Presidential Profile, Part VI: Jeb Bush and establishment politics

Republican presidential candidate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks during a campaign stop at Souhegan High School, Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016, in Amherst, NH. (Jim Cole/AP)

Jeb Bush, son of former president George H. W. Bush and brother of former president George W. Bush, was originally thought to be the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination. Mere weeks before the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primaries, though, this is no longer the case.

As Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post wrote: “He [Bush] entered the race in the spring as the clear front-runner – a status conferred upon him by his last name…But it became clear early on that Bush wasn’t just rusty at this campaigning thing, he simply wasn’t all that good at it. It was also obvious to anyone paying attention that Bush was badly miscast in an election cycle in which the Republican base wanted anger from its candidates. Bush does pragmatic leadership, not anger.”

Bush is an establishment Republican, meaning he is an advocate for cutting social program spending, as well as reducing taxes on business owners. He promised that, if elected president, he would attempt to defund Planned Parenthood and repeal the Affordable Care Act. He is a defender of the Second Amendment, and in 2009, as Governor of Florida, he signed the controversial Stand-Your-Ground law that allows the use of deadly force by citizens who feel threatened. Bush is also anti-marijuana-legalization, be it medical or recreational.

By Republican primary standards, Bush is a centrist, and has run as such since he promised to do so at the start of his campaign. This can be seen in issues like gay marriage. Although he is professedly against LGBTQ marriage, arguing that businesses should be able to discriminate against such individuals on the basis of religious beliefs, when a court rendered null Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage, Bush did not fight the decision, instead imploring for a “respect for the rule of law.” Bush has been quoted as saying he is a proponent of affirmative action, though not of quotas. He is also against abortion, unless the life of the mother is at risk.

On the issue of minority groups and oppressed peoples, specifically the gay-rights, feminist, and “black empowerment” movements, Bush has made some controversial comments. In a 1995 book he co-wrote, Profiles in Character, Bush argued that minorities label themselves as such because it is advantageous for them.

“The surest way to get something in today’s society is to elevate one’s status to that of the oppressed. Many of the modern victim movements – the gay rights movement, the feminist movement, the black empowerment movement – have attempted to get people to view themselves as part of a smaller group deserving of something from society,” the book reads. “It is a major deviation from the society envisioned by Martin Luther King, who would have had people judged by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin-or sexual preference or gender or ethnicity.”

As Governor of Florida, Bush made a name for himself on the issue of education, although this hasn’t gained much traction in his presidential bid. He concerned himself with black students lagging behind in Florida’s education system while in office. In Dade County, black students were 24 percent more likely than white students to drop out, according to The New Yorker.

Bush’s political ideology can be seen in his effort to separate education and government, opting instead for charter schools as well as private-school vouchers. In his words: “Competition means everybody gets better.” Furthermore, rather than evaluating schools based on test scores, Bush tried focusing on individual student scores.

Despite his statewide effort to privatize education, there was no discernible difference in the test score gap between white students and black students, except in charter schools, where the gap increased.

On higher education, Bush is hoping to implement a plan that would have loaner’s repay loans “by committing a set fraction of their income over 25 years, rather than repaying based on a fixed rate of interest. So borrowers with high earnings will pay back more than they’ve borrowed (up to a limit), while borrowers with low earnings will pay far less,” according to the Brookings Institute.

Bush has also expressed support for an idea that entails two free years of community college for interested students. Ultimately, though, Bush believes colleges and universities should fix their high-cost systems individually, without government intervention.

“There’s a way to do this where you’re requiring higher education institutions to reform themselves, where they don’t just build in more and more costs,” Bush said.

A RealClearPolitics average of all major polls has Bush at 4.8 percent nationally, behind Donald Trump (34.5 percent), Ted Cruz (19.3 percent), Marco Rubio (11.8 percent) and Ben Carson (9 percent), and in front of Chris Christie (3.5 percent), Carly Fiorina (2.8 percent), John Kasich (2.3 percent), Rand Paul (2.3 percent), Mike Huckabee (1.8 percent), and Rick Santorum (0 percent).


Sten Spinella is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at sten.spinella@uconn.edu.