Bush 45: A Brief History of the Jeb Bush Presidency

Bush 45: A Brief History of the Jeb Bush Presidency

January 21, 2025

Now that Jeb Bush–known widely as Bush 45, or Bush cuarenta y cinco, or, simply, El Jefe Jeb–has completed his two terms in the White House, we can look back and summarize some of the major events of his administration.  

As we know, America has seen great change during the third Bush presidency, starting with its population, which has grown by some 30 percent these past eight years. Indeed, today, well more than 400 million people live in America–most of them either citizens, or citizens-to-be. And while establishing Spanish as the Second Language of America has not been without controversy, such mandatory bilingualism is, as House Speaker Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) has said, a fitting tribute to the historic trailblazing role of First Lady Columba Garnica Gallo Bush.  

And so it’s worth pausing over some of the highlights of the Bush 45 era. 

We can start, first, with the Milagro de 2016–the Miracle of 2016. In particular, how did Jeb manage to overcome the accumulated “Bush fatigue” of the previous three-and-a-half decades? How did Jeb transcend the instinctive anti-dynastic impulses of the American people?   

Part of his success was a deliberate indirection as to his intentions. For the better part of three years, from 2013 to 2015, Jeb seemed to go back and forth, zigging and zagging; that is, he would seem like a candidate one day, and then seem not like a candidate the next day. During that time, many other possible Republican candidates had their brief moment in the sun; yet none were able to gain momentum so long as Jeb was waiting in the wings.  

In particular, early on, Jeb clinched what came to be known as the “Establishment sub-primary” within the Republican primary of 2016. After much agonizing and maneuvering, two other “Establishment” candidates, Mitt Romney and Chris Christie, chose not to run. As a result, Jeb inherited the whole of the “Establishment”–not only its votes, but, just as importantly, its money. (Romney, of course, became the first Treasury Secretary in the Bush 45 administration, and Christie still serves as an Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court.) 

Then, once Jeb was anointed–and funded–as the only “Establishment” candidate in the 2016 nomination battle, he went on to win the GOP nomination, following the all-but-announced strategy of snubbing the conservative base and rallying moderates.   

Jeb’s candidacy–emphasizing “Comprehensive Immigration Reform” and “Common Core” education standards–was anathema to many on the right, but the proliferation of conservative candidates enabled Jeb to power through to the nomination. In total, conservatives won most of the votes, but those votes were divided among many candidates; in state after state, Jeb could eke his way forward with a plurality of the votes.

Yes, Jeb lost the key early states of Iowa and South Carolina, but his second-place showing in New Hampshire–bolstered, of course, by a huge financial cushion–enabled him to survive until he reached the Florida primary. Jeb’s victory in his home state was duly celebrated by the media, who pronounced him the “Comeback Kid.”  

And so, in a fragmented field, Jeb rolled on to win the 2016 GOP nomination.    

The second highlight in our history was the emergence of Jeb’s new coalition–or, as it is better known, nueva coalición. This new coalition, of course, was made possible in part because of the implosion of the Democrats in 2016.  

And as we all know, the Democrats have yet to recover, at least at the national level, from the pitiful failure of Hillary Rodham Clinton in her quest for the Democratic nomination in 2016. The story of Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s decisive defeat of Clinton in the primary has been told in other places, but here we can note that the biggest beneficiary of Clinton’s humiliation was, ultimately, Jeb.  

Yet even so, Jeb had a surprisingly hard time winning the presidency in the November general election.  Notably, he seemed inordinately determined to defend the controversial policies of both his father, President George H.W. Bush, and his brother, President George W. Bush. In particular, Jeb was eager to defend both the pledge-breaking tax increase of Bush 41 and the Iraq war of Bush 43. Jeb’s stubborn display of family loyalty was admired by some, but it was disdained by many. (Jeb, of course, refused to take a similar anti-tax pledge in 2016, thus, as we remember, fully keeping his options open in the White House.) 

