I have not had a chance to write about the Jeb Bush remarks on Ronald Reagan, but I figure I ought to.
Full disclosure: I know many of you disagree with me, but I privately and publicly urged Jeb Bush to run for President this year. On most issues, he and I are of like mind and I think he was a tremendously good Governor of Florida. I would have preferred him to his brother from 2001 to 2009. I’d have preferred him to Mitt Romney. I’d most assuredly prefer him to Barack Obama. And I think he is right on immigration.
Nonetheless, I have a Reagan Maxim. Anyone who references Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment is probably a squishy Republican who cannot win a primary should any conservative dare discuss his record. The 11th Commandment has become a defense for squishes trying to claim some mantle of Reagan when their record is anything but Reagan like.
Now I must add a new maxim.
Anyone who says Ronald Reagan could not get the Republican nomination in today’s Republican Party most likely would not have voted for Ronald Reagan in the Republican primaries of 1980. That includes Jeb Bush. I think we can, however, all agree that he is right about his dad who couldn’t even win in 1980 and only won in 1988 by claiming the heir of the Reagan legacy as a third term proxy for Reagan only to be thrown out of office after everyone realized they read a lie from his lips.
The fact is, George W. Bush, John McCain, and Mitt Romney all had records to the left of Ronald Reagan on a host of issues and were still the party’s nominees. Of the three of them, only John McCain supported Ronald Reagan in 1980.
In fact, this is a nonsensical game because Ronald Reagan could not even be a Presidential contender now. California has drifted so far left that Reagan could never get elected Governor there. Meanwhile, in the real world, Joe Lieberman is too conservative for the Democrats and more Democrats have become Republicans in the past twenty years than the opposite.
What this is really about is quite simple.
Left of center moderates make up the majority of focus in the media, which leans left and thinks most Americans do too despite every poll suggesting we are a center-right nation and Fox News eating every other network’s lunch.
When a politician drifts left, he claims Ronald Reagan could not get the GOP nomination in today’s climate because the politician himself no longer thinks he can. And politicians and their egos, like journalists and their egos, cannot handle rejection well. So they’d rather claim Reagan was rejected rather than they themselves were rejected. And they sure as hell would never want to admit they’ve evolved because flip-flopping is a political sin in America. Therefore, it’s not them, it’s the party that has evolved. In essence, it is immaturity among adults unwilling to admit they have changed.
The media laps it up because the media, despite plummeting readers and viewers of traditional media, still cannot except that they too are being rejected because their world view is so out of touch with the average American.
Frankly, as much as I adore Jeb Bush, I think he’s had a bit of a personal self pity-party now realizing he probably could have sewn up the nomination and, because he sat on the sidelines, he’s now probably done with politics at that level and must transition to the role of “elder stateman,” which is diplomatic-ese for put out to pasture. Instead of choosing to engage the party, he’d rather blame it than himself.
The media loves these sorts of things. Yesterday, I had to discuss this on Erin Burnett’s show on CNN. Just out of curiosity, I went on Nexis to see how many “death of the Democratic Party” stories there were compared to “death of the Republican Party” stories there were in the past 15 years. It’s not even close. From CNN to other networks, there is a rather ridiculous obsession with predicting the end of the GOP at the hands of extremists.
Meanwhile, the GOP made the biggest local, county, state, and federal gains of any party since the late 1800′s and the Democrats are having a very public crack up, losing Appalachia, the South, the Rust Belt, and seeing the GOP make local gains in New England, which the media talking heads routinely assure us the GOP could never win. As Sean Trende noted recently, Democrat gains out west will take up to 30 years to make up their losses in Appalachia.
But, it’s okay. Ronald Reagan could never win the Democrats’ nomination. Just like Joe Lieberman and Bob Casey, Sr. Or something like that.
By the way, on Jeb Bush’s point, echoed by Erin Burnett and David Frum and John Avlon last night on CNN about the extremes getting so much attention — though most of the focus is on the right because of how successful it has been in the past decade — there’s a point everyone seems to miss.
We are a 50-50 nation. When the nation is at 50-50, the voices on each side grow louder because only a few votes need drift across the center to side with the other side on issues. Consequently, both left and right must be loud and engaged to hold their own in a near evenly divided nation. Once the nation decides to hand a clear and sizable majority to one side, we’ll suddenly stop noticing it as much. But there’s an additional point.
Many of the very same people who hope someone mature and adult rises from the fray in the 50-50 nation are rooting for the smallest minority in the country — the true centrist independent who really stands for nothing and everything at the same time. People advocating for that really are the political fringe and they do not see it. But hey, they can get on TV and lament right-wing extremism. And more often than not, these are left-wingers who want the centrist-independent to stand for nothing and everything with them against the right.