The only person capable of herding the party not only in a unified direction but also a direction that can solve (or at least address) the GOP’s issues — demographic and otherwise — is the former governor of Florida.What, precisely, suits Jeb freaking Bush for this job? Supposed moderation, in a party that reenacts the Salem witch trials whenever they perceive an unclean moderate might be stalking the halls of power? The powerful, cleansing force of the Bush family name—a name which Republicans, to this day, go out of their way to not mention? I realize the leadership situation in the GOP has at this point gone entirely Lord of the Flies on us, and each other, but invoking the name of not-George as a way to fix any of it almost seems like something one would do on a dare.
That doesn’t mean that Bush, who is widely speculated as a potential 2016 presidential candidate, needs to decide whether or not he wants to run for president today — or even in the next year. What it does mean is that Bush could take a few concrete steps in the next few months to help rally a dispirited party regardless of whether he ultimately wants to lead it.
Let us count the pumpkins on this Halloween-decorated porch:
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1. Speak out forcefully on the fiscal cliff. The problem for Republicans at the moment is that they are suffering a death of 1,000 cuts on the issue. Every day it seems like some member or other breaks with party orthodoxy — in a variety of different ways — on the fiscal cliff. What the party needs is a lead voice to simply choose a strategic path and rally people behind it.True. It could also be Paul "Numbers Guy" Ryan, or crazy person Jim DeMint, or Bobby Jindal, or Grover Notquist, or Mayor McCheese, and you'd get the same effect. The problem is not that the party needs to be united behind a single voice, but that the current party has nothing they will agree to be united around, no matter who they're propping up as the latest serious person of the moment. The true conservatives demand public-screwing measures that party strategists, correctly, suspect will result in their party being tarred and feathered in the next 10 elections; the party strategists demand things of the true conservatives that would get those conservatives booted in a primary, tarred and feathered, or both. There is nothing the Bush name can add to the current fiasco except a dose of nostalgia.
2. Organize/headline a series of immigration forums around the country: There is no more pressing electoral problem for Republicans than the party’s seeming inability to make any real inroads in the Hispanic community.Ah, the continuing conundrum: Why do these minority groups continue to vote against people who make "minority groups are coming to take your crap job and mate with your lily-white daughter" the prime focus of their campaigns? This baffling question has led some members of the party to suggest that, in order to stay relevant, Republicans will need to declare that from now on Hispanics will be considered Honorary White People—a status previously designated only for Cuban Americans. The problem, however, is that each past attempt to woo the group has gone to hell in a hand basket, thanks to the same true conservative base that brought us Arizona immigration laws, then doubled them. Noteworthy past Republican savior-in-waiting Rick Perry was all but nuked from orbit by his fellow conservatives when he suggested that perhaps tossing immigrant students out on their ears was kind of a crappy thing to do: Despite Republican strategists grumbling over the difficulty of relying on an all-white base, that all-white base has given no indication that they want to give up on the alarmist and flatly racist bits of legislation that these minority groups, bafflingly, continue to be irked by. Have all the town hall meetings you want, it ain't happening, and Jeb! ain't making it happen.
3. Lay out a new Republican agenda: At the moment, the Republican Party is suffering from an ideas deficit. […] Bush has never had trouble on the ideas front — he LOVES policy and seems to hate politics — so now is the time to pick a few issues. Education is an obvious starting point since it has long been a pet issue for the former governor.This is too silly to even respond to, even presuming you were to ignore the bit where Republicans do, in fact, have very definitive "ideas" about education, and that the current ones revolve around ending federal involvement with it, getting SCOTUS to maim the irritating affirmative action bits of it, and vouchers for everything else. So yes, let's have famous ideas man Jeb Bush propose something-something-education to a party that will drop him in the dunk tank if he does not have an immediate and heartfelt explanation for why the earth is only eleventy-Jesus years old. I will pay 20 American dollars to watch that happen.
4. Find a “Sister Souljah” moment: Almost no one in the party other than Bush could pull off a direct confrontation with the GOP’s tea party base. But, there’s little doubt that for the party to move to a place where it can win a national election, the base of the party must be brought into line and made to understand that being right is nice but being victorious is better.Find some batshit insane portion of the base that is too batshit insane for even the rest of the batshit insane base to take seriously, then ceremoniously dump on it. Well, that's bold. The proposed Souljah here, however, is immigration, the same bold Sister Souljah moment that resulted in Rick Perry's presidential ambitions being reduced to a glass-paved crater behind a podium, so prospective Republican saviors, Jeb included, are advised to start considerably smaller. Let's not go all crazy and propose being nicer to immigrants, or suggesting that no, all of climate science is not an elaborate plot to put the cows in charge of the humans, or suggesting that maybe the ladyfolks of America are maybe perfectly capable of managing their ladyparts without the intervention of several hundred individually elected Popes of Other Peoples' Naughtybits—no, start smaller. Perhaps a declaration that ice cream is not the work of the devil, or something.
Will Bush do any/all of these things? Who knows. He has met with his former political aides and done nothing to knock down the idea that he wants to re-enter the national conversation in a real way.I am not certain why so much of punditry, both inside and outside conservatism proper, remains so utterly obsessed with the notion of seeking out the next conservative savior. Part of it is, perhaps, an obsession with personalities, and the natural ease of opining about political strategies over, say, the real-world public implications of those strategies. There are perhaps a dozen columns written about the winningness or losingness of various possible "fiscal cliff" outcomes, for example, for every one that suggests why this or that particular outcome would be a gigantic, smoldering pile of economic wreck if it actually came to pass. But Jeb? The Next and We-Promise-You-At-Least-Slightly-Smarter Bush, as the person to maintain the family tradition of leading America down no particular path because what the hell, choosing our future proposed leaders based on bloodlines isn't that objectionable, it's not like we don't give the common folks a proper voting chance, once we've pumped a hundred million or so dollars worth of momentum behind the preferred scion so-and-so. That seems a bit much.
And his party needs him to do just that — the sooner the better.
The problem is not, my fellow very, very tired Americans, that Republicanism needs a new savior to save them from the all those previous saviors. The problem is that the ideas Republicans have wed themselves to are simply not very damn popular, are frequently wildly contradictory, are more and more difficult to explain with a straight face, are increasingly tailored for the advantage of a vanishingly small percentage of individuals, and damn the rest, and survive best in the wider public only when the chosen savior of the moment (Romney serves fine as a gloriously fine example, here) hems and haws and obfuscates to hell and back about those ideas, lest the wider public ponder too deeply on what they are. While I have little doubt a Jebbish figure could quite competently mumble those same non-ideas and contradictory, faux-nationalistic sillinesses with the best of them, the same job could just as easily be done by a robot or a pop-up book. The problem is not that the now-bifurcated Republican Party does not have a serious "savior." The problem is that the Republican Party does not want to be saved.