Barbara warned Jeb (and us)
Jeb!’s mother warned him not to run. We are witnessing the decline of the ruling class.
I gotta get this off my chest – Barbara Bush twice warned us Jeb! was not presidential timber. Now that Jeb! has been unmasked as the family mediocrity, her warnings can be viewed as a mother’s insider knowledge and an effort to protect her son from a humiliating loss. Mother Bush warned us in 2013 and 2014 and is undoubtedly unsurprised by Jeb!’s implosion.
In 2013, the only living presidential mother declared, “We’ve had enough Bushes.” No kidding. When Jeb! failed to heed her warning, she doubled down the following year: “I would hope that someone else would run. ... I hope he won't." The rest is history.
Never before has a candidate been so rapidly unmasked as incompetent, antagonized his party’s base, or squandered so much cash so quickly and counterproductively. Rather than Jeb!, the coda for his doomed campaign is better punctuated as "Jeb?"
But there is something else at play here, differentiating Jeb! from his opponents. This has gone unnoticed, and it likely marks the end of an era. Jeb! is a preppy. He never had to fight to achieve success. He can be described as low-energy or lacking fire in the belly. As the grandson of a senator, Jeb! lived a privileged life.
An era is closing. The last preppies to run for president were Howard Dean, Mitt Romney, Lincoln Chafee, and John F. Kerry, all losers. America has evolved since the days of preppy presidents from families such as Roosevelt, Kennedy, or Bush. Barbara’s “we’ve had enough Bushes” can be revised to “we’ve had enough preppies.” This closely correlates with the decline of WASP influence, preppy or not. Since our founding, a declining percentage of presidents have been of high birth. High birth might now be an impediment to election, with Trump being a unique exception. How many of those in the media and GOP establishment who despise him (and us) are of the manor born?
William Buckley’s quip about preferring to be ruled by the Boston phone book instead of the Harvard faculty is relevant. Preppies long ago infiltrated academia, the press, government, the CIA, and other power centers. And especially the GOP establishment. Bush’s exit reflects the waning of a de facto ruling class that sold out the national interest for their enrichment.
Of the motley collection of 16 Republican candidates who began this race, only Jeb! was a preppy. This reflects the impact of immigration in the past century. Of the 16, only Jindal and Cruz attended Ivy League undergraduate schools without assistance, while Carson and Pataki attended Yale on scholarship. Of course, Trump spent two years in the Ivy League, but that doesn’t count for our purposes because he is unrepentant Outer Borough, regardless of Manhattan and Palm Beach residences. Even Jeb! (U. of Texas) did not attend the Ivy League.
While the nation has been focused on who will be our first black or female president, no attention has been given to who will be our last preppy president. George W. Bush may prove to be the last. Race, gender, ethnicity, and religion are no longer the concerns they once were, even as recently as the 2008 election. We have come a long way since JFK’s religion was a major consideration.
The Democrats’ strategy of identity politics is stale and becomes more so each year. Coincident with the fading of identity politics, the declining power of the ruling class marks a transition to a new chapter in our history. The principal issue this election, in both parties, is the ruling class vs. the rest of us. After a century or more of dominance, the ruling class and their hired politicians face an existential threat. They are destined to lose, sooner if not later.