Charlie Pierce on Jeb Bush’s exit and what it means for the GOP and the rest of us.
He spent gobs of money. He hired all the best people. He had the name and the pedigree. And every one of those conventional credentials were turned against him as vehicles for mockery and derision by He, Trump, the wild-card for whom nobody had planned. Trump mocked Bush’s spending for its lack of results. Trump mocked Bush’s campaign for its lack of results. Trump mocked Bush himself for being low-energy, and for his lack of results. Meanwhile, Bush and his campaign worked day and night to lend obvious substance to every charge levelled by He, Trump.
He should have dropped out right at that moment.
(Do not make the mistake of thinking that I sympathize in any way with the sad political destruction of Jeb (!) Bush—except, of course, in the sense that it makes the presidency of He, Trump more of a possibility—because I still remember how, out of raw political ambition, he made the lives of a lot of good people miserable. Fuckabuncha him forever for having done that.)
Now, though, Jeb (!) is merely the symbol of a political party and a nominating process gone truly rogue, burning and consuming itself, using itself as its own fuel like some great breeder reactor of rage and fear. Bush, like all the members of the now vestigial Republican “establishment,” who spent 30 years developing the perfect context for something like the Trump campaign to occur, was stunned into incoherence when it actually happened. Watching him in his farewell on Saturday night was to recall what Abraham Lincoln said about General William Rosecrans after the Union’s defeat at Chickamauga; Rosecrans, Lincoln mused, was “confused and stunned, like a duck hit on the head.”
It means, however, that the GOP is now basically in the hands of lunatics wherein someone like Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, who just defunded Planned Parenthood in Ohio and tried to screw over public sector unions to the point that even the voters rebelled, is considered a “moderate” because he smiles and makes self-deprecating comments. Guess what; he’s not.
Here’s what I find frightening. There was a sense of complacency in the party establishment that they could control someone like Donald Trump and that the base, while restive and cranky, could still be mollified with one of their candidates. Why not? It had worked in most of the previous elections; Romney, McCain, Bush 41 and 43. Past experience had shown that outsiders like Ross Perot and George Wallace were noisy and got the attention of the press but never went all that far… Oh, sure, Perot got Clinton elected, but Wallace let Nixon squeak in; we can handle this.
Not any more. Now the base wants their due. They’ve shoveled in money in dutiful response to every apocalyptic mailer from the RNC and the NRA, they’ve e-mail blasted every conspiracy theory about Vince Foster and Obama’s birth certificate, and they’ve managed to get laws passed in many states that prevent women from getting a mammogram because they lead to abortions and gay weddings. They want their candidate that says what they think, that says what they can’t say around the Thanksgiving table about those welfare queens and dope-smuggling rapists from Juarez who work on the side for ISIS, and what’s with two guys kissing anyway?
And true to GOP form, just like they did with the Reagan/Bush and George W. Bush years, they’re going to leave it to the next Democrat in office to clean up their mess.