The Bush Below the Radar

About the Bushes these days the burning question is will he, or won’t he? Will Jeb Bush decide to run for president in 2016 or will he not?

Texans know better. They know that though Jeb Bush might someday be president of the United States, the Bush to watch on Tuesday is not the father but the son. The Bush to watch on Election Day is not Jeb, but his oldest offspring, George Prescott Bush, candidate for Texas land commissioner.

George P. is not unfamiliar. Notwithstanding his youth – he is 38 – as the son of a former governor of Florida, and as the grandson of one former president and nephew of another, he has been on the margins of national politics for years. What’s different now is that he is poised to move from the side to the center, to play in his own right a prominent part.

I do not for a moment dismiss the importance of his last name – any more than I dismiss the importance of Hillary Clinton’s last name. It is not an attack on Hillary, or an assault on her own enormously impressive credentials to point out that she too was given an inestimable assist up the top of the political ladder by a former chief executive – who happened to be her husband. Similarly, it’s fair to say about George P. that notwithstanding the advantages of family ties, he is, on his own merit, positioned for political success.

Bush has in addition to his last name and family heritage on his mother’s side – she is originally from Mexico and he speaks Spanish as he does English – an impressive professional resume and a persona perfectly poised for the national spotlight. He has been a teacher, and a businessman, and he remains an officer in the U. S. Navy Reserve.  (Notably, Bush served eight months in Afghanistan.)  He has already raised money in ten states and Washington DC, and if he wins he will take office with a nifty $3 million in his campaign account. Moreover he is good looking and personable, with a good looking lawyer wife, Amanda Williams, and a one year old son to round out the family picture.

It’s easy enough to rail against the nepotism that threads through our national politics. But it’s also easy enough to explain – candidates with a familiar last name have advantages ranging from name recognition to (relatively) easy fundraising. So one way of looking at it is this. In a perfect world electoral politics would be a meritocracy. The best man or woman would win; second best would lose. But in this imperfect world, in which nepotism has played a role in American politics since the beginning of the Republic – our sixth president, John Quincy Adams, was the son of our second president, John Adams – we can consider ourselves fortunate if the beneficiary of family ties is, in his or her own right, worthy of our collective consideration.

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