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Jeb Bush And The Return of “Compassionate Conservatism”

On Tuesday, Jeb Bush revealed more than the name of new leadership PAC (The Right to Rise). In five paragraphs, he also outlined his rationale as a presidential candidate – if he does indeed run for the White House.

  • He talked about the need for economic mobility ("to move up the income ladder based on merit, hard work and earned success -- is the central moral promise of American economic life");
  • He mentioned the need to fix the nation's immigration system;
  • He talked about educational choice and accountability;
  • He embraced diversity ("We will not cede an inch of territory — no issues, no demographic groups, no voters");
  • And he emphasized the need to do all of these things through conservative ideas ("We believe in the transformative power of conservative ideas to renew America").

Now many of these phrases are standard operating procedure for most politicians. Who's against economic mobility? Who's against educational accountability? Even President Obama supports fixing the nation's immigration system.

The ideas here also are vague. How do you exactly create economic opportunity? What does fixing the immigration system entail?

But strikingly, Bush's mission statement here sounds a lot like his brother George W. Bush's "Compassionate Conservative" platform during his 2000 presidential campaign.

  • Here was George W. Bush on economic opportunity in his 2000 convention speech: "We will extend the promise of prosperity to every forgotten corner of this country."
  • Here was George W. Bush on immigrants and diversity: "Everyone, from immigrant to entrepreneur, has an equal claim on this country's promise."
  • Here was George W. Bush on education: "Too many American children are segregated into schools without standards, shuffled from grade-to-grade because of their age, regardless of their knowledge. This is discrimination, pure and simple -- the soft bigotry of low expectations."
  • And here was George W. Bush on doing these things through compassionate ideas -- or compassionate conservatism: "It is to put conservative values and conservative ideas into the thick of the fight for justice and opportunity."

So if Jeb Bush’s outline is any guide, you could expect his domestic goals and platforms to look similar to his brother’s.

Of course, this raises the question whether this is what today’s Republican Party and conservative movement want – a question that probably won’t be decided at least a year from now.