3 Reasons Why Republicans Should Keep an Open Mind about Jeb

After months of Hamlet-like vacillation, John Ellis (Jeb) Bush decides to join the 2016 Presidential race. The leader among all of the declared and undeclared Republican presidential candidates, Bush offers something most of the candidates do not–executive experience running a state that the GOP must win in order to win the 2016 election. Still though, many Republicans remain skeptical of Mr. Bush, some flatly refusing to vote for “another Bush.” Here are 3 reasons why Republicans should keep an open mind about the Jeb Bush candidacy.

 

Reason One: Jeb Bush Joins the Race Enjoying Advantages the Other Candidates Envy


Martin O’Malley, Carly Fiorina, and Ben Carson share a common first hurdle to a successful White House bid–earning widespread name recognition. For some candidates, their relative obscurity serves them well: Senator Marco Rubio, for example, can define himself on his own terms. Martin O’Malley, on the other hand, struggles to get any attention at all. For Jeb Bush, name recognition cuts both ways: on the one hand, Bush enjoys the benefits of belonging to a respected political family that Americans feel as if they know. After all, the only Republicans to win the White House since Ronald Reagan were Bushes. Still, though,Jeb must make the case that he is his own man, worthy of the job on his own merits, not just because of his last name. That task represents an opportunity similar to Senator Rubio’s.

 

Being from such a successful political family brings with it two more important advantages–networking and money. Leading up to his announcement, Bush has been cobbling together an enviable campaign team of big names like Danny Diaz, Heather Larrison, and Alex Lundry. Many of these people worked on Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign and worked for George W. Bush as well.

 

Heather Larrison leads Bush’s dynamic fundraising team that has been greatly outpacing his rivals’. Mr. Rubio, also from Florida, has been struggling to build his fundraising base upon Florida donors, because Bush’s influence in the state is deeper and wider-reaching. In fact, whichever candidate performs worse in Florida’s winner take all primary will likely end his White House bid immediately thereafter.

 

Name recognition, deep political networks and strong fundraising abilities are important aspects to running a winning campaign.

 

Reason Two: America Values Individual Accomplishment More than Bloodlines


By far, the most braindead “argument” against a Jeb Bush presidential run (and in fairness, against Hillary Clinton as well) is “Not Another Bush.” This reticence to support Mr. Bush purely based on his last name indicates immaturity and irrational thinking. For those of us who have siblings, would it be fair to say that knowing one of you is the same as knowing the other? Do you think the same as your siblings on all matters? Do you think the same as your father on all matters? Most matters?

 

Most bothersome about the “Not Another Bush” line, is that it runs contrary to America’s greatest ideal, that which sets us apart from our European kin: America values the individual more than the bloodline. And we should continue to do so. Betraying that idea betrays the notion that anyone can “make it” in America if he or she just works hard and plays by the rules.

 

By this standard, Jeb Bush has earned his right to be taken seriously along with the other candidates because he governed Florida successfully and conservatively. At present, he appears to be an upstanding man with a good family (all families face challenges, of course). He holds his own policy positions that may vary from his brother and father, and still fall within the conservative spectrum. On these elements should he be judged, not on his family lineage.

 

Reason Three: Jeb Bush Falls within the GOP Mainstream


The 2016 GOP candidate will surely need the support from the broadest coalitions of the conservative movement. He or she will need to speak most of all to social conservatives, economic conservatives, and defense-minded conservatives. On the issues most important to these constituencies, Jeb Bush falls within the mainstream. Unlike George Pataki, Bush holds a consistent record opposing abortion. Unlike Mike Huckabee, Bush does not need to defend himself against allegations of reliance on federal funds during his governorship. Unlike Rand Paul, Bush speaks clearly about reinstating a forward-leaning foreign policy.

 

Furthermore, for Bush’s conservative bona fides, he strikes a moderate tone–an important ingredient for any GOP candidate to win the general election.

