most recently by the defeat of Senator Mary Landrieu in Louisiana, which means, as the Daily Beast’s Michael Tomasky put it bluntly, “the Democrats will have no more senators from the Deep South”.
Mr Bush’s significance lies in the fact that he is the only prominent Republican who could say that Ronald Reagan, and his father, George H W Bush, would both have difficulty being accepted today in the party they both led.
This is partly a result of his surname. For a supposedly meritocratic and non-aristocratic republic, America has a great softness for political dynasties. But it is also that he has an ability to appeal, based both on his record and his statements, to moderates and to conservatives.
For moderates, Mr Bush is one of the few Republicans who is realistic on the issue of immigration.
He has supported a path to citizenship for the thousands who may have entered America illegally, but who contribute enormously to the country’s economy and also disproportionately do the jobs that Americans don’t want to do themselves.
On education he has been an outspoken advocate for the Common Core educational standards, which have been adopted by the majority of US states but which some regard as an overreach by the federal government
But he is also a Roman Catholic convert who stands against abortion rights, and who has been praised by the Rev Samuel Rodriguez, President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Council, as “an attractive candidate for evangelicals that adhere to a pro-faith family and religious freedom agenda”. As governor of Florida, he lowered taxes and was regarded as a friend by the gun lobby.
He could bring the Republican party back to its senses if his candidacy did not bend to the pressure to please the increasingly right wing tendency in his party.
This is in the GOP’s own interests. The belief that the Republicans will only retake the White House if the party presents a truly conservative candidate such as Senator Ted Cruz, as opposed to a centrist, are strictly for the birds – or “wacko birds”, as the former Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain famously described Cruz and his fellow Tea Partiers like Senator Rand Paul.
The Republican Party is in sore need of sensible leadership. Irresponsible threats to shut down the government should be the idle words of wildcat outliers, not those who aspire to leadership in the House of Representatives.
A scion of the Bush family who is prepared to take on the extremists and thus offer the US public a genuine and fair choice in the next presidential election would be a gift to American democracy.
To the world, too, it would send a message: that moderation and compromise are not the marks of weak leaders but of those strong enough to stand their ground. That, in this time of crimes against every civilised norm – from the CIA revelations to the brutalities of ISIL – would be more welcome than ever.
Sholto Byrnes is a commentator and consultant based in Doha and Kuala Lumpur
Updated: December 16, 2014 04:00 AM