At first I thought Jeb Bush looked pathetic in last week’s GOP debate. He was bullied, attacked, and shouted down by his muscular opponents. Worthless paramecium Rand Paul must have wiped his teeny tiny brow and went “whew” on seeing that the big boys on stage were picking on someone else for a change.
I thought this because I saw the former governor through the eyes of a 30-year veteran of the political scene who is also a man. Yes, most men saw in Jeb a weak failure crawling in vain towards relevancy and away from danger. But what if, despite being a Beltway thought leader for several decades now, my vantage-point actually has limits?
Often, I will decide to guess what voters unlike me might have seen from this performance. Based on my personal experience, my gut tells me that the sad feeling deep in Jeb’s gut when Becky Quick of CNBC told him to shut his mouth might have actually resonated with average voters who have endured “Mean Girls”-style social games from the more popular cheerleader types. In Jeb, I surmised that maybe some didn’t see a stammering, incomplete candidate. Maybe they saw themselves.
Jeb is the one who can barely hold back tears during a two-hour work meeting. The one who was “ghosted” by an old “hook-up” (backstabbing Bush protégé Marco Rubio). The office mate with some good ideas, like Social Security means testing, who nonetheless gets shut out and humiliated because his voice isn’t loud enough or heels aren’t high enough. In short, by losing the debate might Jeb have connected with some voters big-time?
In my personal experiences, women have wanted a damaged creature they can reassure. The women in my life have craved a barely self-sufficient mess whom they could unleash their nurturing motherly instincts on. They didn’t want a boisterous warrior like Donald Trump. So, common sense dictates, maybe these same women would want a limping runt like Jeb.
If I may get creative, here’s what I imagine to be the inner monologue of many voters watching Jeb’s debate performance:
Hey, leave him alone. Just because he’s soft and feeble and lonely doesn’t give you the right to endlessly pick on him. I know he’s awkward and weird and often reeks of chocolate and lard, but I think he’s really just misunderstood. He may be quiet but deep down he’s probably a sensitive soul with great ideas about private school vouchers and raising the retirement age. And just because he’s never been given the chance to do the deed doesn’t mean he’s a bad lover. He’s probably a generous lover, and a brilliant poet, someone who would read you the passionate poetry he’s written over weeks of admiring you from afar right before focusing on your needs for minutes on end. Inside him is a well of pent-up energy and an incisive knowledge of the anatomy gleaned from intensive study of internet resources. He deserves the chance to prove himself. And maybe… maybe I should give him that chance!
In the next few months, I expect many voters to nurture this sensitive political scion, coddling his head in their laps, feeding him sympathy and votes. One thing’s for sure: Jeb’s weakness may just end up being his strength.
Carl “The Dig” Diggler has covered national politics for 30 years, and is the author of “Think-ocracy: The Rise Of The Brainy Congressman”. Got a question for the Dig? E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or Tweet to @carl_diggler.