In Calling for Change, Jeb Should Stop Using "Liberal" as Dirty Word

Since appearing before Congress and lamenting the intolerance found in today's Republican Party, Jeb Bush is continuing to press his case, most recently in a National Review article entitled "The Grand Solutions Party."

Bush argues that President Obama has governed from a "One Ideology, One Party, and One Man" perspective -- "a centralized, planned, command-and-control government."

Bush suggests Republicans present an alternative governing style, one that embraces "policy experimentation and fresh approaches" and presents the GOP as the "party of competing ideas."

"It is time for the Republican party to offer an alternative. Not just an alternative to President Obama's agenda of liberal government, which is important to do. We need to present an alternative to his approach to governance in general. An approach that applies to every elected office."

For role models, Bush points to New Jersey's Gov. Chris Christie, Louisiana's Gov. Bobby Jindal and Indiana's Gov. Mitch Daniels. These leaders have successfully worked with Democrats on contentious issues, and have expressed divergent opinions on issues such as immigration and social policy.

"The animating force of this governance is diversity and creativity of thinking. And that is how the Republican Party should always be," Bush wrote.

While acknowledging that Republicans should continue to believe in an ideology that encompasses individual achievement and opportunity, and small government, he stressed that strict adherence to ideology is not always practical when attempting to resolve complicated issues.

"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."

Yet Bush's advocacy for open discussion and tolerance only goes so far.

It's how he uses that word "liberal" in associating the failures of Obama's reign. It sounds like a dogmatic slur word -- à la RINO -- and diminishes his call for the GOP to be more tolerant of differing philosophies and opinions.

In the political context, the term "Liberal" has undergone several revisions since the end of World War II and means different things to different people.

Within the Republican Party, which once had a very powerful liberal wing, the rabid, intolerant conservatism that Bush decries has succeeded in equating the word with extreme leftist ideologies such as socialism and Marxism.

In fact, Bush's description of Obama's reign in the White House as "One Ideology, One Party, and One Man" is more Orwellian than anything else.

For Bush to validate his message, he should be the first to stop using the buzzword "Liberal" in a derogatory manner.

Here's the bottom line: No matter what race, color, sex, or class -- and no matter what they call themselves -- most Americans are not moderates, which on its face disregards passionate belief. Rather, they are what I would call "liberal conservatives." They judge issues and causes case-by-case -- some liberal, some conservative -- informed by their personal upbringing, religion, beliefs and lifestyles.

In reality, there's a little liberal in every conservative, and a little conservative in every liberal.

Americans are disgusted with the control of both political parties by the extremes of the spectrum.

Bush is making a righteous argument for a paradigm change toward more dialogue, more compromise and more common sense.

To truly capture the hearts and minds of Americans, he just needs to be a little more liberal in how he speaks about change.

Published in Florida Voices on July 6, 2012

Steven Kurlander blogs at Kurly's Kommentary, writes a weekly column for Fort Lauderdale's Sun-Sentinel and Florida Voices, and is a South Florida communications strategist. Email him.

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