However, Jeb’s faltering 2016 candidacy was saved by the quasi-endorsement that he received from Bill Clinton on the eve of the election; the former president’s warm words–in which he seemed to speak, as well, for Hillary–proved decisive in bringing many “Clinton Democrats” into Jeb’s camp.    

And of course, Clinton’s assistance during the campaign opened the door to a flood of Clinton people joining the new Bush administration, and to the emergence of a “Bushton”–that is, “Bush” and “Clinton”–governing ideology. Indeed, as we later learned, it was more than a Freudian slip when Bush 43 referred to Hillary as a “sister-in-law” back in 2014; members of the once-rival families did, in fact, marry each other, as well as work together, during Jeb’s presidency.  

Thus Jeb Bush was able to defeat Elizabeth Warren in the 2016 election. Yes, Jeb had to deal with an insurgent third party on the right, but he shrewdly chose former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee as his 2016 running mate, and that choice tamped down much of the conservative opposition. (As we recall, Huckabee never really fit in with Team Bush, and he was dropped from the ticket when Jeb ran for re-election in 2020, being replaced by Rob Portman, the former Ohio senator.) 

Of course, the big issue in Jeb’s first term was the full implementation of Barack Obama’s amnesty plan for illegal aliens–oops, under the new law, we are required now to refer to them only as migrants. As early as December 2014, it was evident that massive numbers of illegals would seek to gain the benefits of the Obama amnesty, and that process continued during the 2016 campaign and during the Bush 45 presidency. Jeb’s oft-repeated observation–that migrants came to the US as an “act of love”–played poorly among traditional Republican voters.  

The result, of course, was a huge decline of support in traditionally Republican precincts; as we know, the Democrats recaptured the Senate in 2016 and the House in 2018. As a result, the presidency of Bush 45 came to resemble the presidency of Bush 41–that is, a weak chief executive dominated by a Democratic Congress.  

In the White House, Jeb did his best to follow pro-business policies, but at every turn, his efforts were checked by the Congressional Democrats. Eventually, as we know, Jeb gave up; not only did he agree to a substantial tax increase, but he signed on to what became known as Amnesty 3.0.    

The result of the new amnesty, as we remember, was further social convulsion, as millions more migrants poured in across the border. And in Middle America, gun sales skyrocketed; new Hispanic citizens, in fact, have been among the most enthusiastic gun-buyers. Moreover, as we know, the murder rate in the US has soared; “law and order” has became a key national theme–even if neither national party has been able to provide it.  

Interestingly, for all their strength at the Congressional level, the Democrats were unable to develop strength at the presidential level–they were too far to the left. So while huge percentages of the American people told pollsters that they thought that the country was going in the wrong direction under Jeb, the Democrats still failed, because they did not present a plausible national alternative. 

Indeed, the three power brokers that emerged in the Democratic Party after 2016 were New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio, civil rights activist and TV host Al Sharpton, and Green billionaire Tom Steyer. Under the influence of this left-wing troika, Democrats badly overplayed their hand on class warfare, anti-police protests, and “climate change” activism. As a result, the Democrats were relegated to the far left and were badly defeated in the 2020 presidential election.   

President Bush was not popular, but the Democrats were even less popular.  

In fact, in that 2020 election, President Bush himself faced an insurgent challenge from within his own Republican Party. Yet after four years in office, he had perfected the strategy of mobilizing the nueva coalición on his behalf, and so he breezed to renomination and re-election.    

So today, after eight years of Bush III, America is a profoundly different country. As noted, the US population is now more than 400 million; Hispanics long ago eclipsed African Americans as the “main minority.” Indeed, today, Hispanics serve as the governors of such mega-states as Arizona, California, Florida, and Texas, bringing with them their own unique style of populist politics.   

Today, it is often said of the United States of America that it is no longer united, not really a state, and barely American–unless one also counts Latin America.   

But of course, that’s been the Bush Family Dream for decades: The New World Order is here


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