05/09/2014 10:25 pm ET Updated Jul 09, 2014

Jeb's Love Revolution

Hillary Clinton's January 2017 coronation has been complicated by Jeb Bush's love revolution --his recent, public, admission that the undocumented among us are not all criminal miscreants. The former Florida governor said that many people who cross into the United States without proper documentation do so out of an act of "love"; out of a genuine desire to support family and loved ones living here and abroad.

Of course, we completely agree with former first lady Barbara Bush: "We've had enough Bush's." But we're not willing to predict what a fickle America electorate will think in two years' time. We do know that Hispanics are playing an increasingly important role in national elections and in a few critical swing states -- Florida, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and Virginia -- the party that can most effectively motivate Hispanics can certainly win the White House in 2016.

Right now, Republicans have a terrible record with Hispanics. The Republican-led House of Representatives has blocked all efforts at reasonable, conservative comprehensive immigration reform and the party has, for more than a decade, stalled "Dream Act" legislation. The "Dream Act" would allow youngsters who arrived here in the arms of their parents to pursue a pathway to U.S. citizenship after graduation from high school. Republicans have repeatedly struck down all such reasonable legislation with three terror-inspiring words that form the crux of their talking points on this issue: "Amnesty for lawbreakers." But we all know that babies, and/or children who move with their families cannot and should not be singled out as "lawbreakers." Little children do not break laws. If they do, then the laws themselves are broken.

The second Bush, George W. Bush, understood something about Hispanics that has been forgotten by the party he once led: They matter. Mr. Bush, as Governor of Texas, knew that Latinos or Hispanics occupy a significant space in the state's history, culture and future. He tried to speak some Spanish, he campaigned as a friendly, folksy Texan (even though he was born in ...Connecticut) and his informality won him style points by contrast to his competitors in the 2000 and 2004 presidential races -- the wonky Al Gore, the stiff, cerebral John Kerry. As president, Mr. Bush hosted his first White House State Dinner for Mexican President Vicente Fox. Bush pushed for a comprehensive immigration reform package that looks downright radical by comparison to the Senate Bill that passed in 2013 and is stalled right now in the Republican-led House of Representatives.

If the Republican Party wants to compete nationally, they'll have to make amends with Hispanics. They can do this by channeling a few initiatives of the George W. Bush presidency; they can also start using the word "love" rather than the words they love to use: deportation, illegals and lawbreakers. They can start treating the Latinos amongst us with kindness, human dignity and respect.

Hispanics, documented and undocumented, are concerned with the same political themes as all people living in this country: They want their kids to have expanding opportunity by attending safe, excellent, well-funded schools. They want to be able to work and earn money to support families here and abroad, and they want access to decent medical treatment for themselves and their kids in the event of injury or unforeseen illness.

Jeb Bush's love revolution is a sound strategy for 2016. He's running for president but we don't know how he'll sustain the love in the months ahead. His party is not in a particularly loving mood these days -- in fact, many in Mr. Bush's party harbor open hatred toward Hispanics, if the recent rash of anti-immigrant state laws in Georgia, Alabama and Arizona are any indication.

If Jeb Bush can steer his party from a state of irrational anti-Hispanic fear and panic to a more serene state of comprehension -- to love those around us -- he might win the presidency in 2016. Barbara is right: we've had enough Bush's, but love is a more powerful, sublime motivator than hate, something Jeb Bush seems to intuitively understand.