The Last Days of Jeb (!)

The Last Days of Jeb (!)

Towards the end of his speech in South Carolina on Thursday, Jeb Bush exclaimed, “I hope you don’t think the end is near.” Unfortunately for Jeb(!), and with that almost unimpressively prophetic defeatist statement humming, the end has come for his nightmarish presidential campaign.

Up until South Carolina’s Governor, Nikki Haley surprised many Bush supporters by endorsing the heir to Bush’s throne, and perpetual brat, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush’s campaign had experienced somewhat of a welcomed flux. Fresh from his solid performance on the debate stage last weekend, morale was on the rise in the Jeb camp. There was frenzied anticipation of a Monday evening gathering with guest of honour, former President, George W. Bush, who did what he was supposed to do, appeal to the South Carolinians with his trademark charm and outward affection of his baby brother. According to Jeb, the “right time” has finally come  to utilise the former Commander in Chief.

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Return of the King

South Carolina, however, has been a happy hunting ground for the Bush family in the past with primary victories for George H. W. Bush, and ‘Dubya’ in their respective successful bids for the White House.

To experience the clichéd “rise and fall,” there must of course be a rise, and with Jeb Bush’s campaign to date, it is genuinely difficult to identify anything that resembles such (unless you consider that brief 15% spike in the national polls last July a feat). Rather, there has been a steady and consistent decline and it appears that from the outset Jeb has, to borrow a Bush-ism, “misunderestimated” the field of play.

One would be naïve to disregard the former Governor’s political history when it comes to an analysis of how his presidential campaign has failed him thus far. The appendages that are so frequently attributed to Jeb are that he appears weak and awkward when facing the public. These charges can be traced back to his failed 1994 gubernatorial challenge to the established Democratic incumbent, Lawton Chiles.

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Slightly less depressing days for Jeb

When asked what he would do to help African Americans, the inexperienced Bush replied nonchalantly, “probably nothing.” Gaffes aside, and there were quite a few; Bush was hammered in the election and was one of only two to miss out on being elected nationwide amid Newt Gingrich’s GOP revolution. There was hope anew for Jeb as the GOP establishment cleared the field for him to stake a 1998 bid – seeing promise in his electability. As he courted the electorate with his popular brand of centrism, akin to his waning 2016 rhetoric, he was carried to the Governor’s office with the assistance of his mighty war chest, which all but stampeded his opponent, Buddy McKay, by 10 points.

Journalists, political commentators, and indeed, prospective Presidential candidates argue that as Governor of Florida, Jeb has never really had to make a hard decision. While this is probably an unfair assertion, after all he eliminated affirmative action, overhauled public education and presided over a presidential election that ended in a recount placing his brother as president, it does offer a psychological window into the manner in which he deals with his detractors and aggressors. Throughout the 2016 campaign, he has appeared weak (despite those rousing claps), and almost reluctant to fight back with gusto. For a man, who by all measures is the more intelligent of the two political brothers, choosing to exercise academic scrutiny towards policy rather than oiling up his robotic joints and interacting meaningfully with the public, Jeb has failed to establish exactly what it is he stands for. In doing so, he has appeared indecisive, wooden, and old-fashioned; a candidate of yesteryear.

Comparisons to George Herbert Walker Bush evoke another interesting perspective on his failing campaign, particularly when it comes to assessing his character. In the current milieu of GOP campaigning, Jeb’s character has been traduced time and time again. The Bush family mantra is work hard, be humble, and always do your best, and it seems that these traditional values no longer appeal to the GOP electorate, perniciously infringing on Jeb’s efforts. Let’s not forget that George H. W. Bush was portrayed as a ‘wimp,’ an indictment that was injurious to his bid for the White House. But, Sr. managed to turn the tables with thanks to the negative campaign spinning of one Lee Atwater. These days however, there is a new king of the diss and Jeb… well, he’s certainly no “tough guy.”

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Jeb ponders whether or not to order take out…

While George H. W. Bush lamented his decision to go negative in retirement, his son’s team needs a new perspective. On this score, town hall goers in South Carolina this past week have been offering Jeb some hard-nosed campaigning advice, one of whom asked if he could be, “excuse me for saying in the vernacular – a son of a bitch?” Bush offered a pre-packaged response by saying that he will be tough, resolute and firm. Following on from his vow to be indomitable, he then tweeted a photograph of a gun, with the single worded caption – “America.” To compound matters, a poll released on Wednesday showed Jeb drawing just 1 percent of likely Nevada caucus-goers – bad, meet worse.

Despite the introduction of Dubya to his weary bid, there is an air of finality to Jeb’s presidential campaign – evidenced by his “Super PAC”, Right to Rise cancelling up to one third of its advertisement reservations in the run up to Super Tuesday. Let’s address the elephant in the room, not the triumphant GOP beasts, straddled by Trump, Cruz, et al. but rather the pang of reality, that Jeb Bush will more than likely drop out of the Presidential race following this weekend’s events. As his mother, Babs, perhaps best surmised, he’s “almost too polite” for this race and moms do know best. After all, she was the one who said in 2013 he shouldn’t run(!)

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Babs Still At It!



Matthew O’Brien & Andrew Carolan 

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Will 2016 Usher in a Return of the Left?

Will 2016 Usher in a Return of the Left?

With the primaries upon us, it has become clear from the Democratic side of the aisle that there is a wanton desire for a return to liberal principles. Over the last year, America has seen its Right Wing degenerate and fragment causing the GOP to slip into a whirling vortex of misdirected criticism and slanderous obfuscated falderal. Meanwhile, the Left Wing has begun to reassert itself through the battle-hardened Obama administration and the populist no-nonsense principles of Bernie Sanders.

