Jeb Bush's massive whiff

The ex-Florida governor tried to assuage conservatives, but only made things much worse

Published June 14, 2013 9:03PM (EDT)

Speaking at the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference in Washington this morning, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush urged the social conservatives in the audience to support comprehensive immigration reform because, "Immigrants are more fertile, and they love families, and they have more intact families, and they bring a younger population." Without immigrants, he explained, the country's population will decline and the economy will suffer.

The comments were immediately explosive, ricocheting around the blogosphere and drawing strong fire from conservatives. That was entirely predictable. Bush is partly right on the facts, but wrong on strategy. He's trying to sell immigration reform to skeptical conservatives, but instead ends up playing right into some of their biggest fears.

“Immigrants create far more businesses than native-born Americans,” Bush said. “Immigrants are more fertile, and they love families, and they have more intact families, and they bring a younger population. Immigrants create an engine of economic prosperity.”

Anti-immigration reform conservatives have never trusted Bush, thanks to his long push for "amnesty," and hardliners like Rep. Steve King and radio host Laura Ingraham beat up on the former Florida governor almost daily. Bush's goal today to win over that wing was to sell the economic benefits of immigration, but people who fear immigration reform aren't really worried about the economy as a whole, they're worried about how the economy will work for them. They worry that immigrants will take jobs, drive down wages, and deprive the native-born population of its political power.

So if you're already inclined to distrust Bush, and you're already worried about immigrants taking over the country and displacing the native native-born Americans, then Bush is basically confirming all your worst fears by telling you that he thinks immigrants are better than you: They're better at business, they're better a having families, they're more valuable to the economy -- they're even younger.

This is terrifying to you, especially when it comes on the heels of a report showing that white deaths outpaced white births for the first time, another bad omen for the teetering white establishment.

How Bush thought this would be effective political messaging is baffling. And the fact that he did helps explain why Bush has become so unpopular on the right and why he's losing the battle with his former protégé Marco Rubio to be the prohibitive frontrunner of 2016.

By Alex Seitz-Wald

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Immigration Immigration Reform Jeb Bush