Here’s a news hit you probably missed. George P. Bush, the son of Jeb and nephew of George W., has filed for campaign funds in his home state of Texas. The filing ensures that the “new” Bush will be running for some type of elective office soon and much speculation has that it’ll be either Attorney General or State Land Commissioner.
The fact that another of the legendary, Republican Bush family members running for office is no big surprise to even the casual observer. George P. Bush, as well as Jeb Jr., could represent the fourth generation of Bush family members to be involved in electoral politics which follows Prescott Bush, George H.W. Bush, brothers Jeb & George W., and now the current crop.
Now, the Bush family may not have the same dynastic appeal as say, the Kennedys, who some see as “majestic” (either literally or in condescending terms) but they are a political force who continue to pal around with high-profile Republicans.
But every time a Bush family member enters the political fray, it often seems to be a microcosm of the current standing of the national party; which is often reeling before a “savior” comes in.
Let’s take a trip into the time traveler to further diagnose the Republicans need to always have a Bush family member around.
Prescott Bush was a senator from Conneticut with a career that lasted from 1952 to 1963. Bush was politically more in the middle and was often linked with fellow moderate Nelson Rockefeller as lifelong friends (until Rockefeller’s divorce) as influential social moderates.
When Prescott retired, his son George H.W., began to plot his political career that would one day lead him to the White House.
But George H.W.’s career was sprinkled with electoral losses and in fact, until his run for the Presidency in 1988, he lost the following races:
1964 Senate Election
1970 Senate Election
1980 Republican Nomination
But his 1988 bid for the Presidency is what stands out the most, since it obviously led him to the highest office in the land. After eight years of Ronald Reagan, the American public embraced H.W. for the simple phrase of “no new taxes”. Bush though was never able to shake off the fact that compared to the conservative icon that was Reagan he was a moderate-leaning Republican. When H.W. lost his re-election bid in 1992 to Bill Clinton, the GOP was left reeling as Clinton took power.
So what does a party do? They rebrand. In 1996, the GOP nominated another “Presidential Loser” in Bob Dole who would select conservative firebrand Jack Kemp as his running mate. Dole would be trounced by the popular Clinton and the GOP had to go back to the drawing board to find a new savior. They needed someone with enough name recognition to appeal to the center but with enough religious, conservative clout to appeal to the right.
Enter a Bush.
This time though was H.W.’s son, George W. George W. Bush was widely seen as a frontrunner for the 2000 election after being a tremendously popular Governor of Texas. W. wasn’t the most eloquent, in fact when you remember that his father had a “preppy” problem, it’s almost hilarious to see the complains that would occur over his son’s manner of speaking.
Yet W. seemed to have officially helped re-brand the GOP following H.W.’s loss in 1992. They had a clear party leader with a crop of old advisors who were around for the “Reagan Years”, the last time the party was truly on top.
But W. was popular, not because he was a fireband in the mold of a Kemp or Pat Buchanan but because he installed the slogan of “compassionate conservatism” into the national dialogue. The GOP had an issue beforehand as conservatism was often thought as “big business” and while they argued trickle-down economics worked, the idea of having the rich pay lower taxes isn’t the most appealing thing to try and sell to the American public.
The Republican Party, desperately needing a new leader, coalesced around George W. Bush and evangelicals finally had a national candidate that they loved. In fact the 2000 and 2004 incarnation of George W. Bush is probably the only truly beloved candidate the GOP has had since Reagan in terms of how much the base loved him. While there were numerous scandals and controversies under his thumb, the Republicans still steadfastly supported the Governor from Texas.
But as history tells us, Bush’s popularity went from slightly favorable to downright toxic. So toxic, that even four years after his Presidency, he still was not seen at the 2012 Republican National Convention or on the campaign trail. In fact, the current troubles of the Republican Party—openly split in two factions (conservative and fire-breathing)—can be directly linked to George W. Bush. He has still left a sour taste in most Americans mouths and the GOP now needs to leave “compassionate conservatism” behind for good as they look toward another re-branding.
Enter Jeb Bush?
Jeb Bush may or may not be the best bet the Republicans have in 2016. First off, he is still a Bush and that could hurt him with independents already. Second, he is known to be “soft” (read: not crazy) on his stances on immigration.
However he is also married to a Hispanic woman and speaks fluent Spanish. With a party that is quickly losing the Hispanic vote, Jeb Bush could appeal to those voters and make sure they go back to the red column. He is also a non-Norquist follower and that could help him if he gets out of what will certainly be a hotly contested primary.
What if Jeb Bush is just “too soon”? Then maybe we will find out in the 2024 election cycle when Texas Governor George P. Bush is bandied about as a potential Republican nominee.
Yet one thing is for sure, the Republican Party seems to only have one mission depending on your perspective. It is either rebrand due to the Bush family or rebrand in spite of the Bush family. The family that boasts the “Decider” are usually the ones that help the GOP find a new leader while remembering to destroy the party on their way out of the door.
Will it continue?