For a decade, Republicans have inhabited a party that needed to enter a period of introspection has largely rejected new ideas like white blood cells, rather than absorbing the good and discarding the bad. The Republican Party that learned the right lessons from the Bush years could be one that understands how much the existing power dynamic requires free market disruption in order to devolve power to the states and individuals – instead of one that has been stuck in amber since 2000, with the verve and innovation of Jurassic Park’s ubiquitous mosquito.
That’s why the two candidates who matter the most to the future of the GOP in 2016 and beyond are the two who have the strongest name brand appeal, based not just on their own actions but those of their family members: Jeb Bush and Rand Paul. A healthy Republican Party will find a way to digest both the Bush brand of compassionate conservatism and Paul’s libertarianism – retaining what nutrients can be put to good use, and discarding what cannot. Jeb’s presence in the field is absolutely essential to this process. It is unfair that he will have to defend the records of those who share is name, but it is also necessary, and it is also good.
The Republican Party has largely avoided coming to terms with the Bush years. Since the 2006 loss of Congress and the bad years of 2007 and 2008, they chose the path of least resistance internally, and got Obama in large part as a result of their lack of introspection. Now the path of least resistance allows for a soft rejection, a gentle turning of the page on the Bush years – and it offers that only because Jeb is running.