You can explain the candidacy of Jeb Bush not by asking why he lost but by asking why he ever ran.
I don’t know how many of the major GOP donors are literally billionaires. But it is clear that there is a group that has a lot of money and uses it to sponsor Republican candidates. The candidacy of Jeb Bush made it clear, therefore, that this group 1) has interests and/or values that are much different than those of the majority of Republican voters, and 2) does not understand what the majority of Republican voters want.
Far be it from me to agree with Bernie Sanders, but what we saw in the candidacy of Jeb Bush seems to represent a huge divide in the GOP, and it at least correlates with a wealth gap.
Listen to the New York Times:
When Jeb Bush formally entered the presidential campaign in June, there was already more money behind him than every other Republican candidate combined. When he suspended his campaign on Saturday night in South Carolina, Mr. Bush had burned through the vast majority of that cash without winning a single state. It may go down as one of the least successful campaign spending binges in history.
The amount listed in the headline is $130 million. That money did not all come from the Bush dynastic fortune. A lot of it came from other rich donors. Let us assume they did not intend to throw away $130 million. That means they must have thought they had a shot at getting what they paid for: At least the nomination of Jeb Bush.
So they must have thought one of two things:
- We like Jeb Bush and a majority of voters will like him too, but we’d better spend $130 million to set him apart from the other candidates.
- We like Jeb Bush and, with $130 million, we can get the majority of voters to like anyone we choose.
Either they misjudged what the majority of voters wanted or they misjudged how easily the majority of voters could be manipulated. No matter which scenario is accurate, they had no clue how the majority of Republican voters think or what they feel. They proved their collective cluelessness by blowing a huge wad of cash on the candidacy of Jeb Bush.
And if the donor class is so ignorant of the mind of Republican voters, then it is likely that most Republican politicians in Congress are ignorant of the mind of Republican voters as well. Remember what David Frum wrote about the rise of Donald Trump:
As a class, big Republican donors could not see any of this, or would not. So neither did the politicians who depend upon them.
What the candidacy of Jeb Bush proves to us is what we’ve suspected all along. The grassroots Republican base counts for very little with the Republican donor class. Thus, the base counts for very little with most of the Republican politicians they elect to office.