Artur Davis on the GOP Primary Field

I’m really proud that NRO is publishing Artur Davis, who does a far better job of making the case against the Obama administration than all but a small handful of Republicans. In a column making the case that the GOP should draft Jeb Bush, Davis offers the following aside: 

One doesn’t have to subscribe to Gingrich’s Manichean rhetoric to concede that an Obama sweep would, for the first time in 76 years, institute government-centered, redistributionist economics as the country’s central governing philosophy. It would be, after all, the agenda that Obama and congressional Democrats had campaigned on, in contrast to the deliberately muted, ideologically vague platforms that elected Carter, Clinton, and Obama in 2008; or the growth-oriented, business friendly liberalism that JFK and LBJ embodied.

He also identifies Jeb Bush’s virtues, and how the former Florida governor might redefine the GOP:

His brand of reform-oriented conservatism might actually be his party’s only pathway: Unlike Romney, whose leadership of Massachusetts produced one signature achievement — a hodgepodge of a health-care law that he likely wishes he could take back — Bush’s legacy is an issue that Republicans ought to own but are ignoring, education reform. He also turned Florida into a national laboratory for controlling health-care costs and reining in medical tort liability, both soft spots in Obama’s record.

At the same time, Bush has revealed a capacity for coalition-building that has eluded Gingrich. He is a hero of the conservative base who has had remarkable electoral appeal to Jewish and Hispanic voters. He combines support for a modified version of the DREAM Act with backing stronger border security — a middle ground that is both tough-minded and assimilationist — and happens to be entering his fourth decade of marriage to a Hispanic woman. It goes without saying that Bush gives Republicans the best shot of removing Florida from the Democratic column, and winning states with a strong Latino presence such as Arizona and Colorado.

The fact is that Jeb Bush bent Florida, a famously interest-group-ridden state, in a rightward direction; that’s an accomplishment Romney can’t begin to claim vis-à-vis Massachusetts. Bush is not just an authentic movement conservative, but a groundbreaker on an array of issues that drive votes, such as accountability for teachers and reining in the costs of private health insurance. While his record has blemishes that Democrats would exploit, from his stint in the Eighties lobbying for southern-Florida business interests to his ill-timed tenure at Lehman Brothers in 2007, this Bush is an adept, articulate campaigner who is unlikely to be tied in knots defending his history.

Davis’s implicit prescription for Republicans in 2012 is to focus on education reform, controlling health care costs, and finding a coherent middle ground on immigration. Though I imagine I might disagree with Davis on some of the details, this is very sound. Controlling health care costs, for example, relates directly to very real concerns about sluggish wage and household income growth, and Republicans can make a decent case that shifting the liability for cost growth from the privately insured to taxpayers isn’t exactly a sustainable solution to the underlying problem. 

If there really is resistance among Alabama Republicans to embracing Davis as one of their own, Alabama Republicans are doing the country a serious disservice.

Reihan Salam — Reihan Salam is executive editor of National Review and a National Review Institute policy fellow.

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