14 July 2015
Jeb Bush denounced President Obama and Donald Trump as practitioners of divisiveness during a campaign appearance yesterday. "Divisiveness" is shorthand for racial politics, at least for the Florida dynast. In his eyes, it seems, the President's observations on persistent racism in the U.S. are morally equivalent to Trump calling Mexicans rapists. Of course, Republicans have been calling Obama "divisive" from the moment he took office, so I suppose it's bold of Jeb to criticize divisiveness within his own party. The irony of it, however, is that the people most likely to support Trump are the ones most likely to think Obama "divisive." They'll deny that Trump is divisive for the same reason most Democrats reject the label for Obama. One person's divisiveness is another's telling of hard truths. Jeb doesn't necessarily have hard truths on his agenda. He's preaching Reaganite optimism, telling audiences that a winning Republican will give people "hope that their lives will be better when we apply conservative principles the right way." Whether that's also an implicit slap at his brother or any other Republican who applies conservative principles the wrong way is unclear. What's clear is that Jeb claims to reject divisiveness along racial and class lines. It's apparently just as divisive for the working class to criticize the reactionary rich as it is for non-whites to criticize reactionary whites. "We need to stop tearing [and] separating ourselves," Bush says, but his appeals may come too late. No radical solution to the country's problems can fail to be divisive, since we can be sure that, barring some rhetorical miracle, nearly half the voting population will oppose it. Jeb doesn't seem to realize that in our toxic political environment even appeals to unity can appear divisive to the extent that they offend someone's identity politics. It may be wrong, as Trump seems to be doing and Obama is thought to do, to be divisive along racial lines, but for Jeb Bush to flee from the possible necessity of divisive (not to mention decisive) politics indicates that he probably isn't the leader for this moment in American history.