Jeb Bush: GOP needs to stop being the ‘anti’ party

March 15, 2013

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush (R) on Friday night offered an extensive vision for the Republican Party's future, arguing that America is on the cusp of greatness even as its economic problems persist.

But in order for Republicans to take advantage of that opportunity and lead the nation going forward, he said, the party needs to stop being defined by what it's against.

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"Way too many people believe Republicans are anti-immigrant, anti-woman, anti-science, anti-gay, anti-worker," Bush said during his speech at the Ronald Reagan Dinner at the Conservative Political Action Conference in suburban Washington. "And the list goes on and on and on. Many voters are simply unwilling to choose our candidates even though they share our core beliefs because those voters feel unloved, unwanted and unwelcome in our party."

Bush then became the latest party leader to suggest that Republicans need to separate themselves from the kind of rhetoric contained in Mitt Romney's "47 percent" remarks, in which the former GOP presidential candidate argued that nearly half the country was reliant on government services and wouldn't vote Republican.

As with people like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Bush didn't mention Romney by name, but the context was clear.

"Never again can the Republican Party simply write off entire segments of our society because we assume our principles have limited appeal," Bush said. "They have broad appeal. And we need to be larger than that."

Bush began his speech by making his case for why America is on the verge of becoming even greater, pointing to advances in technology and inherent advantages over other countries.

"Americans have the sense that our economy is fragile, its rewards are unfairly tilted towards the few, and that the greatest prosperity in this century will be enjoyed by other people in other lands and not by our own children," Bush said. "But tonight I’m here to tell you that this conclusion is 100 percent wrong."

Bush mentioned driverless cars, three-dimensional printing machines and American-made robots that are replacing Chinese labor. He said energy independence is within reach and said "America will be the Saudi Arabia of grain" as other countries struggle to feed their people in the coming decades.

But he argued that America's debt stands in the way of that greatness, and that Republicans are responsible for overcoming that very large hindrance.

"There is a very dark cloud on the horizon," he said. "All of these advantages are at risk if the federal government continues on its arc of irresponsibility."

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.
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