There’s plenty of buzz today about a New York Times report that Jeb Bush, in his 2009 voter registration form, marked “Hispanic” in the field labeled “race/ethnicity.” According to the Times, a Bush spokeswoman could offer no explanation for this self-identification.
I can offer one, albeit tentatively: Bush identifies so strongly with Hispanics that, at some level, he views himself as one.
I don’t think that Bush intended to deceive any third party. Whom would he have deceived and for what purpose? But for reasons set forth below, I doubt that this was a random error. To me, it seems more like a Freudian slip.
Both Jeb Bush and Barack Obama are men who have openly and publicly struggled with their ambivalence about their family inheritance. Both responded by leaving the place of their youth to create new identities for themselves: Barack Obama, as an organizer in the poor African-American neighborhoods of Chicago; Jeb Bush in Mexico, Venezuela, and at last in Cuban-influenced Miami.
Both are men who have talked a great deal about the feeling of being “between two worlds”: Obama, in his famous autobiography; Bush, in his speeches. Both chose wives who would more deeply connect them to their new chosen identity.
Both derived from their new identity a sharp critique of their nation as it is. Both have built their campaign for president upon a deep commitment to fundamental transformation of their nation into what they believe it should be.
In February, Frum’s article struck me as insightful. In April, it seems prescient.
Frum raised the issue of Bush’s self-identification in the context of discussing the former governor’s view on immigration. Frum argued:
Jeb Bush’s enthusiasm for immigration, even when the immigrants are unskilled, even if they break the law, goes so deep that he even sometimes ventures to suggest that the personal characteristics of immigrants are to be preferred over those of the native-born. . . .
He seems to think that there is some quality in the immigrants themselves that is more enterprising—more dynamic to use his favorite term—than native-born Americans. This is not only a positive judgment on the immigrants themselves. It is also a negative judgment on native-born Americans.
They say there is nothing quite like the zeal of the convert. Jeb Bush, I fear, may be a case in point.