 

Without a doubt, Mr. Bush faces a list of challenges and formidable candidates in his 2016 bid. While he leads the pack in most polls, his lead wanes–most notably, in Florida. Still, though, Bush represents a serious candidate in whom Republicans can take pride. A welcome addition to the large field of candidates, Jeb Bush deserves serious consideration in his own right.

The Free Exchange (15-010)

The Free Exchange is a series dedicated solely to answering comments from you. I appreciate your reading and always enjoy hearing from you, even when you disagree. Thank you for your participation.


 

Rand’s Gambit

BJ writes:

I don’t know what to say about this guy. He’s got such mix of confusing values. As you listed, he seems and sounds libertarian just like his father. But he has many non-libertarian views as you articulated. We have discussed what we think of libertarianism in the past, especially involving that awful Brink Lindsey.

 

One observation that I would love to hear your comment on: it seems like many non-religious conservatives like to call themselves as libertarians. But when confronted with specific issues such as drug legalization, many fall on the traditional conservative side rather than the libertarian side. And so I have always thought of the so-called libertarians as frustrated conservatives who oppose the Iraq War and is OK with same-sex marriage. In other words, moderate Republicans. (Especially those who did not like President Bush the younger.) Most of us have a mix of view on issues. However I don’t think these people truly understand libertarianism as it is classically defined.

 

All of this is to agree with your point; I don’t see Rand Paul as any kind of serious candidate. A few questions for you though: do you see Rand Paul as just another younger version of his father Ron Paul? I find it funny that Ron Paul is not running although he’s been running for decades. Do you know if they disagree on anything?

 

Also what do you think of Rand Paul being aggressive with the liberal media but it backfiring when he’s labeled as sexist against women reporters since for whatever reason, he’s only been interviewed by women reporters since his announcement?

 

J Hunter:

 

Thank you for commenting BJ!

As usual, I think you’re spot on about libertarian frustration.

 

I highlight Nate Cohn’s piece in this article because I think that it best illustrates the state of libertarianism in the Republican Party today–small, insignificant, and only marginally interesting. Cohn explains that the swath of people who call themselves libertarian don’t truly hold libertarian views, and that the term has become a catchall for liberals and conservatives who want to have their cake and eat it too: fiscally responsible and pro-gay marriage, for example. In short, it’s becoming a shorthand for moderate–as you suggest.

 

That’s really a shame, in my opinion, because I think classical liberalism–libertarianism–has its place in political debate. There are instances in which I’d like to see a more Millian sense of liberty enacted, but Millian liberty offends liberals and conservatives alike. And that’s where I see libertarianism’s greatest shortcoming: liberalism and conservatism advocate for a sense of fairness and morality, whereas libertarianism does not.

 

Failed policies thrive because their defenders are motivated by their morals. People want to raise the minimum wage, for example, because they believe that it’s immoral for a company to make a profit while some workers live paycheck to paycheck. Arguments about the negative impact of raising the minimum wage don’t persuade these people. It sounds like white noise to them because they weren’t motivated by cold arguments in the first place. Moral pitches against raising the minimum wage would be more appropriate.

 

I say this because libertarians, to their detriment, market themselves as cold, policy wonks–economists concerned with auditing the Federal Reserve, returning to the gold standard and championing an abstract concept of liberty. Abstractions don’t resonate with people, and neither, therefore, does libertarianism. You and I know that liberty and morality sit on opposite ends of a spectrum: a theocracy obsesses over morality at the expense of liberty. Likewise, liberty can work against morality. So, libertarian obsession over liberty offends liberal and conservative notions of morality, and libertarians’ unwillingness (or inability) to make the moral case for their positions keeps them small, insignificant and only marginally interesting.

 

As it happens, I don’t see Rand Paul as a mirror of Ron Paul, but I think that Rand should do more to distance himself from his father. The biggest differences I see between the two is that Ron Paul is anti-American. Ron Paul pedals dangerous conspiracy theories and racist theories. To the best of my knowledge, Rand does not follow suit.

 

As for Rand’s treatment of female interviewers, I agree that Mr. Paul has behaved obnoxiously. Even if Republicans weren’t trying to change their fortunes with women, Paul’s “shushing” reporters should never have happened. It’s something I suspect his advisers have warned him to stop. I hope he listens.


