February 7, 2016


Republican 'Normals' on the Rise (Leonid Bershidsky, 2/07/16, Bloomberg View)

Bush acts not just normal but normcore.

As the trendspotting group K-Hole wrote in the report that described the trend:

Normcore moves away from a coolness that relies on difference to a post-authenticity coolness that opts in to sameness. But instead of appropriating an aestheticized version of the mainstream, it just cops to the situation at hand. To be truly Normcore, you need to understand that there's no such thing as normal.

That's Bush. His background is anything but normal -- he is the only politician whose father and brother were presidents. Yet his perfect ordinariness, a total lack of flash, his helplessness before Trump's goading in previous debates are a convincing and endearing persona. I saw him perform at a town hall on Saturday, wearing boring casual clothes any normcore adherent would appreciate and talking in the mild, almost inflectionless tones of an accountant thrust into a public role.

He opened with a lengthy tribute to his wife and family, the only candidate I have heard do this during his campaign. Bush is unapologetic about being part of his powerful clan, and his brother, his children and even his 90-year old mother are all campaigning for him. Anything different wouldn't be normal, though.

In his slightly hesitant voice, Bush said he liked fielding questions from his audience -- about the mess that is the Department of Veterans' Affairs, how he would replace Obamacare, what were his thoughts on mandatory military service -- much better than taking part in the debate, where questions, he said, "would probably be very stupid." He sounded sincere when talking about "the joy of service" and made much of not putting others down: that, he said, wasn't a sign of strength. 

The U.S., according to Bush, needs a "quieter" president -- one who wouldn't, for example, dismiss Russia as a "regional power" a month before it invades Crimea. Bush promised to be less divisive and more focused on efficiency than on making great speeches. He couldn't avoid sounding a little jealous of the people who could, but that was somehow nice, too: It was, well, normal.

Bush also had a better, more dignified answer than Hillary Clinton to the question of how he dealt with his billionaire donors. "People give me money because they know my record," he said. "I have never been affected by it, but it's really up to voters to decide. People are smarter about these things than the political class."

After months of media reports of his underperformance in the polls, one might expect a minimum of interest in his candidacy. At a Bedford elementary school on Saturday, however, he faced a capacity crowd. A number of people couldn't get in, and Bush spent time mingling with them in the street. Though some of these people were still undecided -- that's customary in New Hampshire, rendering the polls all but meaningless -- others have stuck with Bush through the bad times. 

I saw two of his supporters shake hands: They'd seen each other at a previous rally. "We're doing better, huh?" one of them, David Carmen, 58, a business consultant from Manchester, smiled at his acquaintance. I asked him why he thought so. "This state has a tradition of putting hype aside," Carmen said. "The country needs a good executive, and Jeb has the best record of the three governors, though the other two are good guys, too."

Posted by at February 7, 2016 3:56 PM