Mt. Vernon Register-News

Opinion

April 11, 2014

Vote for optimism

The widespread conservative media freak-out over Jeb Bush’s potential presidential candidacy has mostly centered on his expressing empathy for those who come illegally to the United States seeking a better life for their families. But something else is going on. Some have accused Bush of fearing the parry and thrust of campaigning.

“We need to elect candidates that have a vision that is bigger and broader, and candidates that are organized around winning the election, not making a point,” he said.

That’s not fearing a fight; Bush is saying he wants to do more than throw spitballs at opponents.

Previously, he has said he would run only if he could do so with “joy” in his heart.

And that is the real issue. Some have come to identify anger as the default attitude toward government. You hear it on talk radio and read it in some conservative blogs. They’re listening to your calls. The government is becoming a tyranny. The immigrants will make you poorer. Often such claims are factually wrong, yet they are always asserted with emotion. Even when there is truth (e.g. the president didn’t tell the truth about Obamacare), the attacks become the totality of the message.

Some of the confrontational rhetoric is part and parcel of being in the opposition. But in the evolution of the tea party and the inside-the-Beltway opportunists who claimed ownership of the movement, tone — not substance — became the dividing line between them and the “establishment.” To be a “real” conservative, one had to feel betrayed by and suspicious of not only liberals but also Republican leaders. It is not enough to agree on policy.

But why make this a litmus test? Presumably, the GOP is seeking a competent standard-bearer to beat the Democrats and set a course for effective conservative governance. Neither requires fury.

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