16 February 2015

Jeb Bush makes Barack Obama look ridiculous


Getting involved as a commentator in the elections of another country, without being there, is rarely a good idea. I’m British and while I’m fascinated, obsessed even, by American politics, I’ll wait until I travel to the US later this month and talk to a range of well-informed people about the likely shape of the 2016 contest before forming a view. At CapX we’ll have leading American writers covering the economic issues that will dominate the looming race.

However, I was fascinated two contrasting videos that have appeared in the last week. Each, in their own way, offers a revealing insight into the way in which contemporary politics is developing.

First, consider Barack Obama’s video promoting his health care reforms. Incidentally, if the Obama charm held any appeal for me – eight years ago, when the choice was him or McCain/Palin and it seemed that America and the West needed renewal – it all seems a long way off now.

Obama worshippers are agreed that in his latest video he is the epitome of cool. He wears dark glasses and cavorts around, sending himself up in a nonchalant fashion. But I’m sorry, his ridiculous performance left me unmoved. That Obama leader-as-celebrity schtick, as though office is a training course for lucrative life afterwards, feels badly dated, especially when voters are so disenchanted with the way politics is conducted.

Contrast it with the video released earlier this month by Jeb Bush, former Florida Governor and potential frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination this time.

The Jeb style is low-key and straightforward. He visits a business in Detroit and actually listens to the owner while looking interested. He doesn’t make a great show of interrupting the employees either and avoids putting on a hard-hat in the style favoured by British politicians. In the later section where he makes a speech it is noticeable that his speaking style (which can be improved) is a little shaky at times. But my goodness the content is potentially very powerful. The focus is on the “Right to Rise,” which is the name given to the PAC founded by Bush with a mission designed to support an “optimistic, conservative, positive vision for helping every American get ahead.” He talks (in time let’s see the detail) about the low-paid, small business, social mobility and conservatives reaching out to new audiences.

On CapX, we’ll have writers assessing all this and much more as the race develops. Is there a risk that a candidate such as Bush will lean towards Establishment policy solutions that give too much power to big government? What are the other potential candidates in both parties going to offer?

In the meantime, that Jeb Bush video offered an intriguing glimpse of how a more grown-up and serious approach to subjects such as social mobility and economic opportunity could be powerful on the campaign trail and in office. Voters might like it.

Iain Martin is the Editor of CapX.