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Jeb Bush’s candidacy will help Republicans remain relevant in national elections

Jeb Bush should run for president. This is true for a number of reasons and despite the slightly depressing prospect of replaying the past. Most importantly, his candidacy – and more significantly, his nomination, should it occur – would be good for the Republican Party and good for the country.

Bush has all but declared his plan to run. His announcement Tuesday that he is actively exploring a 2016 presidential campaign was the signal. The news will draw scorn from the Republican right and perhaps even from some Democrats, who presumably understand that Bush appears to be the GOP’s most formidable candidate in the general election.

The tea party may be somewhat less influential today than it was a few years ago, but it still threatens to drag the party into the political wilderness. It will be difficult to impossible for a far-right nominee such as Ted Cruz or Rick Perry to attract the centrist votes that candidates from either party need to win the White House.

That is true today and it will be an even more powerful truth going forward, as minorities comprise an ever-growing share of the electorate. The Republicans’ tea party-led hostility to immigration reform – understandably, and perhaps correctly, perceived by many Hispanics as hostility to them – is a shiv on the Republican carotid.

Here’s what the tea party doesn’t get. It is possible to be a dyed-in-the-wool conservative and still believe in immigration reform and, even more important, accept that the world is not black and white. There are shades of gray, and effective politicians of all stripes understand it.

Bush is among them. He supports immigration reform and the Common Core education standards, but only in the myopic vision of the far right is he anything other than a conservative.

Few Democrats would cheer Bush’s election, but the country’s stability depends upon the competition of ideas between two healthy political parties. If the GOP is not yet unhealthy, it has been drinking enough of the tea party’s poison to be well on the way. Bush could help to pull the party back toward the center, and in doing so, rescue it, and the country, from the possibility of unchecked – or at least, poorly checked – Democratic dominance. That’s not good for the country or for Democrats.

Of course, a Bush nomination could well set up another Bush-Clinton race, and guarantee that one family or the other would be living in the White House for the fourth time in five presidencies.

It might be boring, but there are plenty worse things.