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.

iCarly

Joining Dr. Ben Carson’s entrance into the GOP nomination pool, former Hewlett-Packard CEO, Carly Fiorina, announced her presidential campaign. Fiorina leads the pack of Republican hopefuls in her incisive critiques of Democrat frontrunner, Hillary Clinton.

We must understand our role in the world – which is to lead – and the nature of our allies and especially, our adversaries. Like Hillary Clinton, I too have travelled hundreds of thousands of miles around the globe. But unlike her, I have actually accomplished something…Mrs. Clinton, flying is an activity not an accomplishment.”

This, her most memorable line so far, provides a glimpse into her vision of American leadership in foreign affairs, but also her feistiness. In this statement, Fiorina asks the most important question Mrs. Clinton must answer: In the many years you have spent in public service, what have you done for this country that you take pride in?

Turning this question around on her, many of her detractors, including some on the right, note that Fiorina has never worked in government. She ran for Senate in California in 2010 and lost–giving Republicans desperate for a presidential win reason for reconsideration. Fiorina, though, answers that her tenure at Hewlett-Packard makes her uniquely qualified, at least among the rest of the GOP field, to be president. This assertion speaks to an issue in presidential politics in which the voters do not know what careers best prepare their employees to be president of the United States. Furthermore, her tenure at Hewlett-Packard is not without its share of detractors.

“Fiorina’s short time at Hewlett-Packard is all we need to know — laying off 30,000 employees, while being rewarded with a multimillion dollar bonus,” Democratic National Committee Press Secretary Holly Shulman said in a statement. “If this is how Fiorina ran her business, just imagine what she would do to the country.”

Of course, most conservatives understand exactly what difficulties face business executives who run for office. “The fact is, business people have to make tough decisions,” Mart Wilson, Fiorina’s 2010 Senate campaign manager said to CNN. “In the end,” says Sarah Isgur Flores, Fiorina’s deputy campaign manager, “the company succeeded and grew [through the Great Recession] because of her tough choices.”

The problem Fiorina faces in defending her record is that for Republicans to win in 2016, a case must be made to independent voters–voters who do not understand and grant the same deference to business leaders as conservatives do. Fiorina’s populist message, painting her failed Senate campaign as a plus that allows her to benefit from her status as a “Washington Outsider,” will be damaged or bolstered by the way she answers criticisms about her tenure as Hewlett-Packard’s CEO.
At this point, though, Fiorina’s participation in the GOP presidential field goes a long way to helping the party showcase its diversity. Showcasing the Party’s bright, successful, fiery women can erode the stereotypes liberals paint of a paternalistic Republican Party insensitive to women’s issues. Fiorina can sting Hillary Clinton in ways that none of the Republican men can without seeming like bullies. Even if Fiorina does not win the nomination, she could still serve as a strong Vice Presidential pick, or as a positive voice for the 2016 campaign.

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.

Rubio in the Running

Yesterday is Over


Standing before a throng of supporters chanting his name, Marco Rubio delivered his inspiring campaign kickoff speech. The young Florida senator spoke movingly about his family’s history and about how that history coincided with the American Dream. The most important parts of his speech illustrate the everyday people Rubio’s campaign seeks to champion–among them: maids, janitors, bartenders, single mothers, and students. These illustrations demonstrate his superb ability to connect with people beyond cold statistics. Touching on policy positions, highlighting his ability to speak Spanish, expressing his Christian faith and defining his campaign as forward-looking did much to connect his message to Republicans who want to grow the party and win the 2016 presidential race. National Review’s editors rightly declare Rubio “the most charismatic potential Republican nominee,” and “the most articulate advocate of strong American leadership in foreign affairs.”

But, can he win the nomination?

Jamelle Bouie, writing for Slate, argues that Rubio will likely fail.

“It’s not that [Rubio] can’t win. It’s that he’s almost no one’s first choice…56% of Republican voters say they could vote for him,” but “just 5.4% list him as a top choice.”

Bouie argues that a phenomenon Republicans typically regard as a strength–the vast field of candidates–may harm Rubio’s ability to stand out from the pack.

“…depending on your place in the GOP, there are potentially better options. If you’re a conservative who wants consensus and a more inclusive message, you have Jeb Bush, who melds Rubio’s potential appeal to Latino voters (his wife is Mexican, and he speaks fluent Spanish) with executive experience, fundraising prowess, and the all the benefits (and burdens) of the Bush name. Likewise, if you want a more aggressive choice—someone with the chops it takes to beat Democrats and advance a conservative agenda—you have Walker…If you’re a conservative evangelical…there’s Cruz (and potentially Mike Huckabee)…if you want a more libertarian choice, there’s Paul. Rubio may appeal to every base, but every base is already covered.”

Crystal Wright’s editorial appearing on CNN laments the potential crowded field:

“Instead of sitting on the sidelines and helping the party win the White House with a small, electable candidate pool, Republicans are threatening to dive into 2016 like spawning salmon,” she writes.

