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By Greg Smith

One down, Jeb to go.

Thankfully, Mitt Romney has dropped any plans he had for a third run for the White House. Now, the GOP needs to tell another pillar of softer, gentler Republicanism he is not the right person for the presidency.

I like Jeb Bush in the same way I like Romney. Both seem like nice guys who have been willing to run for public office and take the requisite public lashings. Both seem genuine and intelligent, maybe people I’d want to go camping with. But both have a fatal flaw if viewed through the prism of the Republican presidential nomination.

The biggest chink in Jeb’s armor is his continued support of Common Core, the federal government’s latest attempt to graft higher standards onto the states’ public school systems. Common Core reminds me of something Will Rogers once said about another major social innovation that promised to use activist government to improve people’s lives: “Communism is like prohibition, it’s a good idea but it won’t work.”

Rogers could tell Communism couldn’t work because it was too complicated and contradicted basic human nature. The Red Menace was based on what sounded nice — what sounded nice quickly turned genocidal — rather than what is. We saw the same in No Child Left Behind, and Race to the Top, two bold education initiatives that after billions of dollars spent made as big a difference as a sno-cone dropped in Lake Michigan. Any positive effect they provided was tiny compared to their cost. Money from these types of programs could instead be used for something as simple and effective as limiting class size. America’s post-war history is littered with these types of projects that were too radical and invasive to improve the status quo for the long term, instead wasting precious resources in the short term.

In 2008, it became apparent early on the McCain-Palin ticket was adrift when Sarah Palin was explaining in an interview how a McCain administration planned to pay for some new programs by eliminating waste in current programs. What is wrong with controlling waste? The most basic notion behind American conservatism is the government is inherently wasteful and it cannot be controlled because every penny government spends is free money to someone. If government waste can be controlled, there is no reason for fiscal conservatism.

In that vein, any belief by Jeb Bush that Common Core can positively impact education in America says one of two things about him: Either he is willing to overlook a basic truism to appeal to more voters – I don’t believe this to be the case – or he lacks a basic understanding on the limits of government effectiveness.

If the GOP can’t finally find a nominee who both understands the limits on government capabilities and offer an effective platform within that sphere, it may be time to look for a Grand New Party.

Greg Smith is a freelance writer and political consultant who lives in Bantam, CT. His blog is found at http://www.betterfatthanfascist.com


GOP & the Common Core