Jeb Bush? Right Message, Wrong Messenger.


Jeb Bush
Gage Skidmore

Let it be noted that Jeb Bush deserves kudos for making sense on the immigration issue. When he describes coming to the United States illegally in order to find opportunity as "an act of love, it's an act of commitment to your family," he displays more compassion and decency than any of the fence-building border warriors possess in their shriveled, nativist souls. He also shows a way to a future that may have room for a Republican Party in a world that looks unlikely to cater to the preferences of grumpy know-nothings who don't like cilantro. But that's not going to be an enduring or healthy future if it requires turning a political party into a family project.

Political parties that rely on genetically intermingled talent pools aren't signs of a healthy political system. That's not to say people should lose the right to pursue political careers just because they're related to somebody else who held office. But in a nation of over 300 million people, surely one of the two organizations clinging with lamprey-like tenacity to coercive power can rotate through a few surnames from time to time, if only in its applications for tenancy in the White House.

Yes, families often develop traditions of "public service" as one generation passes on a taste to the next for living off of others without producing anything of value for which people might willingly pay: Adams, Roosevelt, Taft—and now Bush and Clinton.* But there's a difference between a family tradition and an actual, no-bullshit dynasty, and the GOP is drifting close to crossing that line.

Jeb Bush made waves with his comments because he took a strong position—one that's at-odds with the large meathead faction of his party. It's also a position that seems to strike a chord with much of the American public, as repeated polls reveal. That's not the only issue that matters to Americans, but it's an important one for the GOP.

If other Republicans can sound the same note, maybe their political party will still be relevant after the Bush family has moved on to other endeavors.

* And Kennedy. How could I friggin' forget the Kennedys.