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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The Jeb “Boom” and the Extraordinary Narcissism of Republican Elites

One of the more striking phenomena associated with the oncoming 2016 presidential cycle is the contrast between the massive enthusiasm for former Florida governor Jeb Bush in elite GOP circles and its notable absence anywhere else. But said elites are sometimes blinded by narcissism, and deafened by the puffery of their most prominent tribune, Mark Halperin (now with Bloomberg Politics), who wrote a much-mocked column on the world-historical potential of the Bush boom. I commented on this phenomenon earlier this week at Washington Monthly:

Mark Halperin is one of the most famous, and certainly one of the most richly remunerated, journalists in Christendom–yet is capable of writing graph after graph and page after page of palpable nonsense, expressing not only an indifference to but an active defiance of any objective evidence that transcends the “insider” information he purveys. But the problem here is in considering Halperin a “journalist” in the normal meaning of the term. His niche is to serve as a courtier and a vanity mirror for what Digby so aptly labeled The Village, the small group of elite beltway-centered movers and shakers who want to form the political world in their own image. He writes what Villagers want to read, and is rewarded with unequaled access to their most avaricious thoughts and intentions. And because they do matter in politics, albeit not as much as they would wish, there is a sort of “journalism” going on, but not of the sort that should be taken seriously as reflecting the broader world where activists, constituency groups, and, you know, actual voters have a little something to say about who governs them.
Back when he was flattering and pandering his way to insider influence at The Note, Halperin did a lot to popularize the concept of “the invisible primary,” the elite-dominated pre-election period when presidential candidates seek the money and influence necessary to mount a successful campaign. He remains adept at following that process, but only through the fun-house mirror of his subjects’ wildly inflated self-esteem. Republican insiders are frustrated that the GOP and the entire political system aren’t joining them in a plaintive wail for a third Bush presidency, so in a faithful reproduction of His Master’s Voice Halperin pens a column combining The Village’s ridiculously distorted idea of Jeb’s power and glory with the incredible phenomenon that America might be denied his services.

Personally, I think the acid test for Jeb Bush is whether he’s capable of looking beyond his elite support to the difficult realities of winning a presidential nomination. If he does, though, he probably won’t run.

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