John Ellis Bush has formally announced his 2016 campaign to bring another Bush to the White House. He's banking on the amnesia of the American people, hoping we've already forgotten his brother's catastrophic presidency. Now that the Republican party's Great Establishment Hope has entered the crowded field of candidates it raises the question: What, exactly, are Bush and the other GOP presidential contenders actually going to "debate?"
All of them (including Bush) agree on handing over the largest share possible of the country's resources and public assets to private corporations and banks. All of them (including Bush) want to shred the social safety net and privatize or slash Social Security. All of them want to bust labor unions, especially teachers unions, and privatize public education in the name of "school choice."
They all favor "free trade" deals that outsource American jobs and balloon the trade deficit. All (but one) of them want to bomb or invade any nation in the world deemed a "threat." None of them see global climate change as requiring urgent measures to move the world away from fossil fuels.
They don't particularly like women's reproductive rights. They're against net neutrality and the Affordable Care Act. They've vowed never to pass a new tax on the rich or corporations. They despise the EPA, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. They're against any federal debt relief for student loans. They're against raising the minimum wage (and some of them don't even believe in the concept).
So what in terms of public policy is left to "debate?"
Even John Ellis Bush's strong point -- immigration reform -- is phony. Although the Bushes are good at pretending they care about immigrants, their economic policies always end up tearing apart the federal supports that might make the lives of immigrants a little bit better. (And the Republican base still responds positively to tough talk on immigration like we heard from Representative Steve King of Iowa who claimed that Mexican migrants had "calves the size of cantaloupes because they're hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.")
In the upcoming performance art piece called the GOP presidential debates the candidates will try to one-up each other showing their base who's best at crushing labor unions, disciplining the poor, and striking fear in the hearts of America's enemies.
They will cater to the same instincts of fear and anger that Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, and Fox News inflame each and every day. CNN and the rest of the enablers in the corporate media will wrap these would-be emperors in embroidered finery. They will muddy the public's ability to comprehend that the GOP's public policy "debate" rests on the discredited and illegitimate assumptions of Reaganomics and "American exceptionalism."
The "free market" prescriptions this farcical crop of GOP candidates offer are not even close to the kinds of reforms that are needed if we are to begin to alleviate the country's metastasizing social, political, and economic disorders.
Instead of giving the nation serious policy proposals that might make a difference in the lives of ordinary Americans, the GOP in recent years has devolved into using tricks and gimmicks to seek or maintain political power and to further enrich its billionaire paymasters.
All the Republican candidates (and even some "Democrats") advocate "school choice," which is a trick to gut public education, destroy teachers unions, and take money out of Democratic Party coffers.
Republican foreign policy is still just rebranded neo-con unilateralism. All of the candidates (except Rand Paul) want to pour even more tax dollars into the military industrial complex.
None of them have a health care plan worthy of the name, unless you believe repealing the Affordable Care Act is a health care plan.
All the GOP candidates love the H-1B visas that corporations like Disney are exploiting to "insource" personnel from India and other countries to replace American tech workers with cheaper alternatives.
Of late the GOP's cause celebre has been its battle against non-existent "voter fraud," which justifies systematic voter suppression. Reading the demographic tealeaves, Republican legislatures have institutionalized a number of clever and insidious ways to make it more difficult to vote for poor people, blacks, Latinos, and college students (all likely Democratic voters).
A partisan Republican majority on the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision to gut key provisions of the 1965 Voting Right Act, thereby opening the floodgates for voter suppression. The Voting Rights Act was intended to block exactly the kind of voter suppression tricks the GOP is now employing. (And if "in-person" voting fraud is such an epidemic why aren't the Republicans busting out the purple dye like they did for the Iraqi elections they cared so much about?)
The high court's Citizens United and McCutcheon rulings (both 5-4 decisions) are tricks that tilted the political playing field away from ordinary voters and toward the wealthiest individuals and corporations.
Purging voter rolls and restricting access to voting machines in heavily Democratic districts worked like a charm for George W. in 2000 in Florida and in 2004 in Ohio.
The "fiscal cliffs," "budget sequestration," and government shutdowns are all tricks that put the nation at risk to further Republican political power. Withholding federal spending on infrastructure so President Barack Obama doesn't get credit for improving the nation's roads, trains, and bridges is a trick. Holding up Obama's judicial appointments and abusing the filibuster are tricks.
Lying the nation into a $3 trillion war in Iraq was an elaborate and costly trick that took place when the Republicans controlled the federal government. The mortgage bubble and the biggest financial collapse since the Great Depression came at a time when the Speaker of the House was Dennis Hastert (an alleged pedophile and felon); the Senate Majority Leader was Bill Frist (a health care profiteer); and the president was George W. (a war criminal).
In 2008, John McCain used a gimmick named Sarah Palin. Putting an anti-choice gun-toting female on the ticket was supposed to blunt the identity politics of an election where the Democrats nominated the first-ever African American candidate. (It didn't work out that time. But the Republicans can't escape the fact they put an imbecile a heartbeat away from the presidency just because they believed it gave them a political edge.)
And when the public finally catches on to the fact they've been fooled, the GOP and its enablers in the corporate media have moved on and are ready to pull off a hundred new tricks.
In 2016, the only real debate worth watching is between Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Hillary Rodham Clinton. Say what you will about both candidates' strengths and weaknesses, at least they're proposing real policies instead of tricks and gimmicks.
John Ellis Bush -- a scion from a wealthy family always ready to rule -- running for president in 2016, given the devastation his brother left behind in 2009, is perhaps the cruelest trick of them all.