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Why You Should Reconsider Jeb Bush

By: Helena Ball - Jun 17, 2015, 8:02 am
Presidential candidate and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush merits assessment according to his own achievements, values, and proposals, not those of his family or party. (Jeb Bush)
Presidential candidate and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush merits assessment according to his own achievements, values, and proposals, not those of his family or party. (Jeb Bush)

EspañolJeb Bush announced Monday his bid for the presidency, in a speech that set him apart from other candidates in both parties. Taking the podium in a button-down collared shirt without jacket or tie, he began by making it clear that voters will choose between two starkly opposing systems in the upcoming elections: the Democrat’s progressive and redistributive one and the Republican’s more free market and growth oriented.

The name Jeb Bush carries many biased notions about the individual as a Bush family member, and as a Republican. Yet for anyone really listening to his message delivered at the Miami-Dade College, most of those preconceptions were shattered. First, as a GOP politician, his opinion on immigration significantly differs from others in his own party. Jeb wants to include a path to citizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States, while also securing the border and reforming the legal immigration process. Even Florida Senator Marco Rubio has a gradual, step-by-step approach, wherein the legal status could only be obtained after the border is secured and legal immigration is restructured.

Having lived in Latin America as a young man and married a Mexican, his understanding of the continent is unlike that of any other candidate — so much so, in fact, that he delivered a few phrases of his speech in Spanish, part of which said: “júntense a nuestra causa de oportunidad para todos, a la causa de todos que aman la libertad y a la causa noble de los Estados Unidos de América,” or, join us in our cause of opportunity for all, the cause of all who love liberty and the noble cause of the United States of America.

Jeb is also one of the only presidential candidates to speak in such definitive and hard-hitting terms about Cuba. Mentioning Obama’s possible state visit to the island nation’s capital, he said, “we don’t need a glorified tourist to go to Havana in support of a failed Cuba,” adding that “we need an American president to go to Havana in solidarity with a free Cuban people, and I am ready to be that president.” The remark set the tone for the kind of leadership Americans should expect from him on international issues.

As a member of the Bush family and like other Republicans, he is expected to be somewhat of a protectionist with regards to large US corporations. But his words indicated the contrary to be true: he wants to dissolve lobbyist and special-interest influence in Washington, DC, and limit government power to interfere in the private sector.

While not libertarian-leaning like Rand Paul, Jeb holds certain beliefs that would at least satisfy Paul’s supporters — or they should, given the alternative of a much more interventionist choice in the Democratic camp. He alluded to governmental power being derived from the people when he said, “federal regulation has gone far past the consent of the governed,” identifying both the need for deregulation and reining in of encroachment on individual liberty. Nowhere in his campaign speech, unlike his older brother’s in 2000, does he mention the word “fairness.” Instead, Jeb highlighted the need to encourage economic growth that “makes a difference for everyone” through private enterprise.

His statements on government spending do correspond to the Republican Party line, in terms of calling for cost-cutting to achieve a balanced budget. But Jeb’s emphasis on fiscal integrity called to mind former President Calvin Coolidge’s value-based approach rather than any of the current members of his party. Likewise, his focus on growth, in addition to generalized tax reform, is similar to that of other Republican candidates, but he goes one step further by saying that he is certain that the country can achieve a 4 percent growth rate within five years. His point of view provides a blunt contrast to the class warfare of the Democratic “99 percent” redistributive rhetoric. There was no grey area in the speech, and his choice of words would distance even center-right democrats.

In the process of regaining global economic superpower status, Jeb also mentioned the importance of rebuilding a superior military force. This is a stance shared by the hawkish section of the Republican Party, which will no doubt face criticism from the more libertarian camp. Yet it is impossible not to agree with his statement that allowing the country’s military to become inferior to that of any other country presents a significant risk to national security, in light of the religious and non-state violence taking place around the world.

Like former president Ronald Reagan, Jeb’s campaign speech is full of positive expectations for a future that he believes can be reached though the enterprising spirit and work ethic of US Americans, alongside his governmental reform plan that would reduce bureaucratic obstacles to success. Jeb said he is prepared to lead and take responsibility for his actions, instead of hiding in “the legislative crowd.” A politician who wants to be held accountable, who is confident enough in his abilities to embrace where he came from, and who specifies where he wants the country to go is a welcome change from the usual disingenuous and murky campaign speeches.

Only by leaving ideological biases behind and being open to different opinions can US voters choose the best candidate to lead the nation. Whether or not that is Jeb Bush, he nonetheless deserves to be heard as an individual and judged on his ideas instead of assumptions or preconceptions.

Helena Ball Helena Ball

Helena is managing editor of the PanAm Post. She previously worked at Inc. Magazine, the Financial Times' fDi Magazine, and London-based business newspaper City A.M. Helena holds a master’s degree in business and economic reporting from New York University and a bachelor's degree in economic history from the London School of Economics. Follow her @helemball