February 7, 2016


The Return of Jeb Bush : Why the goofy, patrician candidate is finally hitting his stride (Franklin Foer, 2/07/16, Slate)

The Republican establishment was on the brink of immolating Bush for wasting its money and cutting such a pathetic figure. But donors will hold off cashiering Bush, even if he finishes in the middle of the New Hampshire pack. Unlike his center-right rivals, he has the war chest and organization to sustain a national campaign. And despite the base's apparently conflicted feelings about his family's dynasty, Bush is the best ideological fit for his party. He hasn't transgressed any of its core concerns, never flip-flopped on the social issue or deviated from its devotion to the free-market faith. 

Bush has bought himself more time, at precisely the moment that he's corrected his candidacy. Watching him in New Hampshire, it's possible to see a candidate who has stopped overthinking things, who has learned to be something resembling himself.

This is supposedly the year of authenticity--every fourth year, as it turns out, the voters have a unique craving for authentic politicians. By the measure of this strange fixation, Bush may be the most authentic of the pack--patrician, goofy, a little flummoxed.

Seeing Bush press his case on the trail in New Hampshire, I was stunned by how he seemed high-energy, forceful, and confident. For the first few months of the campaign, Jeb seemed to be reliving his father's political weaknesses. He lacked a common touch. Just as his father was a prudent Yankee pretending to be an ideological Texan, Jeb ran from his background. Or rather, he could never quite figure out how to navigate the burden of his family's name and his brother's presidency.

Bush has now embraced the fact that he's a scion. Although he's kept his brother on the ranch, he brought his mother to the stump. In town hall meetings, he has begun to comfortably celebrate his brood. "The Bush thing, people need to get over it," he told a crowd in Bedford, in an extended riff about his love for his family. Even the phrasing of that willful claim of indifference echoed one of his father's idiosyncratic rhetorical tropes ("the vision thing"). Like his dad and grandfather, his presentation oozes with a New England prep school sense of noblesse oblige, talk of "servitude" and "purpose."

Posted by at February 7, 2016 4:55 PM