Jeb Bush is not a man of many words. From the lineup of the 2016 Presidential hopefuls, Bush has been by far the most ambiguous–both about his plans for running and about his policies. He has been outspoken on only two key issues, immigration and education; and on both, he has raced to the center of the GOP as much as possible, disparaging the Tea Party along the way. But does that make him an in-the-closet Democrat, as some have argued?
Recently, he sparked outrage among red-blooded Republicans by saying that illegal immigration was an ‘act of love’. It’s true that the ‘American Dream’ inflames the minds of many who take the decision to unlawfully cross the border in search of a better future. But it shouldn’t cost law-abiding Americans their own dreams and hopes. Bush may have forever buried his chances of getting the nomination with this thoughtless statement, which goes against the entire core of the Republican base.
But let me play the devil’s advocate for a second here and simply say that Jeb is the GOP’s best candidate for the top job. The reason is simple and straightforward: the Hispanic community.
Indeed, Republicans have fallen out of favor with this community for quite some time. Since the 1970s, the Latino vote has consistently and overwhelmingly gone to the dovish Democrats and their empty promises of social inclusion. But the more you look at the problem, the clearer the picture becomes. Nine in ten Republicans are white, and only 20% of Hispanics are favorable towards the GOP. This is certainly cause for concern.
Now, thanks to migration and demographic trends, Hispanics amount to some 10% of the electorate, which makes them the defining swing voters in American politics. No one can become president of the nation without getting at least 44% of their vote. This community is no longer a blip on the political radar, and their rightful inclusion should be a goal that must be tackled by any forward-looking Republican. Why? Because in the next 40 years, the traditional Republican voting base, the white population, will no longer be the majority in the US of A, thus giving today’s minorities the deciding edge.
Winning over the Hispanic vote isn’t going to be a walk in the park, but Bush has the upper hand. His favorable stance towards granting concessions (as opposed to Ted Cruz’s idea of jailing illegal immigrants) could even gain him some votes from the other side of the aisle. Even better, Bush is a deft connoisseur of Latin America. He is fluent in Spanish, has a degree in Latin Studies, and has spent the better part of two years in Venezuela, running the Caracas branch of the Texas Commerce Bank.
Bush’s pro-business, no-nonsense angle would also mean a more rational foreign policy towards the countries of South America, which have grown increasingly weary of America’s unjust meddling in what they consider their internal affairs. The Snowden phone-tapping scandal led Dilma Rousseff of Brazil to publicly snub the Obama administration by canceling a long-planned visit to Washington. In Argentina, only 19% of the population supports U.S. foreign policy in the region.
Others, such as Ecuador, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Bolivia, have also been at odds with the way America has been behaving inside the Organization of American States. They have accused the Obama administration of manipulating human rights through the guise of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) and its Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, financed by Washington.
They argue that the latter is used by the Obama administration to sow the seeds of dissent and push for regime change in their countries, despite leaders having been democratically elected. The example of the 2009 Honduras coup, which saw the ousting of the democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya (during which the OAS remained unjustifiably silent), is not very reassuring. These members have long been arguing for a long-blocked reform of the organization, which would guarantee an equal promotion of all human rights aspects. In its current form, the IACHR’s protection of the freedom of speech is privileged both financially and politically over all other rights, which are just as essential for developing countries (such as enforcing the rights of women, or economic and social rights).
Therefore, in the same way that the Hispanic population here at home needs to be heard from and taken seriously, a similar solution is required for South America as well. A potential President Jeb Bush is bound to follow his Reaganite instincts and put the strengthening of economic ties with the regions first. After the current administration’s agenda crashed and burned in the wake of the NSA scandal and Wikileaks, brandishing our moral credentials to the outside world no longer appears feasible or credible.
Jeb Bush is therefore uniquely placed, for the 2016 elections, to reverse a decades-long trend that has played out only in favor of the Democrats: capturing the minority vote and winning over the Hispanic population in the country. It’s time to put ‘Grand’ back in the GOP.