“When the Republican nominee finally emerges in the middle of 2016, the public’s perception of him or her will be negative, like it was of Romney, because the candidate will have had to defend against accusations of being a RINO (Republican in Name Only) from ideologues like [Ted]Cruz.”

Wright’s comments concern Rubio, whose first order of business before launching a presidential bid was to offer a mea culpa on immigration reform that sets him right with the Party, but wrong on the issue.

However, these hurdles facing Rubio may not embody the challenges skeptics predict. While Jeb Bush (still unannounced) boasts the deepest pockets and a similar ecumenical appeal, Bush lacks popular support. Rand Paul must square many of his positions–especially on foreign intervention at a time when the GOP has reaffirmed its hawkish foreign policy views in the face of ISIS, Iranian nuclear talks, Russian aggression, and decline in Syria, Libya, Egypt and Yemen. Cruz’ short Senate tenure is marked by a long list of enemies within the GOP, and Walker may lack the appeal to Latino voters that the GOP wants to attract to the party.

In short, if Republicans take Wright’s advice and refrain from damaging each other in the primary, everyone comes out on top–possibly even Marco Rubio.

David Harsanyi writes:

“the most vital skill any candidate can have is the ability to transcend coverage and make his case to voters…is there any other Republican who could do that more effectively than Rubio?”

We shall see.

Rand’s Gambit

Another Dash of Salt?


Rand Paul’s campaign announcement, while not a surprise, has appropriately electrified the media and the Republican Party. This Paul campaign promises real change for American politics and for the GOP, in part, because Rand, unlike his father, stands a chance to win Republican delegates. Pegged as a libertarian, Paul fancies himself a different kind of Republican–one who aims to broaden the Party by moving it toward classical liberalism and one focused on welcoming newcomers. This hope relies on two assumptions: one–a large libertarian political block lies dormant, awaiting a candidate who speaks to their values. Two–Mr. Paul epitomizes the libertarian savior.

Libertarians argue that the reason conservative and liberal claims of an untapped electorate favorable to their views never seems to materialize, indicates that the unmotivated voters actually hold libertarian views. David Boaz, the Executive Vice President of the Cato Institute, makes the case:

“Events of the past few years have pushed voters in a libertarian direction, causing some observers to talk about a ‘libertarian moment’ in American politics…A 2006 Zogby poll for the Cato Institute asked respondents, ‘Would you describe yourself as fiscally conservative and socially liberal?’ Fully 59 percent said yes…That’s a huge untapped market for a candidate who can cut across red-blue barriers.”

This rosy assessment belies too many other indicators to hold water. For example, Gary Johnson and Ron Paul ran libertarian campaigns that never gained traction. Johnson failed to attract enough support to participate in most of the GOP nomination debates. Furthermore, if the Zogby poll supports Mr. Boaz’ assertion, then with 59% of all voters holding libertarian views, some of them would be in the Democrat Party pushing it rightward on economic matters.One may ask, then, where are those libertarians in the Democrat Party calling for more conservative fiscal policy–like a balanced budget amendment?

To be gracious, let us assume that 58% of those libertarian voters find their home in the GOP, while the remaining 1% struggles to get a word in edgewise in the DNC. That could argue that a sizeable number of Republican voters are libertarians. New York Times writer, Nate Cohn, offers the best refutation of that myth by way of empirical evidence:

“In one sense, you could argue that the libertarian wing of the Republican Party barely exists at all. According to a large Pew Research survey in 2014 of 10,000 respondents, 11 percent of Americans and 12 percent of self-identified Republicans considered themselves libertarian…If we take a different tack and use issue positions, rather than self-identification, to identify libertarian voters, we still find only a small number of Republicans who consistently agree with Mr. Paul’s libertarian views. Only 8 percent of self-identified Republican-leaners in the Pew data take the libertarian position on four issues that [Rand Paul] emphasizes: disapproval of the National Security Agency’s surveillance program; support for a more restrained American role in the world; skepticism of the efficacy of military intervention; and a relaxation on drug sentencing.”

As for the second assumption of the Paul campaign, that he personifies the libertarian savior (for the small number of libertarians existing in peril)–perhaps a second look is warranted.

For starters, Paul never referred to himself as a libertarian, but rather as libertarian-ish. Boaz points out that Paul breaks from libertarians on gay marriage (he opposes it), abortion (he opposes it), and drone strikes against ISIS (he supports them). These positions Boaz believes work to “nudge the GOP in a libertarian direction” and make libertarianism more palatable.

On the topic of palate, the best analogy I know regarding libertarianism comes from a Northwestern professor of mine, Jeffrey Rice. Rice said to me, “libertarianism is like salt: a little bit can be good. Too much can spoil the meal.”
It’s impossible to say how well Rand Paul will fare in the GOP primary. Paul’s intelligence, passion, and courage should go a long way to endear him to many voters inside and outside of the Republican Party. Of the many challenges he faces, though, he must reconcile his appeal and his philosophy. A move to the Party’s mainstream represents a safe bet at the risk of altering his rogue image. A gamble for a large libertarian contingent, that may not exist, could ultimately spell humiliating defeat.