The Sad Decline of Jeb Bush

219

Six months ago, conservatives were assured that former Republican governor Jeb Bush would be their next presidential nominee. You could count on it with every bit as much confidence as you could count on Hillary Clinton winning the nomination for the Democrats. He came into the race late, taking advantage of every last moment of fundraising, free from the federal restrictions that an official candidate must adhere to. When he announced, he did so with a reported $100 million war chest.

But then things started to go bad. Conservatives, already angry about the Republican establishment in Congress and their anemic opposition to President Obama, sensed some of the same weakness in Bush. At a time when Obama was illegally offering amnesty to millions of immigrants, here was a guy who told us that jumping the fence was an “act of love.” At a time when Common Core was ruining the education system, here was one of its top proponents. When conservatives wanted real change in the Republican Party, here was a guy who represented the status quo.

Almost instantly, it became clear that Bush was a poor candidate. He was immediately outshined by political outsiders like Donald Trump and Ben Carson. Not only was Bush perceived as a relic of the past, he couldn’t even live up to the standards of his family predecessors. He lacked the intellectual gravitas of his father and the irresistible swagger of his brother. He was…boring.

And now his campaign is in deep trouble.

At a presidential town hall in South Carolina last week, Bush sounded like a man ready to throw in the towel. “If this election is about how we’re going to fight to get nothing done, then I don’t want any part of it,” he said. “I don’t want to be elected president to sit around and see gridlock just become so dominant that people literally are in decline in their lives. That is not my motivation. I’ve got a lot of really cool things I could do other than sit around, being miserable, listening to people demonize me and feeling compelled to demonize them. That is a joke. Elect Trump if you want that.”

This tantrum was followed by reports that Bush had ordered significant pay cuts for his campaign staffers. He also chose to cut staff at his Miami headquarters and reduce travel costs by 20 percent. People inside the Bush machine are trying to put the best possible spin on these developments, but not even the most optimistic supporter in the country can believe a Jeb nomination is still waiting for us at the end of the primaries.

Often times, it’s hard to see that you’re in the middle of an historical turning point. You can only see it when you look back in hindsight. But if things keep going the way they are, 2015/2016 will undoubtedly be seen as a fundamental shift in the Republican Party. Critics think that shift will mean the demise of the party altogether. Optimists think it’s about time the people took back conservatism.

Either way, this movement is leaving a trail of entitled politicians humming the blues.