Editorial: In Brown, Bush, a glimmer of GOP moderation
Is the Republican Party inching away from its right wing and returning to its centrist roots? Let us hope so.
In coming months New Hampshire will again be a bellwether on this question. One indication of this was the sea of adoring faces shining up toward Scott Brown in Andrea Morales’s photograph on the Monitor’s front page Friday.
Brown is pro-choice, had a moderate record as a Massachusetts U.S. senator and has supported both Romneycare and an assault-weapons ban. His opponents so far in September’s Republican U.S. Senate primary are all flashing their conservative credentials, and no doubt he will, too. And yet his entry into the race sizzled while theirs fizzled.
The day of Brown’s announcement, Jeb Bush gave a speech in Connecticut. He defended comments he had made about immigration reform earlier in Texas. People who cross the border into America illegally looking for work to nurture their families “broke the law, but it’s not a felony. It’s an act of love.”
Bush described immigration reform as an opportunity, not a problem. He said there was no conflict between “believing in the rule of law and having some sensitivity to the immigrant experience, which is part of who we are as a country.”
During a speech last month, Bush, who made education reform a keystone of his eight years as Florida’s governor, reiterated his support for the Common Core standards for public schools. Conservatives bristle at the notion.
The standards, Bush said, will make the country more competitive in the global economy. “In Asia today they don’t care about children’s self-esteem,” he said. “They care about math, whether they can read – in English – whether they understand why science is important, whether they have the grit and determination to be successful.”
Bush says he’ll decide whether to run for president by the end of the year, but he is looking and acting like a candidate.
Judging from much of the rhetoric at the weekend gathering of possible GOP candidates in Manchester, Bush would be running against the tide.
Ted Cruz, one of those who spoke in Manchester, had already disagreed publicly with Bush’s view that crossing the border illegally is not a felony. Cruz also suggested that although he liked Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, another moderate, they were the choices of “Washington elites,” not of the grassroots voters who will make the choice in the 2016 primaries.
New Hampshire will be the first test case of Cruz’s analysis. Brown’s fate in the Senate primary this fall and in the general election will show the strength and direction of the Republican Party in the state. Is it returning to the middle, its traditional place in the political spectrum, or is it still under the influence of its more radical elements?
And that will set the stage for the presidential primary, where Bush, should he run, would provide a strong moderate alternative to the field as it stands so far.