Rubio in the Running

BJ writes:

Ah Rubio. This is my current man-crush of all the GOP candidates running right now. Like you, I vote based on ideas and party rather than the candidate. And so I am not wedded to Chris Christie or any one person. But of all the people running, Rubio is the man for me. In terms of values as well as excitement and charisma, I don’t see anyone better. Fiorina would be my second favorite.

 

I understand you take a more cautious approach which is fair enough. His inexperience and some financial potential mini-scandals that I’ve heard about back in Florida are concerning. The fact that he’s not been a governor is a minus but nothing fatal. Everyone talks about his flip on illegal immigration and Prager worries about his tax plan. Nonetheless, he seems to be the best out of all of them so far. But it is early and I am cautiously excited.

I would love to hear what specific reservations you have about him; not for me to refute but to see if there’s something about him that I’m not seeing. In terms of the various writers you quoted, none of what those people say concerns me. In fact, they sound more like bad sports broadcasters. What Bouie says about only 5.6% saying he is their top choice now is exactly that: now. Just because Rubio isn’t the clear front runner like Hillary, doesn’t mean he’s going to fail. That’s a lame criticism of Rubio or anyone. Any her continued criticism of oh-there-is-some-candidate-for-every-demographic is also ridiculous. Bush will not succeed since when it comes down to it, GOP voters won’t think that he can win due to his name. And so that won’t be a factor in taking away Rubio’s specialness of him being a Latino, as she is pathetically saying.

 

Wright’s comments reek of time-filler for these pundits who are biased and are trying to say something profound but comes off as someone who is looking at politics as some kind of sports game. You dismantled her words much better than I. It is too early and I am not wedded to Rubio. But I loved him when he ran for the Senate in 2010. And I am a little surprised that he’s running now. I thought he may wait since he is so young. But I’m glad he’s running since I do believe that he’s the best so far of all the people that’s running. As you said, we shall see.

 

J Hunter:

Well, BJ, I am leaning hard in the Rubio direction. I even donated to his campaign. I’ve been a big fan of Mr. Rubio’s for years for many of the reasons that people are discovering about him right now: he’s an excellent communicator and a problem solver. He’s a political man-crush of mine as well.

 

As for my piece, I agree that the arguments against Rubio are pretty flaccid. I only added them to keep from writing a gushing piece. The truth of the matter is, if he continues to be as nimble, positive and substantive throughout the campaign as he has been so far, I think we could nominate him and make history.

 

Rubio is mainstream; he appeals to the many different factions of the Republican Party; he’s young, energetic, Spanish-speaking, and inspiring. I ask myself when choosing a candidate for the nomination race: “What does this candidate bring that’s lacking?” When I ask that question, I rule out people like Ben Carson, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham. What they bring, we either don’t need or another candidate does it better. For this reason, I hope that Jeb Bush does not enter the race (though I suspect that he will). While I like and respect Mr. Bush, I don’t think he adds much to the field.
On the other hand, I think Mr. Rubio would make a fine president, and he’s at the top of my list of 2016 GOP candidates.

Thanks for reading and commenting, BJ!


 

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A Letter to Ms. Julia Cohen

Dear Ms. Cohen,

I spend a significant portion of my life participating in politics. When I’m not reading about it, I’m listening to it on the radio, otherwise I’m thinking about it. Likewise, I come across many articles on the subject, but rarely do I feel compelled to respond directly to columns. Yours is different. “What about the Moderates?” strikes me as a particularly important piece because you touch upon an issue that every American wrestles with if he/she is politically inclined–where do I fit into the binary party system? I’d like to argue, first, in favor of our two party system, and then, in support of one of those parties. I hope to offer you some clarity on your political journey.

You and I share some commonalities: I started my political journey on the Left and moved rightward when I was young, for example. To give you an idea of how liberal I was, I was torn between voting for Ralph Nader and Al Gore in 2000. I emailed my professors about my dilemma, and talked to my entirely liberal family about what I should do. 2000 was my first election. It meant something to me–about my integrity, my values, and my commitment to my country. I wanted to make the right choice.

