Having declared himself out of the running for Mitt Romney’s vice presidential nod, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has stepped comfortably into the role of party elder, and appears to be relishing the opportunity to critique the Republican Party’s direction and message. In a recent op-ed for the National Review Online, Bush lays out a vision of the GOP as a party that doesn’t excommunicate dissenting voices, but rather accepts and fosters diverse viewpoints and creative approaches to governance:
We should be the party of free thinking and free markets. We should be the party of policy experimentation and fresh approaches. We should be the party of competing ideas. We should allow our ideas to be tested and force our ideas to prove their value in practice….
…We believe that there is no way for leaders to direct the dreams and ambitions of 312 million Americans — and so we believe fundamentally in freedom. Let individuals direct themselves to whatever heights they aspire to reach, and let them enjoy the benefits of their success because they bear significant responsibility for the risks they take.
This is different than the approach of President Obama, as he has made clear through policies that place greater power and resources behind the government at the expense of the individual. So the distinction will be obvious.
But to make sure that we do not lose the advantage of that clear difference, we must not layer onto our fundamental beliefs thick black lines of ideology — black lines that we do not allow ourselves to cross. Those black lines can be comforting, I understand. They provide certainty and stability and ideological purity. But they also restrict the way we think about problems, and make more difficult the kind of reform-minded free thinking that has defined the conservative movement for the last 50 years.
Thick black lines of ideology are good at keeping people in, but they are also good at keeping people out. And our party can’t win if we keep people out. Our goal is not to assemble a small army of purists. We need a nation of converts. We have seen the other way of governing. It has had its day. It has made its best case. It has failed.
The editorial, like Bush’s recent comments about tax reform and immigration, are further evidence of his stand up to the GOP’s conservative, Tea Party-base — a willingness to buck party orthodoxy that Bush cites as proof that he’s not running for anything in 2012.
But while Bush may be happy with his role as a party statesman for now, if Republicans lose the 2012 election, his increasingly vocal dissent could also position him to guide the GOP back to the centre as the party’s nominee in 2016.
(h/t Mike Allen)
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