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April 07, 2014 10:22 AM Jeb’s Dual Dynastic Problem

By Ed Kilgore

At the top of this morning’s political news is another thumb-sucker (this one from the New York Times’ Peter Baker) about a potential Jeb Bush presidential campaign. Perhaps it’s because most of Baker’s interviews took place at a Bush family event, but you definitely get the sense the “draft Jebbie” movement is centered among people who have tugged the forelock in the presence of one or more members of the clan for many years.

There’s one frequently heard song-and-response from Baker’s piece, though, that needs to be called into question before it’s too deeply embedded in the CW:

As for weariness with dynastic candidates, Ron Kaufman, political director in the first Bush White House, pointed to Hillary Rodham Clinton’s potential candidacy. “That takes that issue away,” he said. “It’s pretty hard to say, ‘Oh, another Bush’ when you’ve got another Clinton.”

The most obvious problem with this argument is that it’s not necessarily the idea of dynasties that’s the problem for Jebbie; it’s how specific dynasties are regarded. The most recent Bush presidency is not as highly regarded as the most recent Clinton presidency, and its negative features are a lot more vividly remembered because they were more recent.

But there is a second dynastic problem that is more immediate: for the ascendant conservative movement, Jeb appears to determined to follow in his father’s and brother’s footsteps in betraying The Cause. Lest we forget, Poppy’s support for a tax increase after pledging not to consider one was for an entire generation of conservatives an almost biblical lesson of the baleful consequences of compromise on this subject, instantly dashing Bush 41’s years of obsequious efforts to make himself acceptable to the Right. W. rebuilt that trust with conservatives, only to squander it via a series of heresies that have become more egregious over time: No Child Left Behind, Medicare Part D, runaway federal spending, the incompetent occupation of Iraq, and then TARP. Jeb, once considered the most serious ideologue in the entire clan, is now contemplating a presidential run with a glass jaw exposed on immigration and education policy, and with his most conspicuous base of support being Establishment Republicans who are abandoning Chris Christie.

On top of these primal memories of ideological inconstancy, Jeb’s alleged superior electability is not exactly a self-evident proposition, and not only because of the aforementioned first dynastic problem, or Jeb’s mediocre standing in general election trial heats. Poppy was the first Republican president since Herbert Hoover to be defeated for re-election. W. left office in virtual disgrace. All in all, the clan is beginning to look more like sucker-bait than the last best hope for a party and an ideological movement seeking to hold off a demographically-driven secular socialist tide.

If Jeb has truly decided he must wait for a genuine “draft” before running for president, he may well be waiting til the end of time. If, God forbid, I were advising him, I’d tell him to get together with movement conservatives like Rich Lowry who seem to hold him in high esteem and ask: “Tell me exactly what I need to do to get one more chance for my dynasty.” As it stands, he may be misunderestimating his problem.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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