Like many liberals, I found the Democrat candidate too far to the right, too beholden to corporate interests, too timid to fight for liberal values and to stop the right-wing hate machine in its tracks. Ralph Nader made his career on these liberal values. He championed the people as a consumer advocate. He always thought outside the two-party box on political issues, even though he spent the majority of his political life ensconced in the Democrat Party. He represented the real liberal choice for 2000, but he didn’t stand a chance.

When I hectored my liberal professors and family members for advice, they told me not to “waste my vote.” They told me that I had to compromise my values for a candidate who can win. They told me that American politics moves incrementally, and that if I wanted to advocate a leftward shift in the Democrat Party, I would have more success doing so from within the party rather than from the outside.

They were right.

But what lesson does this impart to the independents, moderates and radicals who find no home in our political parties, but want to express their patriotism by affecting positive political change?

The lesson is blunt–Get Real.

“Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable,” Otto von Bismarck famously states. The United States consists of more than 300 million people with twice as many competing preferences and values–each nuanced and based in strongly-held beliefs of varying degrees of rationality. Boiling these preferences down into like categories, and then creating coalitions–parties–around people who share the same preferences would lead to thousands of parties. To some, a multiparty system would represent a positive development in American politics, a reality akin to that in countries like Italy. In practice, what results is dysfunction: hordes of frustrated people who, for some reason or another, never create enough momentum among the disparate parties to move the country in the right direction. In short, politics becomes futile–unable to realize “the possible,” unable to attain anything.

I support our two party system because it represents a logical stasis point. Our two party system is not divided along issue lines, rather it is divided between two competing philosophies of rights and the proper role of the State. The Left–liberals, Democrats–believe that rights derive from the State, and that the hierarchy of rights can be affirmed by a consensus of philosophy and theory. The Right–conservatives, Republicans–believe that an external Creator bestows rights upon us. These rights cannot be curtailed by a government, lest that government forfeit its legitimacy. Through religion, and tradition, we discover and protect these rights, thereby upholding social order by avoiding the chaos associated with the Left’s capricious definition of rights.

In other words, actual policy positions are subordinate to the overarching philosophy on how to order society. The question independents, moderates, and radicals need to ask isn’t “Which party represents my values,” but rather, “Which party agrees with the way in which my values should be argued and implemented?” Once that question is answered, the best thing to do is to choose a party and work to push it in the direction of your choosing.

That’s what I did. I voted for Al Gore, and lost.

As I wrestled with the philosophy of rights, my political journey took me rightward, into the welcoming arms of the Republican Party where I happily reside today. Our Republican Party is a big tent, Ms. Cohen. You can be “a good Republican” and disagree on some policy points. There’s plenty of room for you and I to debate marriage equality–and I hope we do. Most importantly, I enjoy the opportunity to stand alongside a fellow Wildcat, working together toward a strong foreign policy, lower taxes, a better party, and a better country.

The Liberal Creed (a bit of satire)

The Church of Liberalism Gathers to Recite the Creed…


We believe in one candidate, the wife of Bill, creator of the Russian Reset Button, and in all accomplishments and emails mostly invisible. And in one Party, the Democratic Party, begotten of The Age of Reason and Postmodernism. Hypocrite of Hypocrites. Divider of Dividers. Demagogues of Demagogues. Made, not begotten, being of one substance with Nihilism and Collectivism, through which ideas millions have suffered. Who for us men and for our detriment sowed the seeds of racial animus, pitted economic class against economic class, undermined religious exercise, raised taxes, ruined healthcare and weakened our military. In the second term, they traded Bowe Bergdahl for terrorists, in accordance with their twisted worldview, and lost the Senate. In 2016 they want to return to the White House so that their misrule may have no end.

And we believe in the liberal media, the attack dog for the Democrat Party, who proceeds to interject on behalf of candidates in debates, and reserves the toughest challenges for Republicans. Who together with the liberal university worship and glorify liberal politicians. Who speak from both sides of their mouth.

