Jeb Bush Pushes the Poison of Identity Politics - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Jeb Bush Pushes the Poison of Identity Politics

“This Nation was founded by men of many nations and backgrounds. It was founded on the principle that all men are created equal, and that the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.… [R]ace has no place in American life or law.”
John F. Kennedy, 1963

“America represents something universal in the human spirit. I received a letter not long ago from a man who said, ‘You can go to Japan to live, but you cannot become Japanese. You can go to France to live and not become a Frenchman. You can go to live in Germany or Turkey, and you won’t become a German or a Turk.’ But then he added, ‘Anybody from any corner of the world can come to America to live and become an American.’”
Ronald Reagan, 1988

For the last few days I have been graciously invited on CNN to discuss the Trump candidacy. On one early occasion I was paired with Jeb Bush supporter Ana Navarro. The discussion quickly heated up. Here’s the liberal Mediaite headline

‘Oh Really, What Am I?’: CNN’s Ana Navarro
Shuts Down Man Who Says She’s Not Latina

The story read in part as follows:

Lord went on to tell Navarro that the GOP establishment tends to “paternalize” Latinos, “who came here legally, who did the right thing” and are now “being insulted here by the Republican Party.”

“Thank you for telling me what should be insulting,” Navarro responded as Lord attempted to talk over her. “But see, I’m one of those Latinos that came here with a visa on a plane, that went through a process. And no, I don’t think the Republican Party is being paternalistic. I don’t find Marco Rubio, I don’t find Jeb Bush paternalistic. So thank you for lecturing me on what I should be feeling about the Republican Party as a Latino.”

“I don’t think you’re a Latino,” Lord informed Navarro. “I think you’re an American just like me.”

“Oh really, what am I? What do you think I am?” she shot back, before telling Lord what she believes herself to be. “I am an American and America is my home,” she said. “I am an American who was born in Nicaragua and was naturalized under Ronald Reagan’s amnesty. So now that you’ve lectured me on how I should feel as a Republican, now that you’ve lectured me on what I’m hedging about, and now that you’ve lectured me about what I am, do you have an actual point?”

At another point Navarro says: “I am not hedging on Donald Trump, I condemn his comments, I think they are racist and I think they are bad for the Republican Party. How’s that for hedging?”

Well. Thanks for asking, Ana. I won’t hedge either. And Mediaite aside, I certainly didn’t feel “shut down.”

First, let me make clear that while this issue came up in that CNN discussion, in fact Ana Navarro is far from alone in making these kind of remarks about Trump. Jeb Bush, John McCain. Mitt Romney, Marco Rubio, and others have said some version of the same thing.

As I indicated to Ana, I not only disagree — I disagree vehemently. In fact? I believe the GOP Establishment — not Trump — is playing the race card here. 

Regular readers of this space know that over time I have gone into detail about the connection between racism — race card playing, identity politics, however you wish to describe it — and the Democratic Party and progressive movement. As seen here in a Spectator piece re-published by the Wall Street Journal in 2008 and here at the Spectator on the “shamefully cold-blooded marriage between progressivism and race.”

What disturbs in all of this dust-up between Trump and GOP Establishment figures?

Under the guise of attacking Donald Trump for Trump’s attacks on illegal immigration, the GOP Establishment — notably Jeb Bush — is ever so-not-subtly playing the race card. Well aside from deliberately misrepresenting Trump’s attacks on illegal immigration as an attack on all Mexican immigrants — itself a deliberate dishonesty. Borrowing the absolute worst from the Party of Race, that is the Democrats — these on-the-record supporters of every skin color judging formula from slavery to segregation to lynching to the Ku Klux Klan to racial quotas to, now, illegal immigration — these Establishment figures are playing that favorite of the race card players: identity politics.

Let’s run through some of the remarks from these Establishment Republicans:

Jeb Bush: The New York Times reported Bush’s remarks this way:

MERRIMACK, N.H. – Jeb Bush, whose wife is Mexican and three children were raised to celebrate their bicultural roots, showed a flash of anger on Saturday as he said that he “absolutely” took personal offense when Donald Trump recently described Mexican immigrants coming to the United States as “rapists” and criminals.

