The Fundamental Problem with a Jeb Bush Presidency (and a Hillary Clinton one)

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I want you to do something you will not want to naturally do. You too Laura Ingraham. I want you all to do this because I consider it very important. I want you to presume you agree with Jeb Bush or Hillary Clinton (your choice) on everything. I want you to presume that Jeb or Hillary is the ideal candidate in your mind. I know it is hard, but just do it. Presume that they are perfect.

Notwithstanding that, I think the nation would make a mistake handing the Presidency to either. The reason for that mistake has nothing to do with their positions on any issue. I would gladly support Jeb Bush were he the nominee of the Republican Party. I do not have the hostility toward him some of my friends have.

But I maintain it will be a long term mistake to have either a Jeb Bush or Hillary Clinton Presidency. In fact, I will go so far as to say that, as a conservative, a Clinton Presidency would cause far more permanent damage to the republic itself than any policy she implements. And in the same way, a Jeb Bush Presidency would cause far more permanent damage to the republic itself than any policy he implements.1

it is often hard, in the midst and mist of history, to recognize your own time period. I’ve been listening to “A History of Rome,” one of the best podcasts I’ve ever heard. While I flippantly made a statement about “Octavius Obama,” the other day, I do not actually think we are on the verge of a monarchy.

But I do think we have reached a stage of politics in this country objectively led by personality over policy. Men and women arrive on the American political stage who lead their armies of supporters to both advocate certain policies and turn a blind eye when the law is breached.

I’m sure Democrats have examples they feel are relevant of George W. Bush. For me, it is looking at the President’s overreach on amnesty — something he himself said was unconstitutional. Then there is the IRS situation, where even now we are learning documents were withheld. And the side in power turns a blind eye, excuses it, explains it away, and its acolytes in the press pass it off as no big deal. Fewer and fewer are willing to call bullcrap on their own team.

Separate from the White House, John Roberts now leads a Supreme Court that very clearly can be persuaded by PR campaigns and is now constantly targeted to do what is right in terms of public relations and not necessarily the law or constitution. The Court will shape its opinions to cling to a law in order to justify its actions. It substitutes the moral authority of the people acting through their elected representatives for the moral authority of five black robed masters. It is pressured and shaped by outside forces while, for now, still having the luxury of presuming it is above it all when really the Court’s constant interventions in the last century have emboldened and enabled the other two branches of government and the political parties to behave outside the bounds of constitutional propriety. After all, the supposedly non-political branch can act as constitutional arbiter.

We are, in short, becoming a nation of men, not a nation of law. It is not one party that has done it, but the byproduct in both parties of rapid communication, distrust of a media unshackled from objectivity, micro-targeting of voters, and base mobilization to win. It is coupled with a judiciary of politicians who could not win at the ballot box and so win in the Senate with both sides knowing outcomes not because of precedent, but because of partisan composition of the bench.

More and more people sit out politics in the United States as a result. They view the system as stacked against them. They view the political parties as beholden to deep pocketed special interests. And they think the game is rigged and the deck is stacked. This sentiment has given rise to both the Occupy movement and the Tea Party Movement.

Coupled with both, it has given rise to men willing to use those populist movements to pursue their own agendas. They rally their crowds, mobilize their voters, and try to bully the other side. When that does not work, they turn the mob on the other side and try to silence dissent. In fact, we see it now that dissent is no longer patriotic. Essentially, we’ve crossed from stable republican virtues into the virtues of the Gracchi Brothers.

A Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton Presidency would exacerbate the situation. More and more Americans are dropping out of politics convinced the game is rigged. No amount of standing on their own names and accomplishments will ever convince most Americans that they are not just the latest members of two patrician dynasties being put forward by the oligarchical interests of both parties to make sure the plebes don’t rise up. The rise of the Bush and Clinton dynasties would further alienate more Americans from the democratic underpinnings within our republic.

It is a very hard burden for either of them to claim that they are better candidates than a host of presently elected governors, senators and others. But they will do so and, I suspect, will convince certain partisans, but never convince the millions of Americans opting out of democracy. To be clear, it is not their fault and I am certain neither see themselves as pawns of oligarchical interests. What is relevant, however, is not what they see or even what they know to be true,but what the public at large sees and presumes to be true.

As more Americans decide the political system is rigged for oligarchical interests and decide to sit it out and hope for the best, it will over time become even easier for cults of personality to whip micro-targeted frenzies into hordes to silence dissent, run roughshod over former constitutional practices, and get their way at the polls.

There were once unwritten rules played out in the salons and meeting rooms of Washington, D.C. Unwritten, they were not binding, but most followed them. In the past decade, neither party has time for those rules any more. They can go for a rent-a-mob to get their way. Both sides have decided Washington must do something, they have both become vested in the idea of the expanded federal state, and government has spilled outside its natural bounds into every aspect of our lives making everything political.

An unhealthy cynicism has crept into the minds of the public. A Bush or Clinton Presidency would just ratify that cynicism and, I fear, we would see the final ushering out of a republic replaced by an oligarchical system of vested interests. That would, in the long term, be far worse than any policy either candidate would enact. We would keep the structure and keep the language and keep the theater, but no one would really believe it anymore. Fewer and fewer believe it even now. A Bush or Clinton Presidency would only expedite what may already be inevitable.


1. It is worth noting that the Constitution prohibits corruption of the blood or, essentially, punishing children for the crimes of their fathers. In the same way, we should judge both Bush and Clinton on their own merits and not on the merits of their families or their last names. My personal opinion was, as I said yesterday, Bush is a credible contender in his own right. But there is a larger issue here and, essentially, good luck trying to convince the average American that Bush and Clinton are not just dynastic interests funded by millionaires stepping forward to represent those interests while posing as representing the people. It is incredibly unfair to both. But it is also, I believe, how most Americans will perceive them.

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Erick Erickson
By Erick Erickson

Erick Erickson

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