The OZY Hunger Games: Jeb’s Right to Fall
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because money can’t buy you love, even if it’s some cold, hard super PAC cash doing the buying.
By Sean Braswell
Remember how The Hunger Games would honor its fallen tributes? In this occasional series, OZY predicts which presidential candidates will be the next to fall — whether they know it or not. Last week, we predicted Gov. Jeb Bush would be the next to fall.…
“Please clap.” After all the town halls, debates and hundreds of millions of dollars raised and spent, this is what your candidacy boiled down to, Jeb: a simple, sincere plea to New Hampshire voters. And while you may have solicited their applause and respect, you did not, in the end, earn many of their votes. After your fourth-place finish — and no sign that the South Carolina primary (where you were polling fourth before Saturday) was going to be any different — it’s fairly clear that this was the way your campaign would end, Governor, not with an exclamation point, but with a whimper (your campaign did not comment either way).
It wasn’t so long ago that you were a king in waiting, the rightful heir to a political dynasty that had been run off the rails by a reckless older brother. You were everything that Dubya was not — smart, policy-minded, articulate — everything, that is, except a winner. But it was another man who really stole your lane, and your fire, a fellow Floridian.
You had all the trappings of a classic candidacy …
You may have been better funded, more respected and better known than Marco Rubio, but the young senator was lighter on his boot-clad feet and came with less baggage. And he realized earlier on that in the current political climate, even a so-called establishment candidate had to attack the citadel and could no longer rely on old badges of honor like experience, reputation and a record of good governance to sway voters.
It’s true, you had all the trappings of a classic candidacy, but the very things that were supposed to see you through — a famous name, a positive message and a stellar fundraising operation — have turned into nonfactors, even liabilities. It turns out that while many Americans will double down on a political dynasty, few are that keen to see a three-peat. And in the year of the outsider, nothing says insider quite like Bush (except maybe Hillary Clinton — but you won’t have to worry about that dynastic showdown).
In fact, when you founded your super PAC Right to Rise last year, you said its name was based on your belief in the economic empowerment of ordinary Americans. But what kind of message does it really send those Americans to have a super PAC lighting money on fire, sending out digital video players to voters via FedEx overnight and running ads featuring a former president — all with the aim of electing a man who is the son of another former president? It’s no surprise that voters have made the most of their right to rise up and say, “No, thanks.”
Still, it’s been hard not to feel sorry for you as you have repeatedly walked into the buzz saw belonging to another candidate, one more open about his own wealth and privilege. You’ve called Donald Trump “unhinged,” but that hasn’t stopped the new GOP front-runner and political alpha male from slamming the door to the nomination right in your face. As Salon put it recently, “It’s surprisingly depressing to observe the sad, slow descent of Jeb Bush from presumptive front-runner to droopy beta male.”
All dynasties must end, and it’s never easy being the last one left holding the candle in the deserted palace. Sure, there was still time to send South Carolina voters a big-screen TV with your picture on it ahead of Saturday’s vote, but it didn’t help. “We’ve had enough Bushes,” your own mother said in 2013, even as you were deciding whether or not to run this year. Do you remember your response?
“Life teaches you that you need to make decisions in the right time,” you said, “not too early, not too late.” That’s sage advice, Governor. And this was the time to make another tough decision.
Please clap for the Fallen, Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida. It’s time to replace that exclamation point with a period.