Kahntentions: Abroad But Still At Home

Kahntentions: Abroad But Still At Home

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.


Former Governor Jeb Bush may have become the lost voice of the Republican Party when he forced his colleagues to look into the mirror. By coming down on the behavior of the Republicans during the Obama years—not only on the issues but even moreso on the process—and even during his brother George’s presidency, Jeb Bush suggested that the GOP of today might have moved so far from its center that today it might actually reject his father and Ronald Reagan as their standard bearers.

What is fascinating is that until now it was only moderate Republican voices, Democrats, and media folks who have tried to address the issue of how the Republicans have lost their way.  Now, with an older but junior party leader prepared to address his Party’s future, things have changed. The bell that Jeb Bush is ringing for the Republicans is not the message of his own ambitions for 2016, but that of American history.

American party politics have always straddled the center. When either of the two major parties has moved dramatically off the center line, they have been rejected—sooner or later—by the people. Most recently from Barry Goldwater to George McGovern the American people do not go down an extreme road for long. The real message from Jeb Bush is to Speaker John Boehner, to Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and their minions, that if they do not refocus their party both substantively as well as process-wise, the GOP as it has now moved will suffer a major political defeat in the very near future; regardless of what will happen this fall.

Denial will run very deep and certainly the Tea Partiers are reveling in their success. It will be interesting to watch if like all extreme movements within the major parties they will also lose their way.  The only unknown is whether as a result of the Citizens United case, these extreme factions—with huge amounts of financial resources—will be able to capture the soul of the mainstream parties without the usual transitory power which factional take-overs within the major parties have previously exhibited.

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