Mr. Bush… said that Mr. Trump’s views are “way out of the mainstream” of the party.… “To make these extraordinarily ugly kind of comments is not reflective of the Republican Party.… “He’s doing this — he’s not a stupid guy, so I don’t assume he thinks that every Mexican crossing the border is a rapist. He’s doing this to inflame and incite and to draw attention, which seems to be the organizing principle of his campaign.…

Asked if he took Mr. Trump’s remarks personally, given his family, Mr. Bush became a little cross.

“Yeah, of course it — absolutely — and a lot of other people” did as well, he said. “But politically, we’re going to win when we’re hopeful and optimistic and big and broad rather than errrrr, grrrr, just angry all the time. This is an exaggerated form of that, and there is no tolerance for it.”

Days later Bush added:

“Whether it’s Donald Trump or Barack Obama, their rhetoric of divisiveness is wrong.… A Republican will never win by striking fear in people’s hearts. A Republican can win and will win if we have an aspirational message that gives people hope that their lives will be better if we apply conservative principles the right way.”

Jeff Flake: As reported in the Arizona Republic:

“Donald Trump’s views are coarse, ill-informed and inaccurate, and they are not representative of the Republican Party.… As an elected Republican official, I’m disappointed the county party would host a speaker that so damages the party’s image.” 

John McCain: As reported in Breitbart

“But I guarantee you, the overwhelming majority, and I’ve had the honor of representing the people of Arizona for many years, I guarantee you the overwhelming majority would not agree with his attitude towards — that he has displayed towards our Hispanic citizens. We love them.”

Ana Navarro: On CNN to me as per Mediaite

“Thank you for telling me what should be insulting,” Navarro responded as Lord attempted to talk over her. “But see, I’m one of those Latinos that came here with a visa on a plane, that went through a process. And no, I don’t think the Republican Party is being paternalistic. I don’t find Marco Rubio, I don’t find Jeb Bush paternalistic. So thank you for lecturing me on what I should be feeling about the Republican Party as a Latino.” 

Rick Perry: As reported in the Washington Times:

“Well, I think you have to be critical of his disrespectful language that he used,” Mr. Perry said Tuesday evening on Fox News’ “Hannity” program. “We want to talk about how to bring this country together and the solutions that we have in this country. I’ll be more than happy to have that conversation, but to paint with the broad brush that Mr. Trump did and basically say that all Mexicans were rapists and killers … that is the type of inflammatory language that doesn’t do anything at all.”

Marco Rubio: As reported in Mediaite:

“Trump’s comments are not just offensive and inaccurate, but also divisive. Our next president needs to be someone who brings Americans together – not someone who continues to divide. Our broken immigration system is something that needs to be solved, and comments like this move us further from – not closer to – a solution. We need leaders who offer serious solutions to secure our border and fix our broken immigration system.”

Now. Let’s see how the game is played.

Note that intro to the New York Times story on Jeb Bush, the Times an obsessive adherent to race card politics. The intro separates Bush’s wife out as “Mexican.” Question: When’s the last time you saw a Times story about Donald Trump during all of this that starts by pointing out that he is married to an immigrant from Slovenia? Answer? Never. Then again, Mrs. Trump’s native Slovenia is filled with white people, while Mexico has many folk of a darker hue. In other words? Leftist media race card alert. 

But bad enough as that may be? Then in one way or another all the above GOP Establishment figures in their own fashion play the game. I’m not into speculating about motive here. Maybe they have no idea they are doing it. But whatever their understanding, they are most assuredly playing the race card.

There is Bush saying Trump is “way out of the mainstream of the party” — a charge, by the way, that was made by Establishment Republicans who opposed Ronald Reagan. Why is Trump way out of the mainstream? Because says Jeb — rearing back to throw that race card fast ball — what Trump said is “ugly” and that he “absolutely” took personal offense. Is Jeb Bush married to an illegal immigrant? Did I miss something? No, nothing was missed. Jeb Bush — exactly like Donald Trump — is married to a legal immigrant. So if Donald Trump has repeatedly made clear he is talking about illegal immigration and is, like Jeb the husband of a legal immigrant — what’s the difference between Mrs. Bush and Mrs. Trump that would so offend Jeb Bush? One can only assume that it is the fact that Mrs. Bush has a slightly darker skin color. In other words? Yes indeed, Jeb Bush just played the race card from the bottom of the Democratic Party’s favorite deck. 