And we believe in one uncontested primary and the coronation of Hillary Clinton. We acknowledge one stale candidate from the past to take us into the future, and look for the resurrection of failed policies, and the further socialization of America to come.
Amen.

Iran Deal Epitomizes the Wrong Way to Encourage Peace

Capitulating to Oppressors Breeds More Oppression


Peter Beinart writes a piece in The Atlantic that elucidates the folly of constructivist political theory and President Barack Obama’s role in negotiations with Iran. Beinart expresses hope that the nuclear deal with Iran could bring Democracy to the nation and improve human rights conditions. Rather than rely on military threats, sanctions, and isolation to urge Iran in the right direction, he argues that a conciliatory approach bore fruit historically and can do so today. The theory belies logic and the price of failure is high.

Beinart highlights the case of Akbar Ganji, a journalist jailed in Iran for calling on the country to replace its theocracy with a democracy. Ganji has since been released and has fled Iran. From his safe haven, he argues that the Iranian people live in fear resulting from economic sanctions and military threats from the United States and Israel.

“If the United States and its allies ‘are truly interested in the development of democracy in Iran…they should set aside military threats and economic sanctions.”

Beinart agrees.

He chastises hawks’ simplistic view of President Ronald Reagan’s Cold War successes:

“Reagan entered the White House in 1981, built up the American military, sent arms to anti-communist rebels, refused to negotiate arms-control deals, called the Soviet Union an ‘evil empire,’ and, presto, the Berlin Wall fell.”

Instead, Beinart argues, Reagan de-escalated the Cold War by meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev without preconditions, cooling bellicose rhetoric, and signing the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty.

“The lesson,” Beinart writes, is “that imposing sanctions and threatening war rarely strengthen human rights. It’s usually the reverse.”

With this in mind, the Iranian nuclear talks have devolved from the U.S. and her European allies calling on Iran to dismantle its nuclear program to now–a complete reversal of previous U.S. positions. The Wall Street Journal editorial page lists some of these major departures:

“Obama has already conceded that Iran can keep enriching uranium, that it can maintain 5,060 centrifuges to do the enriching, that its enriched-uranium stockpiles can stay inside Iran, that the once-concealed facilities at Fordow and Arak can stay open (albeit in altered form), and that Iran can continue doing research on advanced centrifuges.”

In addition to these concessions, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wants an immediate repeal of economic sanctions and no inspections under any conditions of Iran’s military sites. Whatever demands the West makes on Iran must be upheld, or else the sanctions will immediately “snap back,” President Obama claims. How these sanctions will be immediately reimposed remains unclear. According to Beinart, though, caving to the Ayatollah would benefit more people than currently face harm through sanctions and the fear of war.

So why, Beinart asks, “in the face of all this evidence…do American hawks…still overwhelmingly oppose Obama’s diplomatic openings?”

Americans believe in carrots and sticks. Reward for good behavior and punishment for bad. We fear that granting concessions to brutal dictatorships will encourage more brutal dictatorships. In particular, dictators motivated by antisemitism stop at very little to kill Jews. Beinart doesn’t negate this possibility in his piece, even calling on American leaders to “criticize dictatorships.” Apparently, though, when that criticism goes so far as to call a murderous regime “evil,” a red line has been crossed.

So, what should the West do to discourage despotism?

Neorealists/neoliberals argue that coalitions built around pro-social behaviors create a cohort of nations that benefit from cooperation. NATO, WTO, the World Bank and IMF, name some of the multinational entities that work under this assumption. Nations allowed to participate in these organizations prosper. Those that don’t, don’t.

America started the neoliberal model after the end of World War II left so much of the world in shambles. Up until that point, the wealthiest and most powerful nations ruled the globe single-handedly until their power waned enough to allow a rival to topple the world order and claw to the top of the heap. The neorealist model dispatches with that practice. Neoliberalism encourages leaders to allow a free press, hold elections, curb aggression against their neighbors–all in order to join some of the multinational groups that work hand in hand toward mutual benefit.

