Jeb Bush Nomination Will Foster GOP Inclusivity

Machmud Makhmudov, Columnist

In 2012, the year that I turned 18, I proudly cast my first official vote for President Obama. Last summer, I supported and worked for Michelle Nunn, the Georgia Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate. And as I consider all of the potential candidates for next year’s presidential election, I can’t imagine voting for anybody but a Democrat. That being said, I truly believe that there are few things more important to ensuring the future vibrancy of America’s social and political institutions than Jeb Bush ending up the Republican nominee for president in 2016.

Of course, I don’t hope that Bush — who had a very conservative tenure during his two terms as the governor of Florida — actually ends up as the commander-in-chief. From domestic energy expansion to economic trade to taxation and nearly every other policy issue, I disagree with his views. But on the issue of immigration reform, Bush is a breath of fresh air in a Republican Party that at times doesn’t even pretend to be inclusive of minority voters and citizens. By becoming the nominee, he could be a transformative leader within the GOP and shift the Party’s line on immigrants and minorities towards a more humane and compassionate dialogue.

Bush supports reforming America’s immigration system so that a sizable portion of undocumented immigrants would be provided the legal status to allow them to remain in the country. This is a strong contrast to the far right-wing voices of the Republican Party that call for the swift, indiscriminate deportation of undocumented immigrants living in the United States. Due to the outsized influence of the Tea Party, several Republican presidential candidates vying for conservative voters will likely adopt this aggressive approach.

In the eyes of the voters, the biggest difference between Bush and his GOP competitors, however, doesn’t have to do with the gritty details of policy proposals. The biggest difference is in tone. Bush correctly recognizes and argues that many undocumented immigrants cross the border “not [as] a felony” but as “an act of love.” He’s taken on some of the more racist factions of his party by saying that “it shouldn’t rile people up that people are actually coming to this country to provide for their families.”

Contrast this with the message of GOP Congressman Steve King of Iowa, a prominent power broker in the presidential nomination process. King recently caught criticism for referring to First Lady Michelle Obama’s invited guest at the State of the Union address, an undocumented immigrant, as a “deportable” on Twitter. Donald Trump, a GOP booster and everybody’s favorite reality show talking wig, responded to Bush’s comments by saying, “Half of [undocumented immigrants] are criminals; they’re coming for love?”

Needless to say, this kind of rhetoric isn’t garnering much support for the GOP in minority communities where individuals have recently immigrated, have family or friends who may be undocumented, or see the implicitly racist undertones that afflict some factions of the Party. Racial stratification along party lines is clear. In 2012, nine out of ten voters for Mitt Romney were white. The 2014 midterm elections saw African American and Latino voters prefer Democrats to Republicans by 90 percent to 9 percent and 64 percent to 34 percent margins, respectively. Given the outspokenness of figures like King, Trump and Sarah Palin, these trends will likely continue in the short term.

It’s twisted for one political party to be structurally incapable of seriously competing for a majority of minority voters, especially since America will be seeing a radical transformation across political, social and economic fronts over the next few decades due to demographic changes. Even as a proud Democrat, I’ll readily admit that there are and will continue to be Republican policy ideas that at the very least merit consideration and debate. As former President Bill Clinton said at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, “Nobody’s right all of the time, and even a broken clock is right twice a day.” But it’s hard to have a meaningful debate between two political parties when one doesn’t even pretend to like you.

That’s why Jeb Bush needs to wrest control of the Republican Party away from the racist factions that currently dictate the tone of the immigration debate. In the long run, it could push his party to pursue more humane policies on immigration. If he’s successful in doing so, Bush should be proud; he’ll have strengthened democracy in America and made our social institutions more inclusive for our next president of the United States, Hillary Clinton.