Jeb Bush Really Was Like His Dad: A Man Out of Sync with His Era

By | February 20, 2016

South Carolina brought another casualty in the 2016 Presidential race: Jeb Bush. It’s also possibly the last one we’ll see for a while, since Rubio and Kasich both believe they should be the anti-Trump nominee, Ted Cruz’s dirty tricks will grow worse, and Ben Carson is adamant that he’s staying in the race…for some reason. [When the questions become less “How do you plan to win?” and more “Why are you still here?” does that really sound like a good sign?]

I’ve seen a lot of talk from people saying they feel sorry for Jeb. My question: “Why?” I’ve also seen the repeated myth that Jeb’s family legacy held him back when it’s doubtful he would even have gotten this far without it. For how well any washed-up Southern governors are doing this year check out Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, Jim Gilmore, etc.

Reasons for his defeat will go from the false—“he’s too moderate”—to the true (his brother really, really sucked as president). But the bottom line is that Jeb just wasn’t a strong candidate. And it has a lot more to do with the short-comings of his father than his brother.

Although there’s been a recent attempt to whitewash George H.W. Bush’s presidency, he also had a hell of a tough time connecting with other humans. When Reagan picked him as Vice President, he’d been passed over twice for the nomination of President. He only won in ’88 because the Democrats nominated the pitiful Dukasis and voters still thought Reagan was a good president. [I guess they still do, erroneously.] Then in ’92 an Arkansas governor with a laundry list of sexual harassment claims—yes, even back then, especially back then since it’s not really happened since—was seen as a better alternative to an incumbent president.

That’s how popular H.W. was. That’s how much voters found him warm, personable, and inspiring. H.W. could never really “get” the era of TV politics when the media was transforming JFK and Reagan and Clinton into rock stars, and was always hopelessly locked into how it was in his father’s day (the ultimate WASPy elite, Senator Prescott Bush, primary foil to FDR, even tried to organize a coup against him called The Business Plot). H.W. wanted to be a solid, quietly studious president like Woodrow Wilson or Calivin Coolidge in an era when voters wanted someone who could pretend to care about them. Voters found Bush Senior too patrician and stiffly WASP-y by the time a saxophone playing, McDonalds-scarfing rogue burst onto the scene.

He was always the wrong man in the wrong time. And that description would apply even more so to Jeb. A guy that seemed to have picked up the wrong traits from both his brother (neocon policies, trickle down theory, his “ideas”) and father (his way of expressing those ideas).

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