Beinart and Obama appear bent on a constructivist approach that offers carrots with no sticks. They believe that by lifting sanctions and capitulating to despots, they uphold human rights for the unfortunate subjects of Iran and similar countries. In reality, they allow bloodthirsty dictators the means to build tools to violate the sovereignty and human rights of people in other countries.

Reality, though, is not a place where constructivism thrives.

The Redistribution Reality

Democrats Face a Nation Increasingly Skeptical of Their Mission


Two fascinating pieces at the New York Times last week reveal liberal anxiety over American views of wealth redistribution. The first, by Thomas Edsall, recounts how the political discussions surrounding Obamacare turned Americans against wealth redistribution. The second, by Neil Irwin, wrestles with why Americans reject efforts to “soak the rich.” Both highlight the supreme shortcoming of the Obama presidency–the Democrats’  failure to allay Americans’ skepticism about the ability of the federal government to solve everyday problems. More importantly, these pieces expose a problem for a Party and an ideology facing an election in 2016.

“With the advent of the Affordable Care Act, the share of Americans convinced that healthcare is a right shrank from a majority to a minority. This shift in public opinion is a major victory for the Republican Party,” Edsall writes. Gallup provides polling numbers supporting Edsall’s assertion. Irwin points to similar polls showing a growing reluctance to tax “the rich” to fund programs for the poor. Understanding why these shifts occurred represents Democrats’ greatest challenge.

Edsall quotes Robert Blendon, a professor of health policy and political analysis at Harvard’s School of Public Health, to conclude that the debate over Obamacare’s specifics changed the public’s opinion about redistributing wealth in the healthcare realm.

“Critics started raising concerns about the cost of these plans–higher taxes and premiums for those with coverage, more government interference in physician choices, and of course the potential of abortion coverage.”

If you’re a conservative, Irwin argues, you account for this shift by claiming that Americans are coming to their senses. Americans understand that the high taxes of the middle 20th century came at a high economic cost whereas lower taxes on the wealthy spurns economic growth. If you’re a liberal, Irwin claims, you likely attribute this shift to the seductive charm of right wing rhetoric that misinforms the electorate and transforms phrases like “spread the wealth around” into perjoratives. Of course, no liberal theory would be complete without intoning that its opponents object to serving “someone with a different color skin.”

Irwin refrains from substantiating either the liberal or conservative accounts for the attitudinal shift, and instead, promotes the claims from a National bureau of Economic Research working paper written by Jimmy Charite (et.al.), and another working paper from the Brookings Institution. Charite finds that Americans are more willing to redistribute wealth if they know that the rich people being taxed are nouveau riche.

“Rich people who have been rich for a while have gotten used to their money, so it would be unfair to tax them heavily.”

Brookings claims that Americans reject redistribution if they believe that they will lose their own benefits to serve someone else.

Charite’s research misses the mark entirely, as most Americans care less about how long someone’s been rich than they do about how someone made their money. Brookings’ conclusion strikes me as so obvious that it warrants no further examination.

Therefore, of the three explanations for why Americans increasingly dislike wealth redistribution, Edsall’s (or Blendon’s) makes the most sense. The crux of Edsall’s conclusion supports the conservative assertion that Americans have come to their senses about wealth redistribution. In theory, Americans can be convinced that anything can (and maybe should)  be free. When the details of a policy to make that a reality surface, though, we recognize that wealth redistribution leads to worse outcomes for everyone.

This represents bad news for the Left. Democrats strive to equalize Americans’ wealth through redistribution–wealth they believe is concentrated not based on the principles of the free market that rewards creativity, risk taking and hard work, but rather by chance, vice and, of course, oppression. Fewer Americans supporting redistributive efforts threatens a key claim to Democratic legitimacy. With the 2016 Presidential race creeping to the front of Americans’ minds; Congress and governorships nationwide controlled by Republicans; a field of dynamic Republican candidates focused on winning the White House; and a singularly uninspiring Democratic presidential candidate representing liberals’ only choice; this news could not be more dire for leftists.
No wonder the topic yielded so much attention at the New York Times.