Jeb Bush Champions Centrism Over Conservatism

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Even though only Dr. Ben Carson has officially declared his candidacy for president, prospective nominee Jeb Bush has been getting most of the headlines lately. Topping several polls in recent months when compared with potential primary challengers, Bush has already made it clear that he believes the key to victory in 2016 is to be as moderate, compromising, and “positive” as possible.

Speaking at the Wall Street Journal CEO Council meeting on Monday, Bush said that whoever is nominated should “lose the primary to win the general without violating your principles.” That statement doesn’t seem to make any sense out of context, but Bush goes on to make it clear that conservatism is not going to win the day in 2016. He expressed his support for positions unlikely to garner a lot of excitement amongst the conservative base. Bush is in favor of Common Core, of course, but he’s also in favor of working more closely with Democrats on immigration. He said he opposed Obama’s executive action, but he seems more concerned with a Republican Party too divisive to govern.

“We have to actually show that we can, in an adult-like way, we can govern, lead,” Bush said.

Bush makes some good points, but I question whether conceding important matters of national policy to the Democrats is really the kind of leadership we need. While I agree that Republicans have to untie themselves from this endless cycle of reacting to the president, a GOP president that would be indistinguishable from a Democrat doesn’t solve the problem.

At least one of Bush’s most likely competitors for the job sees things from a different perspective. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul said Tuesday that the former Florida governor was suffering under a misunderstanding of what the Republican Party was all about.

“We are a conservative party,” Rand said on Fox News. “As a conservative, I can’t understand really even referring to conservatives in the third person.”

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Fact is, we haven’t nominated a conservative candidate for president since at least 2004. Some might argue that we haven’t done it since 1984 – the last time, incidentally, that the Republican victory was so overwhelming that it made the Democratic candidate look like a joke. What if…we just tried it? You know, one more time just for the hell of it. We rally behind one guy who has at least 8 out of 10 Reagan-like qualities. He doesn’t have to be perfect; he just needs to be free of this moderate muck that Republicans are drowning in.

Americans respond to force and vigor, especially when it’s backed up by facts and heart. This is the easiest thing to do with conservatism, yet it seems almost impossible to find candidates able to do it without making fools of themselves along the way. If a Bush or a Romney winds up our 2016 frontrunner, that’s fine. We’ll do the best we can. But wouldn’t it be nice this time around to be able to go to the polls in November of 2016 and cast a vote out of hope and pride rather than fear and resignation?