By Jose Miguel Leyva
NORMAN — Jeb Bush’s recent compassionate comments on immigration show how far apart he is from the far right of the Republican Party.
At an event at the George H.W. Bush presidential library, the former Florida governor showed sympathy for people who come to the United States illegally. They come here, he said, because mothers and fathers are “worried that their children didn’t have food on the table.” He added: “They crossed the border because they had no other means to work to be able to provide for their family. Yes, they broke the law, but it’s not a felony. It’s an act of love. It’s an act of commitment to your family.”
And he warned: “It shouldn’t rile people up.”
But many people in the tea party wing of the Republican Party are riled up about immigration, and Republican legislatures in several states have passed harsh anti-immigration laws.
Jeb Bush’s outspokenness, and his increasingly obvious interest in running for the presidency, represents an effort to move the Republican Party back toward the middle.
That’s not altogether a bad thing for the nation. The far right, which has been such a vocal part of the party in recent years, has pulled many moderates, even Democratic ones, deep into conservative territory. But Bush should not be mistaken for a progressive, by any means, even on issues relating to minorities and other people facing discrimination.
As governor of Florida, he dismantled affirmative action, he displayed a disdain for the victims of homophobia and he expressed a distaste for modern feminism. He also is about as pro-corporate as you can get. For instance, he’s a huge proponent of privatizing our public schools.
At the moment, he is tacking in a moderate direction. And his marriage to a Mexican national does give him a real perspective on immigration.
But he might be forced to prove his conservatism to win over the party base eventually, and that would include pushing back against comprehensive immigration reform, which a majority of Latinos favor.
Bush has said he would run a campaign that was “hopeful” and “optimistic.” The Republican base seems more prepared to embrace hate and fear, and all of Bush’s platitudes aren’t likely to change that.
The best we can hope for from Bush, then, is the conservatism of the old status quo.
Jose Miguel Leyva is a writer for Progressive Media Project, a source of liberal commentary on domestic and international issues; it is affiliated with The Progressive magazine. Readers may write to the author at Progressive Media Project, 409 East Main Street, Madison, Wis. 53703; email: pmproj@progressive
.org; Web site: progressive.org.
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