For a society that has entrenched itself so much in the conservative camp, can we really point to these broad instances as a signal for the future however? It’s never been an unpopular notion that America should reconstitute itself as a society in which anything is possible if you dream big and work hard. Indeed, it is almost a century ago that William Tyler Page addressed Congress and presented them with ‘The American Creed’ in which he echoed the steadfast sentiments that the government of the people, by the people, and for the people, should fulfill its duty to be an example of democracy by upholding its core principles. This historic clarion call is perhaps more important now in 2016, than any other time so far in this twenty-first century as the middle-class have been thrust centre stage. For the first time in decades, citizens are beginning to realise just what it takes to satisfy Page’s salvo. Here is a brief overview of how it happened:

1980: The Turning Point

The 1970s were not an easy decade for America. The failed war in Vietnam disenfranchised a great portion of the population, Nixon’s scandals threw the very office of the Presidency into disrepute and then where Ford appeared to be bumbling, Carter appeared uninspiring, telling the American people that they too needed to change their ways – as if. So by 1980, one could have easily argued that America was going through its “crisis of confidence” when even the President couldn’t rely on the support of his base, challenged by Ted Kennedy. On the Right meanwhile, Republicans turned to a man who exuded supreme certitude through mellifluous pros and striking countenance, Ronald Reagan. A former dough-eyed follower of Goldwater, Reagan projected a vision for conservatism that ebbed and flowed with the 1980s.

A New Right

And so a new right was born, not a stoic one of socially progressive values akin to the administration of Eisenhower, but rather one of a hawkish ultra-conservative philosophy. So, what happened to the Democrats? Well, to meet their advisories in the middle, instead of moving in their own direction, they too followed the populist tides of conservatism. The result? The ‘Left Wing’ party by the 1990s, were a very different outfit to the one that had existed in the 70s. America now had a centrist right wing party, and an out and out right wing party.

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On one contentious issue, this analysis proves incredibly fruitful: health care. Whereas in the 1960s and 1970s, when cooperation between both sides of the aisle was not unusual, that just wouldn’t be the case in successive decades. In 1993 for example, America witnessed the Clinton’s health care plan struck down with fiery vengeance, in a move Hilary herself, and Ira C. Magaziner, a family friend, would view as an indication of lost time, lost opportunities and lost confidence. Bob Dole meanwhile had his own ideas on tackling this issue, attempting to dissuade democrats from going “too far”, yet yielding no positive results. So, with much discourse but little action, by the time the Affordable Health Care Act came through in 2009, there was a bitter taste left in the mouths’ of many Americans – no single payer system, meant the faceless corporations had won again and Wall Street could breathe a collective sigh of gluttonous relief. Though now, it seems as if all of this could change drastically, depending on who wins the presidential race later this year.

The Tipping Point

Obama, by this point, has achieved a great deal, yet for the most part his administration has had to adjust and then readjust focus on a number of occasions as he had battled with an incredibly partisan House and Senate. The Republicans have characterised this as ineptitude on his part rather successfully, leading to a reversal in fortunes with successive mid-term elections. In 2015, however, Obama began an unyielding assertion to reclaim the presidency. With health care presently safe from repeal, he moved on to improving relations with North Korea and Cuba, and spectacularly endorsed the Supreme Court decision to legislate for gay marriage.

The Republicans watched on dumbfounded and awestruck. With ambivalence festering and ideological fissures emerging, Donald Trump, and his hairspray- rife golden mane began to make a complete mockery of the Ring Wing of American politics, traducing anyone who crossed his path on his way to the top of many polls. Meanwhile on the Left, Bernie Sanders also shocked the nation, but in a wholly different, more organic way. He shot from 7% in the Democratic polls in May 2015, up to 28% by the end of August, and onto 37% by January. Armed with a sabre of progressive socialism and an escutcheon of resilient liberalism, the 74-year-old senatorial warrior, proved he was no joke.

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Last year cannot simply be pointed to as the one in which all of this change occurred however. Indeed, one could argue that it will take many years to gain perspective on whether or not its events were substantially important. It is nonetheless clear though that the cracks that had been growing on the Left and Right, have become more severe on the campaign trail. Trump and other Republicans still attain a great deal of support, but even to their most calculated minds it is clear that their party will have to change. On the Left meanwhile, people are rallying around the call for greater coverage in health care, lower college fees, more accountability in gun control, and equal pay for women and minorities. Whether Sanders gets the nomination or not, his presence has been felt significantly. The ramifications are such that even Hilary Clinton is calling for free community colleges whilst Obama boldly sets off to do battle with the NRA and tackle global warming.

 

Conclusions…

Yes, this is a broad theory, and yes, many vociferous pundits could suggest that America is arguably more conservative than ever right now. Even Obama alluded to elements of this claim in his State of Union address this year, as he spoke proudly of the superiority of United States military. Yet, in the pantheon of the election, there is no equivocation that liberal principles are having a profound impact once again.

Could this be the beginning of a domestic shift back to the Left after so many years of rightward positioning? Or is America baring witness to a transient movement that will inevitably crumble under the resolute will of hawkish conservatives? As George H. W. Bush was fond of saying, “time will tell,” but it’s a sorry state of affairs that the bullheaded contingent of the present day GOP are blind to the fact that the tenets of their policies are so right wing that by now, I’m sure President Reagan’s corpse is slowly turning as if on a rotisserie spit.

Andrew Carolan & Matthew O’Brien