Republicans are panicking that Donald Trump is ruining their good name while Democratic atheists are praying to god that Trump somehow manages to stay in the race through many a debate. They think this ex-Democrat and Republican apprentice who made “branding” the tackiest marketing trick on earth is their best hope to keep trashing the GOP’s brand without spending a Democratic dime.
I don’t buy it. It’s not that Trump isn’t vulgar, racist, mean, obnoxious, irrational, fact-challenged, loudmouthed, homophobic, xenophobic, sanctimonious, and a demagogue with Crazy Harry for hair. But that extraterrestrial mane aside, he’s almost indistinguishable from the other 14 Republican crackpots running for president. With the exception of George Pataki and Jeb Bush, who are as boring as Hillary Clinton, Trump is the prototype, not the exception. His fellow-candidates stand for almost exactly what he stands for. They just couch it more politically, which is to say more sleazily: they trump Trump.
Even dull Jeb is more Trump than not. He’s supposedly the most moderate of the herd. Yet what Bush actually stands for would have placed him way to the right of Barry Goldwater in 1964. And Goldwater is the guy who made Ronald Reagan look like a lefty in comparison. (Goldwater, who saw the religious right for the fundamentalist threat it was to secular government, suggested Jerry Falwell deserved a good kick in the balls, was all for gays in the military a generation before Democrats caught on, and blamed Republicans for damaging themselves more than Democrats ever could, is now what you’d call a moderate Democrat, putting him left of Hillary Clinton.)
So let’s take Bush as Republicans’ Great White Hope. What helps Bush most is America’s infatuation with amnesia. If it didn’t happen on your last five days’ Facebook feed, it never happened.
I’m not referring to Bush’s unfortunate name association with the nation’s last one term president. Nor am I referring to his unfortunate sibling status with the nation’s worst president since James Buchanan. That would be as unfair as judging Hillary Clinton by the blue dresses she wears (though let’s not entirely dismiss Jeb’s role as governor in playing Rasputin to the conveniently clueless Katherine Harris in Florida’s four-vote coronation of brother George).
I am referring to Bush’s record as governor of our beleaguered state of Florida, and his Facebook likes since.
I’m referring to how he ordered a feeding tube shoved down Terri Schiavo’s throat in one of the nastiest case of executive and immoral overreach in Florida’s history, or his Vatican-versus-Galileo-like opposition to using public money for stem cell research, or the way he pushed approval of those gaudy “Choose Life” license plates and got a parental consent law passed in 2007 against teens seeking abortions, or his continued homophobia couched as support for “traditional” marriage. And that’s just on so-called values issues.
This is the guy who still thinks of Cuba as a Soviet colony and of the Middle East as an American one, who holds the dishonor of signing the nation’s first Stand Your Ground law, who made harsher an already Sino-styled sentencing regime, who couldn’t see a mental-health budget he couldn’t cut as he cut taxes by billions as governor, who pioneered the pseudo-privatization of public schools under the guise of vouchers, he created Florida’s nightmarish system of school “accountability” and asinine testing regime without significantly improving Floridians’ college literacy, he corrupted the independence of the judiciary by ending the bar association’s role in nominations (to elevate his own), opposes a federal minimum wage (but not a state wage), and who dodges questions about global warming by hiding behind his I’m-not-a-scientist cop-out.
Naturally, he wants to eviscerate Obamacare because recognizing that it gave health insurance to 16 million Americans would make him a socialist, though like every other Republican on the planet he has no alternative for the uninsured that doesn’t add up to a Trump version of screw-‘em. I’ll give him this much: he also provided $1 billion for Florida’s environmental land acquisitions, he fought the good fight on the common core and he doesn’t think every Mexican who crosses the Rio Grande is a drug addict or a rapist. He has to answer to his Mexican-born wife.
But if immigration and common core are the only things that make him look remotely like a sellout to Republicans, it’s because they’re the exceptions to his rule. Bush is as Bush as they come, just Bushier.
I could go down the list of his other 13 compadres, starting with Florida’s other sorta native son Marco Rubio, the Kissinger of the bunch. But it would be too depressing an exercise for the end of Ramadan, when we should be celebrating less dismal prospects, beer or gin in hand. Anyway you get the point. If Jeb Bush’s moderation is just Donald Trump in antebellum drag, Rubio and the other 12 angry trolls are just yips and yowls in a hall of mirrors. Among them, even Donald Trump can sound moderate when he’s not looking at himself in their mirrors.