Monday, February 22, 2016


Why did Jeb Bush fail? Obviously, he ran as "the boring, preordained candidate of his party’s power structure," as Jonathan Chait writes. But Hillary Clinton did the same thing, and she's hanging on. What's the difference between the two?

Chait thinks it's that Clinton is running as the person who'll continue the work of two successful presidents, while Jeb inherited a mantle of failure:
[Hillary Clinton's] strategy is working because Bill Clinton was a successful president, and Obama has been an extremely successful one. There may be shortcomings in both of their records, but both of them managed to govern intelligently, competently, and in a way that looked after a relatively broad spectrum of interests.

George W. Bush’s presidency did none of these things. His administration was an abject disaster both domestically and abroad. Jeb Bush never figured out how to divest himself from his brother’s failure, and by the end reduced himself to running openly as his heir, bringing Dubya to campaign with him in his South Carolina box canyon stand. The Bush disaster presented Jeb with a double trap he could never escape. His brand was poison for swing voters. And conservatives, who had fallen mostly in line with Dubya during his presidency, were forced to disavow him as a heretic by the end so that their ideology could escape the wreckage.
Except that Republicans don't disavow George W. Bush -- far from it. Remember this YouGov poll from last fall?
Eighty percent of Republican voters surveyed say they approve of George W. Bush's tenure as president.

Their feelings toward Bush don't quite match their admiration for Ronald Reagan -- just 29 percent "strongly approve," while 51 percent approve only somewhat. But 85 percent say that Bush did a "good" or "excellent" job of keeping the nation safe....

GOP voters also say by a 4-point margin, 43 percent to 39 percent, that they'd vote for George W. Bush again in 2016 if he were eligible for a third term.

If Republican voters thoroughly reject Bushism, why is a Bush substitute who's not named Jeb doing relatively well, as even Chait acknowledges?
Marco Rubio represents the true continuation of Bushism within the party -- massive tax cuts plus neoconservative foreign policy plus soft-pedaled social conservatism, all sold in a compassionate package with lots of high-profile outreach to Democratic constituencies. Rubio allows Republicans to double down on Bushism without saddling themselves with the liability of the Bush name or, by extension, acknowledging that they still believe Bush’s ideas work.

What killed Jeb Bush’s campaign was first the failure of his brother’s administration, and then the emergence of Marco Rubio to present a more attractive face for its continuation.
But look at the poll numbers above. Republicans still like George W. Bush. Why would they have to lie to themselves about that? Why would they reject Jeb and embrace Rubio?

The reason is that Republicans just want to have a good time hating their enemies. They want someone who seems ready to vanquish those enemies, or at least frustrate them. Rubio doesn't seem like a tough guy, but at minimum he seems to loathe some of the people and institutions Republican voters loathe. By contrast, Jeb spent his campaign conveying the sense that he doesn't hate Common Core, he doesn't hate undocumented immigrants, and so on. Even George W. looks better to Republicans now than Jeb, because he's recalled as someone who made liberals (and those evil terr'ists) squirm.

All Jeb had to do was seem as if he might piss liberals off and hurt a few brown people. He could have been a contender if he'd seemed capable of that. But he looked as if we'd already defeated him. That's why he lost.


Feud Turgidson said...

Why do kids love dinosaurs?

Answer: Big, dumb, & extinct.

Victor said...

If Jeb was the smarter brother, it sure wasn't evident when it came to politics.

I think you're right, Steve. He misread his tribe, and their hatred of the other tribe: us - the liberal/progressive/Democratic tribe.

W was a chickenshit. But he hid that behind his bully's smirk, and the attitude and drawl of a Western gun-slinger.
Jeb looked like an aging insurance guy who the company rewards with a nice vacation as an award, after decades of service.

The conservative tribe likes W's kind of act.
Sure he was an incompetent buffoon who fucked up every thing he ever touched. But dammit! He was their tough incompetent guy who fucked up every thing he ever touched!

The Libtards hated him.
And that was good enough for them!

Maybe if Jeb brought W out much earlier, it might have helped.
But, as nasty a human as Jeb was, and is, he was no W.

W, would have gotten nominated this year. But not as any sort of "compassionate conservative."
Jeb tried that compassionate conservative route, and lost badly.

