Tonight, as South Carolina winds down, and the political predictions swing into full gear, I actually want to take a moment to say thank you to former Governor Jeb Bush. He is not one of the candidates I have talked about so far in this, but tonight, I am grateful. There are reasons I did not settle on Gov. Bush as the candidate I wanted for President, but I’ll be honest, the primary reasons I had were more along the lines of there were better options, not that I disliked him.
While I am very conservative in both my faith and politics, the truth is I am also pretty forgiving toward most politicians. Not on issues of integrity, but on issues of policy. From all I have seen and heard of Jeb Bush, he was a pretty decent Governor in Florida. From all I have seen and heard of him, he’s a pretty decent man. And I do love the fact that he unabashedly defends his family from smears and attacks. I also like that he really hasn’t thrown a whole lot of mud in this mess either.
More than that, he demonstrates a pretty solid understand of political issues both foreign and domestic, and realistically speaking, he’s a candidate I could have lived with had things aligned differently in this election cycle. He wouldn’t have been my first choice, but I could have pulled the lever (or I guess these days touched the screen) for him with a clear conscience.
But he had some problems from the outset. First, his name. I honestly like President W for the most part. There were some policy issues I really disagreed with him on. I think the attempts to brand his position as “compassionate conservatism” ultimately hurt the conservative movement as a whole. But, overall, he had a rough Presidency as Commander In Chief, and he did a decent job with the hand he was dealt. The reality is though, he was the second Bush to hold the office. The first one had his own baggage, and he attached more baggage to his name, fair or not (and some of it was).
Second, the Obama administration managed to do something that the Republicans have been failing to do since Bill Clinton won election back in the 90s. He ignited a fire, first in the conservative grass roots, and then in the electorate at large, that burns deeply against the Washington status quo. Jeb Bush fell victim to what most of us so often do, he listened to those he knew and was in contact with all the time, and failed to hear the rising roar of discontent in the populous. What he did hear of it, he assumed was directed solely at the Democrats and President Obama. It didn’t click with him until the second to last debate that that anger and rage was directed at anyone perceived to be connected with Washington politics as usual. And his name is Jeb Bush (see above).
Third, I think that lack of understanding of the dynamics of this election (and I admit, they’re murky even when you understand the roots of the phenomenon) led to a slow start to his campaign. The first several debates he approached the conversation pretty much as business as usual for Presidential debates. He had his talking points. He had his speeches. He was kind of going through the motions, but there was no fire, and he wasn’t connecting. When he finally started to understand that players like Trump, Carson, Fiorina and Cruz were not just the token outsiders of elections past, but actually represented a strong desire in the electorate to see something different, he started to finally show a spark and try to connect, but by then it was too late to actually gain any momentum.
Last, and for me, most important, we had a really talented field this year. We still do, even if the talents vary widely. It’s been a long time since the Republican Primary has fielded this many candidates with this much raw talent and this many different ideas and approaches. In a field like the ones where McCain or Dole, or even Romney took the nomination, Gov. Bush probably would have done well, and might even have been my pick by the time my primary rolled around. In this field? A primary is not just about picking someone good enough for the job. It’s about assessing your options and picking the absolute best person for the job. Especially this time around, because it will take someone extraordinary to clean up the mess that’s been made these last few years and turn the energy of the populace back toward excitement and genuine optimism for the future. Gov. Bush is someone I could vote for. But he’s never been the one I would have picked as the best of what we were blessed to have on tap.
All that said, I want to say thank you tonight still to Governor Bush. I want to thank him for bringing insights on issues of immigration, foreign policy and defense to the debates. I want to thank him, quite honestly, for knocking Mr. Trump back a peg in the South Carolina debate when the man started spouting left-wing talking points in a Republican Presidential debate. I want to thank him for his willingness to serve. And most of all, I want to thank him for doing the hard thing tonight when the returns came in and he realized he was trailing so far behind. And the eloquent and grace filled way he broke the news. Governor Bush, my prayers are with you tonight as you wrap up your campaign and head home. I pray God blesses your decision, and gives you a sense of peace and joy in an honorable end to your campaign. And I pray for all of us that as the field continues to clear, and the primaries march on through the states, we will set our hearts on God, and rest in the peace of knowing that no matter the outcome, He is still in control.
Be blessed and be a blessing, and happy voting!