But compared with today’s Republicans, on immigration he looks downright liberal. That isn’t a credit to him — it’s a huge mark against today’s GOP.
Bush expressed his support for DACA — the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — which gives undocumented people brought to the US as children a path to citizenship. He also proposed increasing the number of legal immigrants permitted to enter the country.
The bill didn’t pass, largely because Republicans were divided on it — a harbinger of things to come.
Today’s Republican Party, as Bush himself has noted, is as nationalist, xenophobic and nativist as any political movement has been in decades. Donald Trump has become the party’s head, even out of office (the GOP didn’t even have a platform in the last election, simply pledging allegiance to the whims of the mercurial former president). And Trump is not only intensively xenophobic, he proved himself terrifyingly willing to treat immigrants as if they were something less than human.
To be sure, Bush’s op-ed was far from progressive, and stopped well short of what just about any immigrant rights advocate would say is necessary. It’s a conservative proposal, and Bush is no radical, or even a liberal. But his proposal doesn’t dehumanize, insult or inflame resentment of immigrants — and how sad that we’re in a moment that dehumanization, insult and the inflaming of anti-immigrant sentiment is the GOP status quo.
There’s a temptation here to draw a clean line between the before-Trump GOP and the after-Trump GOP, as if Trump was an unforeseeable force that fundamentally changed the nature of the party. But that’s not true.
But Trump spoke the previously unspoken, and embraced the resentment not just as a path to power, but as a real battle cry. He drew what was previously intentionally obscured and denied to the center of his movement.
That Bush is now speaking out is certainly laudable, but also conveniently underplays his role in laying the groundwork upon which Trump built. Certainly Bush seems horrified by the end result — as we all should be. But while he’s pointing to the ugly thing his party has become, he should pause and reflect on his own contributions.