Everone always said that Jeb was his father's son.
And he was - a wimp.
W was like his mother - a cold-hearted and nasty sociopath.
Maybe Barbara was the only eligible Bush who really could have given Trump a run for his money when it comes to nastiness!

sdhays said...

There's another element, though, right? Asking what someone thinks about George W. Bush is at least partially tribal. How many of those poll respondents think W was a good President compared to the current one but, amongst themselves, don't really pine for his return. They aren't wishing he could run again. Trump called him a liar who failed to keep us safe on 9/11 and suffered no consequences in South Carolina. Republican debates are STILL dominated by Saint Reagan, but no one has really wanted to discuss the W record, except when Jeb was trying to shame Trump into saying his brother was awesome and Trump said no.

I think a lot of regular Republicans know W was at best a mediocre President and would rather forget about him. Even if they think he's great, he still saddled them Obama, who, as you know, is "worse than Hitler!1!" So the less said about him the better, but how can you do that if your nominee is the man's brother?

I agree that his W affiliation isn't what killed the Jeb campaign, but it certainly didn't help.

AllieG said...

Saying you disapprove of W is like saying "I was an idiot twice." Not many people are willing to do that no matter what ideology they have.

BKT said...

I think part of this issue is also that most Republicans are weak-willed front-runners. They want to root for a winner rather than fight from behind. George W. "won" 2 elections, and is remembered as "winning" against Democrats and the media, who elevated and adored him for a long time. Sure, the media eventually turned on him, but those who Conservatives hate couldn't bring him down (via election, impeachment or humiliation in the press-- it helps that he's not really capable of feeling shame).

Jeb was getting kicked around and berated by a louder, richer bully, even though he was the long-time politically connected presidential family scion. That looks like losing to a lot of people.

Ten Bears said...

George W didn't win a damned thing. He was appointed to the presidency in 2000 by an unelected ideologically stacked activist court and delivered in 2004 the "re-election" by the manufacturer of the machines that count the vote. There was never anything remotely legitimate about the Cheney Administration.

Having engaged in violating the Trading with the Enemy act in order chicken-shit Carter in 1980 the same can be said of drug store truck driving head of the Klu Klux Klan St Ronnie of Ray-Gun. I would argue there hasn't a legitimate Republican president since Ike.

The Republicans are NAZIs, quit being so nice about it.

Gerald Parks said...

The GOP/Republican Party and base have declared a collective amnesia regarding the disastrous presidency and governance of Bush/Cheney/GOP/Republican governance 2000-2008.

Their ire is that the rest of America won't collectively buy into this amnesia to the extent that they'd like.

Most of MSM HAS! This last burning bush became a glaring reminder to everyone as to just how badly GOP/Republican governance has been to and for Americans in the 21st Century!

The 1st 16 years of 21st Century America for the GOP/Republicans is an ongoing nightmare. One in which they can't seem to wake up.

Bush/Cheney/GOP/Republican governance 2000-2008 ...Uhhh? Amnesia ....squandered largest and only Gov. surplus in last 60 years, worst attack on US soil, war, WMD's, invasion, torture, Katrina, 800,000 job losses per month, nearly crashed US economy, huge cash give away to those who crashed economy ... leaving this 250 year old Nation with its FIRST BLACK errahhh AFRICAN-American POTUS!

Obama/Biden/Democratic Party governance 2009-Present...are you kidding??? Don't believe your lying eyes!

The "standard" economic indicators have been "fixed" and and and you can't ...BENGAZI ...ahhhh ... unemployment, gas prices, American's without health insurance, illegal immigration, deficit growth ...all at historic lows!

Most vibrant economy is the world, strongest military in the world, Iran nuclear deal, Cuba normalization, 2 women on the SCOTUS, ACA, most diverse and inclusive Admin in US history, etc, etc .....ahhhhh ...make America great again!

AND all of this ...with the MOST obstructionist political Party in US history since the American Civil War.

Think ...Senate filibusters and the TWO worst preforming Congresses in US history ...113th and 114th .. both GOP/Republican-led.

GOP/Republican leadership tells its rabid followers ...don't believe your lying eyes ...its NOT happening ... Obama is the worst President ...ever because because ...he's a a a Blah!