In short, Jeb Bush is right:
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush said today that both Ronald Reagan and his father George H. W. Bush would have had a difficult time getting nominated by today's ultra-conservative Republican Party.
"Ronald Reagan would have, based on his record of finding accommodation, finding some degree of common ground, as would my dad — they would have a hard time if you define the Republican party — and I don’t — as having an orthodoxy that doesn’t allow for disagreement, doesn’t allow for finding some common ground," Bush said, adding that he views the hyper-partisan moment as "temporary."
"Back to my dad’s time and Ronald Reagan’s time – they got a lot of stuff done with a lot of bipartisan suport," he said. Reagan "would be criticized for doing the things that he did."
Bush cited, in particular, "the budget deal my dad did, with bipartisan support — at least for a while — that created the spending restraint of the ‘90s," a reference to a move widely viewed now as a political disaster for Bush, breaking a pledge against tax increases and infuriating conservatives. It was, Bush said, "helpful in creating a climate of more sustained economic growth."
"Politically it clearly didn't work out — he was a one term president," his son said.
Bush called the present partisan climate "disturbing."
"It’s just a different environment left and right," he said of "this dysfunction."
Jeb Bush goes on to blame Obama, perhaps to soften the blow he threw at the conservative wing, and he was a little too accommodating toward his dad, but that's understandable. GHW Bush made the "read my lips, no new taxes" pledge a cornerstone of his campaign and then he broke it. Scarborough is also right, Jeb Bush is no RINO. Neither is Joe Scarborough. There are fissures in the party because, in many respects, this is not the party I grew up with, and I'm not the only one who holds that view. The conservative wing is undoubtedly influential but they don't run the show. If they did, McCain wouldn't have been the nominee in 2008, nor Romney in 2012. Jeb Bush and Joe Scarorough aren't leaving the party, nor will many conservative conservationists, and nor will I (for now*), and we will be around to confront the excesses.
Another key dividing line is the environment. Leaving BizaaroWorld interpretations aside, this Pew poll shows that approximately half of the GOP (47%)--even with the Obama administration actively trying to layer on environmental constraints--still want stricter environmental laws and regulations. However, the trendlines are a concern, to a point. The latest drop occurred while Obama was elected to office, from 64% to 47%. Many conservatives, Christians and Republicans share the view that it is not unconservative to conserve the environment, nor is it unbiblical. We are called to be stewards of the earth. This is an area of dissonance within the party, and will continue to be so. Are we losing the environmental argument? Maybe, but it's not over. It's an argument in progress, at least to me.
But the GOP isn't the only party with fissures.
Divisions in the Democratic coalition have burst into view, endangering both President Obama and his party colleagues in Congress as November’s election nears.
Fissures [there's that word!] have opened over everything from tax policy and former President Bill Clinton’s off-message comments to recriminations following the party’s fiasco in the Wisconsin recall, which some say should have been avoided.
Democrats disagree over the wisdom of Obama’s attacks on Republican Mitt Romney’s private equity background at Bain Capital and are split over the proposed construction of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada’s vast oil sands.
The Dems have a popular and successful president who isn't singing from the Obama songbook (followed by scrambling and backtracking). Similarly, a popular and successful mayor. Similarly, a popular and successful governor and mayor. To me, this is partly a carryover from the 2008 contest between Hillary and Obama. There is no small number of Clintonites who support Obama but believe that a Clinton team could've and would've done a better job, in my opinion.
Another example. While progressive attention and ire was focused on Wisconsin, a Democratic New York governor is demanding major wage and benefit concessions from public-sector unions, threatening sweeping layoffs if those concessions aren't had. All that's missing is the stripping of collective bargaining rights. In San Jose, led by a Democratic mayor, voters overwhelming approved cuts to retirement benefits for city workers. You know there are fissures when one liberal NY Times columnist says that Obama screwed up, another laments his inability to dazzle, and another criticizes him for dithering on Sudan and Syria (by the way, I'm with Landis on Syria, not Pissed Off Kristof).
Update 1: Artur Davis is an example of a fissure that irretrievably widened. He was the first Congressman outside Illinois to endorse Obama for president, and he seconded Obama's nomination at the 2008 Democratic convention. Now, the Harvard Law grad is endorsing Romney. Guess he must not really be black, or at least not anymore.
Update 2: Reagan was a conservative and he raised taxes. GHW Bush was a fiscal conservative in office and he raised taxes. As Bruce Bartlett notes, Bush the Younger was one of the fiscally unconservative presidents in history, leading to our current structurally imbalanced deficits. I can't really argue with anything Bartlett has said, except for the part about the 2001 Bush tax cut doing nothing to stimulate the economy. Most economists, noted here, would disagree. Aside from the quibble, this is the problem of the conservative movement in a nutshell. The Redstaters and the candidates have ratcheted so far on taxes that fiscal and conservative can no longer fit in the same sentence. That, and onetime Republicans like Bartlett have no place in the party anymore; he's now an independent.
* I was ready to leave the party had the debt-ceiling showdown gone too far, and I will leave if a future confrontation results in a default on our debt obligations. There are other circumstances that will trigger my departure from the GOP, but that's for another diary.