22 February 2016

One dynasty down...

Down but not out: obituaries for the Bush Dynasty are premature. All it will take is a Democratic win this November or a failed Republican presidency to make Jeb Bush will be a front-runner for 2020. Nevertheless, the fall of the former Florida governor this year is a stunning event symbolizing the rebellious mood of the Republican primary base. After the South Carolina primary, Republicans' rejection of Jeb can be spun into a more sweeping repudiation of the entire Bush legacy. Strangely, Jeb staked much on the public's presumed enduring love for his older brother. Stranger still, the media bought into this, speculating about how much damage Donald Trump had done to himself by criticizing George W. My impression was that Tea Partiers, whom Trump supporters at least resemble, had no great love for Dubya, regretting his wars while deploring his expansions of government. Yet pundits and opinionators warned that Trump had touched a third rail by accusing the former President of lying about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. That, supposedly, Republicans could not believe of Dubya. Once again, however, a plurality of primary voters has made it clear that they have their own priorities for judging candidates. Not even the discovery of Trump's own lie -- he has said he opposed the war, but he told Howard Stern in 2002 that "I guess" we should invade -- could dent the billionaire's teflon.

At this point it appears that at least a third of the Republican base is immovably convinced that, warts and all, Trump has the qualities the country needs now. The now is the key part of the equation, as his rivals have failed to realize and the Democrats may also. Trump's opponents continue to make ad hominem attacks on his untested political aptitude and his bullying attitude, but none of this will matter so long as people believe that the times require the supposed executive strengths that come with Trump's offensive (in either sense of the word) personality. Change their perception of the situation and perhaps they won't feel such an urgent need for Trump. Of course, doing so is trickier this year than it may sound. The solution obviously isn't to say that nothing is wrong with this country. Instead, the person who beats Trump will have made a more compelling case, both intellectually and emotionally, for our problems having roots elsewhere than where Trump and his supporters believe them to be, while offering a persuasive plan for dealing with those problems decisively, at the roots. Trickier still, such a case probably will have to be made in something other than Trump style, no matter how much Democrats, in particular, want to tell Trump supporters, or even people taking him seriously, that they're ignorant hysterical monsters. In this sense, Sen. Sanders's persistent focus on Wall Street seems like the sounder course, while the more Hillary Clinton resorts to identity politics to crush Sanders the more she'll be tempted to do the same against Trump, should Republicans give her the opportunity, even if that approach ensures that millions of Americans will refuse to listen to her.

In any event, Jeb Bush's collapse makes it more likely that the Democratic nominee will have to deal with Trump after all. Since Trump resolved to be a candidate last year, I've predicted that he'd fall once it came down to him and the Establishment candidate. That may still happen, but not unless either Sen. Cruz or Sen. Rubio drops out, and by this point I doubt whether either man is willing to bow to the other. The latest kerfuffle over a Cruz aide spreading a false story about Rubio denigrating the Bible is fresh proof of the apparently irreconcilable conflict between the two Senators. The Establishment reportedly wants to rally around Rubio, but as long as Cruz remains in the race -- and he has no reason to quit yet -- he'll split an anti-Trump vote that isn't entirely "Establishment" in nature. The Senators are the "movement" candidates in the race, and even without a real "Establishment" foil like Bush to run against, it looks like the movement will fail again because too may enemies of "big government" want to be the most powerful man in the world. It actually wouldn't surprise me if, should Jeb Bush face either or both of them again in a Presidential campaign, he'd crush them like bugs.


Anonymous said...

What Jeb isn't getting is that he is NOT dubya. People didn't like dubya because he was a Bush, they like him because he was dubya - the lovable oaf they could sit down and have a beer with. Jeb is neither lovable, nor an oaf that any working class stiff wants to guzzle beer with. Also, Jeb married a Mexican woman. For many of the rank-and-file, that is akin to treason.

Samuel Wilson said...

I never got the lovable part with Dubya, but I probably wouldn't want to have a beer with any of his fans, either. Jeb has struck me more as an oaf during his campaign than during all his time as governor of Florida but more in a pitiable than lovable way.