In his latest remarks, Jeb Bush could not have been clearer: If he runs for president, his campaign will avoid the “mud fight” of recent nominating cycles. Instead, it will feature a “hopeful, optimistic message” organized around a vision of America’s future. It remains to be seen whether the base of the Republican Party is willing to accept anything of the sort.
The tea party certainly won’t. In just a few sentences, Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran’s tea-party-backed primary opponent, Chris McDaniel, crystallized what his movement represents: “Millions in this country feel like strangers in this land. You recognize that, don’t you? An older America is passing away. A newer America is rising to take its place. We recoil from that culture. It’s foreign to us. It’s offensive to us.”
The tea party offers nothing except nostalgia for a demography that is in retreat and a Constitution that never was. By contrast, Jeb Bush wants to run as a conservative unafraid of the future. Will other candidates join him, or will they appeal to the mob as they did in 2012 after Rick Perry haplessly advocated a modicum of compassion for illegal immigrants? If Mr. Bush sets the tone within his party, the American people may well get the kind of presidential campaign the country needs. If the tea party prevails, get ready for an avalanche of anger, followed by a repetition of 1964.