As I said on that CNN show, I believe too many Establishment Republicans patronize Hispanics. Take that statement by Senator McCain as mentioned above, my bold print for emphasis. This one: “… I guarantee you the overwhelming majority (of Arizonans) would not agree with his attitude towards — that he has displayed towards our Hispanic citizens. We love them.

Catch the phrase? “…our Hispanic citizens”? Does Senator McCain own some Hispanics? Is he running a plantation of some kind out there in Arizona? Well, at least he loves them. Unknowingly — or is that unconsciously — McCain wanders into the “but the slave owners loved their slaves” nonsense perpetrated by generations of slavery supporters. No, I don’t think John McCain is a racist. But I do think this is an example — unconsciously and instantly expressed — of patronizing Hispanics. 

Notice this remark from Ana Navarro that I challenged on air:

“But see, I’m one of those Latinos that came here with a visa on a plane, that went through a process…. So thank you for lecturing me on what I should be feeling about the Republican Party as a Latino.”

In the blink of an eye Ana is unmistakably playing a game of identity politics right there on television. Does she know that she’s doing it? No idea. But I certainly know how it sounds. 

The point, of course, is that Ana Navarro is not only not alone in doing this in GOP circles, she has pretty stunning company. But while all of this race card playing being employed by Establishment Republicans is being used at the moment to convince Americans that when Donald Trump is criticizing illegal immigration he is a racist, there is even more of a problem here.

Is this business of playing the race card against Trump part of a larger effort to make the Republican Party even more like the Democratic Party than already seems uncomfortably the case? To imitate the Party of Race by becoming the Party of Race-lite? While demonizing the dissenters that are the GOP base as a cancerous collection of mini-David Dukes? Is this the 21st century version of Republican “outreach”?

This is no casual question. Does the GOP Establishment no longer believe in moving the country towards the goal of becoming a colorblind America? Is the party — unwittingly or worse willingly — ensuring that Americans be permanently divided by race? The next time I am on television with Ana Navarro am I suppose to run through my ethnic heritage to legitimize myself? Taking offense if my Irish, English, and Dutch heritage are not properly acknowledged? The very point of America was to leave that world behind — for good.

There is nothing wrong — nothing — with criticizing illegal immigration, violent illegal immigrants, or the government of Mexico. There are 197 countries in the world, alphabetically beginning with “A” for Afghanistan to “Z” for Zimbabwe. In the course of 239 years since the Declaration of Independence, America has been forced into wars hot or cold with countries that are overwhelmingly white  — Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Spain, Russia — and had disagreements of a serious nature with many others. The notion that Mexico or any other Central or Latin American country should be treated as anything other than an equal with whom this country has a serious disagreement is the very height of patronizing.    

There is only one country out of the list of 197 — the United States of America — that is based on an idea. The idea that “all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness…” Every other country out there — including Mexico — was or is established based around race or ethnicity. And as mentioned, whether Jeb Bush and the rest understand what they are doing or not, this must not become the central organizing principle of either the Republican Party or America.

One can agree with Donald Trump on the issue of illegal immigration — or not. But I am fairly certain Trump shares this sentiment with President Reagan — and perhaps it would be wise to reflect on these words Reagan delivered from the White House Rose Garden on November 2, 1983. The day when Reagan — with among others Vice President George H. W. Bush, Congressman Jack Kemp, and Mrs. Coretta King at his side — signed the bill making the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. a national holiday. Said President Reagan in part, again with bold print supplied.

Dr. King had awakened something strong and true, a sense that true justice must be colorblind, and that among white and black Americans, as he put it, “Their destiny is tied up with our destiny, and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom; we cannot walk alone.”

… But traces of bigotry still mar America. So, each year on Martin Luther King Day, let us not only recall Dr. King, but rededicate ourselves to the Commandments he believed in and sought to live every day: Thou shall love thy God with all thy heart, and thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself. And I just have to believe that all of us—if all of us, young and old, Republicans and Democrats, do all we can to live up to those Commandments, then we will see the day when Dr. King’s dream comes true, and in his words, “All of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning, ‘… land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”


Jeffrey Lord
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Jeffrey Lord, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is a former aide to Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp. An author and former CNN commentator, he writes from Pennsylvania at His new book, Swamp Wars: Donald Trump and The New American Populism vs. The Old Order, is now out from Bombardier Books.
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