After the August GOP debate, I took a stab at describing that certain leadership quality variously termed gravitas, stage presence, “alpha-ness,” force of personality, or command aura. This is a quality that has nothing to do with a person’s politics, or intelligence, or their chances of winning the primary, or even whether they would be a good president. (LBJ was a disaster, but his arm-twisting dominance over others was legendary.) I listed off some names that have this presence, whether you like them or not, or whether or not they have any chance whatsoever: Trump. Christie. Fiorina. Carson and Walker, to some extent. Even Perry, if you squint as hard as he does.
And then we get to the servile non-entity who utterly lacks this quality, despite being guaranteed the nomination by the GOP’s ruling class.
I recommend this enjoyable hatchet job on Jeb Bush by the Daily Beast’s Michael Tomasky, which asks the essential question: Why? Why on earth is this man, who wouldn’t earn enough respect to be an effective shift manager at Wendy’s if it weren’t for his last name, the presumptive nominee for the Republican party? Or more accurately, why has the GOP donor class, that oligarchy which picks the primary winner every election cycle, settled on this submissive little turd as their champion?
Because they really don’t have to. After all, look at what’s happening to Bush’s counterpart on the other side. At long last, and against my expectations, the Democratic establishment is finally figuring out that their selected candidate has all the charisma and the appeal and the welcoming demeanor of a trapdoor spider, and is considering subbing in Joe Biden. It is hardly a foregone deal yet, and Clinton’s flying monkeys are out raging in force as we speak; but at least the Dem powers-that-be are willing to consider that they were wrong in their first pick. Why can’t the GOP plutocrats do the same?
They already have Bush’s understudies, Walker and Rubio, fueled up and ready to launch. Biden would have to bootstrap a rushed campaign out of thin air; Walker and Rubio already have staff and ground operations in all the early states, have turned in decent debate performaces, and haven’t gotten obliterated by Trump yet. It wouldn’t take much effort to pivot to one of them. One mass email from Charles Schwab or George Schultz to the rest of the cabal is really all it would take.
But like Tomasky, I don’t see any evidence this will happen. Bush remains the presumptive choice of the plutocrats, and barring any massive change, he will accept the nomination at the convention. The mechanism is simple: as each lower-tier candidate folds, Bush will gain most of their voters. Each failed candidate will overtly or subtly nudge his flock to Bush in order to remain in the good graces of the party’s overlords, and by Super Tuesday (and likely before), his lead will be insurmountable. Trump will hang tenaciously on to his 25%, making him the unlikely Ron Paul of this go-around, and that will be that.
But why, exactly, the donor class remains so fixated on Jeb Bush remains a mystery to anyone but themselves. Of course, his last name certainly has something to do with it. And I can’t think of any other GOP candidate who would be as slavishly loyal to these people as Bush. His brother certainly was their faithful servant, after all, and Jeb appears far more submissive and pliant than even Dubya. Perhaps the oligarchs feel that they just need to send in a strong Cheney-like figure to be the real alpha dog of the operation, and to ensure Bush remains on point as the “front.” Perhaps they feel such kinship with the Bush clan that backing anyone else would be viewed as a kind of betrayal. Perhaps these old white men are just so set in their ways that they really can’t change their minds once they’ve made a decision. I don’t know.
But I do know that being an utterly subservient beta-male is no barrier to entry to an executive mansion. After all, Bush was installed as governor of a major state without too much effort. And while the White House has not hosted such a weak person as Jeb in recent memory, such luminaries as James Buchanan, Herbert Hoover and Warren Harding do serve as precedent. Perhaps Bush can feature them in his campaign literature.