Opinion | Jeb Bush’s political courage: an example of moderation in world of polarized extremism
Published: Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 4, 2012 00:09
In 1994, two reform-minded Bushes ran for Governor of two of the largest states in the union.
Jeb Bush lost his race in Florida by less than a percentage point to the forgettable democrat Lawton Chiles. Many attribute this loss to the youngest Bush’s insistence on touching the 3rd rail of American politics (social security), and Chiles’ subsequent twisting of the issue to score political points and ultimately, power.
Meanwhile in Texas, Jeb’s wild child brother George Walker shocked Governor Ann Richards, defeating her by eight points in a race that officially showed how far the scales were tipping in favor of Republicans in the Lone Star state.
George Walker of course became President Bush, while Jeb was forced to wait in political purgatory.
Four years later, his stay in purgatory came to an end when he crushed Lieutenant Governor Buddy MacKay by 11 points to become the 43rd governor of Florida.
Though they have few similarities in style, the Bush brothers do have one hugely important similarity in substance. Both are laser focused on education and ascribe to a certain brand of political courage.
George W. wanted to be remembered as the education President until the necessity of 9/11 forced him to shift his focus to national security.
And while this focus shift caused W. to quickly become one of the most polarizing figures ever to live at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., over his eight years in office, Jeb Bush brought change to the state of Florida establishing a record of seriousness that makes him uniquely qualified to lead us out of our current crisis.
In Jeb Bush’s world, equality of opportunity across society, not tax cuts, is the most important thing. And this philosophy manifests itself in the most important place—the classroom.
Despite the fact that he’s been out of office since 2007, Bush still commands quite a presence in Florida and national politics, and was given a prominent speaking slot on the last night of the convention. He took this opportunity to talk about the need for school choice, getting rid of teacher tenure, raising standards, and other educations reforms so every child has the chance to rise.
Early in his remarks, he cut right to the heart of the issue.
“The sad truth is that equality of opportunity doesn’t exist in many of our schools. We give some kids a chance, but not all. That failure is the great moral and economic issue of our time. And it’s hurting all of America.”
While the Tea Party cries about being taxed enough already, Jeb Bush wants to fix our problems at their root. And the part that goes without saying for Bush is that democrats are so tied to the teachers unions that they’re forced to be anti-reform.
More broadly, Jeb isn’t exactly a political moderate; he just looks like one today because of his moderate tone. But he still often talks about how much he believes conservative ideas are the best way forward for our country.
However, the RINO (“Republican in Name Only”) calls from the Tea Party begin when Bush writes things like this: “Thick black lines of ideology are good at keeping people in, but they are also good at keeping people out. And our party can’t win if we keep people out. Our goal is not to assemble a small army of purists. We need a nation of converts,” he wrote in National Review in June.
Tea Party conservatives might give lip service to their belief in a wider tent, but their rhetoric proves they prefer a homogenous group of ideologues—they are the ultimate small army of purists.
Jeb is also a moderate Republican on immigration, a position that hurts him with the true believers in self-deportation who are fine with Obama’s 67-31 margin of victory among Latinos in 2008, but positions him well in a country where demographics are rapidly shifting.
And even though it made it clear he was never interested, there were plenty of folks in Obamaland who jumped for joy when Jeb stayed out of the Presidential race this time around officially.
There was even buzz that he would be a solid vice presidential choice. And he would be, but Jeb Bush should have his eyes on a bigger prize.
He, like Chris Christie, could be the man to bring the Republican Party back from the abyss. The rational, straight talker who isn’t afraid to call out the extremists in the ranks—that’s political courage at it’s best. That’s Jeb Bush.