Chris Timmons: Thanks for the visit, Jeb. Now go home

Usually, Republicans get a pat on the back for just being brave enough to speak at a black organization’s annual meeting or conference.

So we must give Jeb Bush the obligatory props for deigning to speak to an overwhelmingly black crowd at the National Urban League recently.

Unlike former GOP presidential nominee and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 2012, Bush was not booed. That’s an advance of sorts.

But can we say Bush’s rhetoric was an advance from prior GOP presidential nominees, including his brother, and what that means?

On the first point, no. Nor was it expected. On the second, it means that Bush’s conservative vision for Black America is that same old combination of ignorance and antagonism.

In his Urban League speech, Bush went over the various accomplishments as Florida’s governor that would make him an attractive candidate for blacks: education reform (a voucher program, ending social promotion, colorblind admissions for college entry), a high number of blacks appointed in his administration, bringing child support collections into the 21st century, and in the service of black single mothers.

As for what to look for in a possible Jeb Bush administration, there wasn’t much worth lingering over: restore respect and harmony between those offended by the hubris of America’s “vital institutions”, i.e., the police; he will dare boldly for a 4 percent annual growth rate for the national economy; reassert the primacy of the family as the bulwark against black poverty and immorality, which has accelerated over the course of 50 years because of well-meaning, but bungled liberal programs (War on Poverty), according to Bush.

If this is what the “Right to Rise” looks like, then Republicans will be waiting for a long time for black support. Better to bet on the Tampa Bay Rays having stellar seasons.

The problem with this speech was not only its vacuity, its indecency, its profound ignorance, and its tiresome resort to right-wing cliché, it betrays the real Jeb: He is arrogant but in the guise of being sincere.

Oh, thanks for throwing that tiresome trope that the black family is the great inhibitor of black progress. But like all cultural prognostications that come with badly built assumptions, it ignores that obvious reality standing in front of it.

For instance, the black middle class often is at risk of retreating into poverty during bad economic cycles. Yes, the black middle class — doing everything right and still falling behind.

That makes it an economic problem that goes beyond whether there’s a husband and wife in the household. It makes it something more than the fault of the black underclass (oh, the crudities of social science!).

On the same day, Democratic Party presidential contender Hillary Clinton gave a speech to the same National Urban League, and she was bit more specific: It is largely “systemic racism” keeping blacks behind.

One has to admire Clinton’s familiarity with sociological jargon, but that too, is an easy scapegoat.

Alas, one can litigate the matter ad nauseam.

The point remains that Bush has not thought outside of conservative banalities, which suggests that Bush, in fact, rejects the notion that blacks are complex humans (politically and culturally speaking, one adds) and that problems that arise from complex historical circumstances requiring more than slogans in order to address them seriously.

Another miss for Bush. Another miss for the GOP vision.

But, yes, thanks for stopping by.

Chris Timmons is a writer living in Tampa. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

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