“Is there some kind of retro thing going on?”
— Jacob in Hot Tub Time Machine
Jeb Bush is a candidate stuck in the Republican politics of two decades ago. He seems unaware of the fundamental transformations occurring all around him. It’s Hot Tub Time Machine in the 2016 presidential race.
Consider his latest gaffe posing as outreach — that Republicans should campaign for votes “in the Latino barrios.”
For the unfamiliar, “barrio” is a Spanish term technically meaning neighborhood, but more accurately referring to run-down neighborhoods populated with a mix of Hispanic citizens and aliens, many in the United States illegally.
Republicans should spend money chasing votes in the barrio — if they want to lose. Bush betrays a fundamental ignorance of the changes brought by data-driven campaigning and fueled by empirical racial polarization. He sees the world as it existed in 1995, not as it is now.
The next Republican who wins the White House will win not because they went seeking votes in the barrio, but because they got the votes of blue-collar Reagan Democrats as well as evangelicals. Those two groups delivered victories to Bush’s brother as well as Ronald Reagan. Blue-collar Democrats are turned off by identity politics of the sort Bush advocates. And no matter how much time and money and energy Bush might waste in the barrio, he’ll never get votes there.
Politics is a game of emotion, culture and power relationships. On all three, Republicans lose in the barrio, and always will.
Bush must not know about Catalist and how the left used data-driven race politics to drive turnout in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections. His ignorance might be forgiven, as this new model of campaigning came into existence only after Bush ran his last campaign. When Bush last ran, winning independents determined who won. In 2015, whoever mobilizes their base wins.
Obama won the White House, twice, by using data analytics to allow him to preach to his own choir and ignore the middle. Bush, like a retro-candidate, ridicules “preaching to the choir.”
Today, the left uses deep cultural currents to stoke the emotions of voters. The left uses big data to micro-target base turnout. No lofty rational appeal by candidate Bush visiting the barrio will penetrate this edifice.
Bush should go to a stock car race in Brooklyn or union hall in Allentown before he goes to the barrio. And if you’re a Bush supporter who is perplexed to learn NASCAR races in New York City, you’ve proved my point.
In Brooklyn and Allentown, Bush won’t find much sympathy for his amnesty policies, and that’s the design flaw that will ultimately doom the Bush candidacy. The people Bush needs to win the White House — blue-collar Reagan Democrats — are opposed to Bush’s core brand.
But Bush’s problems go beyond obsolete tactics and unpopular messages, they also include a fundamental failure to understand the modern Left.
Take education. National Review reported:
Bush directed the animosity of the crowd of conservative activists toward the teachers’ unions who dominate public schools, saying that Americans can’t “just passively sit back and watch 13,000 unionized, government-run monopolies and expect them to change overnight.”
In the 1990s, most Republicans understood that teachers’ unions were a central problem with the failures of government-run schools. Twenty years later, the problem is much deeper.
The Left has completed their march through the public school institutions and have created cultural, ideological, and systemic problems far more significant than teachers’ unions. Children reading books to dogs, cheating (non-union) teachers, and the wholesale ideological transformation inside the public schools are just a few.
In the 1990s, urging local control of schools instead of mandates from Washington made sense. But in 2015, even local control of government schools has gone off the rails. Bush seems not to understand how the Left has rendered teachers’ unions the least of our educational worries. His education message is retro.
The Bush campaign is the political version of Hot Tub Time Machine. Time has passed Bush’s message by. He’s running a retro campaign with the rules and assumptions of two decades ago. It betrays his lack of comprehension about the fundamental transformation that has befallen America.