Reports that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush may want to run for president are drawing groans from some voters, many of whom are Republican, the party of which Bush and his famous family are prominent members.
That’s a symptom of what is undermining the national aspirations of the Republican Party, because Bush is exactly what the party needs if it hopes to thrive rather than decline. He is supporting common-sense policies that, if adopted by the party, stand a chance of portraying it as one in which Americans could feel comfortable in vesting executive power.
That’s not the case right now. Most polls show that if the election were held today, Hillary Clinton would defeat all likely Republican candidates. That could change as the 2016 presidential election gets closer – parties often have trouble retaining public confidence or even interest after two presidential terms – but the Republican Party’s long-term prospects are dim unless it begins listening to leaders like Bush.
Bush not only embraces education, but high standards. He is a clear and unequivocal supporter of the Common Core standards that, if properly implemented and pursued, will help to ensure that American children are competitive in an economically shrinking world.
Other Republicans are turning tail and running from standards they previously endorsed and even helped to craft. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal originally supported the standards, but now says he might use his executive authority to block implementation of the Common Core if state lawmakers don’t similarly turn their backs on quality education. That may play to some, but governors who sound retreat don’t usually have bright futures.
Part of the problem – another one dogging the Republican Party – is simply that President Obama supports the Common Core. It has become standard operating policy for many Republicans to pull their hair out about anything Obama supports, no matter the issue or the justification for it. Thinking is not required.
But Jeb Bush thinks. He understands that education is important and that national standards are valuable to this country as its students prepare to compete for professional success against students from other countries. It’s not a matter of “big government” but of educational excellence for all American students.
Bush also defies the party’s destructive dogma on immigration reform. Not only is the Republican Party’s extreme position on illegal aliens utterly unworkable – the country wouldn’t stand for the kind of policing tactics needed to deport millions of people, likely separating families – but it undermines the party’s reputation as one that can be trusted to govern.
Hispanics make up the largest and fastest-growing minority in the country and they disproportionately vote Democratic, in good part because the Republican Party treats their concerns with disdain. Unless the party can come to grips with immigration in a way that combines compassion with seriousness, it is inviting a long-term residence in the political wilderness, at least regarding whatever presidential aspirations it may entertain.
A decade or two ago, Bush wouldn’t have stood out among Republican Party leaders for any reason other than his name. Then, the party understood the dangers of absolutism and the necessity of compromise. Today, Bush and a precious few others stand out as contrarians in a party that seems bent on self-destruction.
The world and the country are changing. That’s just a fact, and Bush is looking to help his party adapt. The party should listen.