The impending end of the Bush political dynasty
The name Bush was once synonymous with Texas Republican politics. From George HW Bush’s eight years as Vice President (1981-89) and four years as President (1989-93) to George W. Bush’s six years as Governor of Texas (1994-2000) and eight years as president (2001-2009), no family comes close to the Bush family’s seriousness and influence within Texas Republican politics during this period.
In fact, many date the Texas GOP’s final rise to majority status to the defeat of Ann Richards by George W. Bush in the 1994 gubernatorial election, the landslide re-election in 1998, and the candidacy successful presidential election in 2000. The last time a Democrat won a statewide election in Texas was in 1994, and since the 2002 election, Republicans have controlled both houses of the Texas legislature. Texas, all thanks in large part to the groundwork laid by George HW Bush and, above all, by George W. Bush.
Today the standard bearer of the Bush family’s political legacy in the Lone Star State, Land Commissioner George P Bush (grandson of George HW Bush and nephew of George W. Bush), is set to lose in a landslide to the embattled Attorney General Ken Paxton in the May 24 Republican primary runoff for attorney general. A late-March survey by the Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation (TxHPF) predicts that Bush will receive only between a fifth and a third of the GOP primary votes in May.
Bush’s name, once an asset among the Texas GOP electorate, is now a liability. As an example, consider the two-fifths of Republican primary voters who, in the March TxHPF survey, said adamantly that they would never vote for George P. Bush under any circumstances. When asked why, two-thirds of those Republicans said it was because he was a member of the Bush family.
Today, the most trusted Texas GOP primary voter favorites are Trump, Cruz and Abbott, not Bush. In the TxHPF survey, nine in 10 (90%) of these Republican primary voters in Texas have a favorable opinion of former President Donald Trump (70% have a very favorable opinion), 89% a favorable opinion of the Governor of Texas Greg Abbott (54% very favorable) and 88% a favorable opinion of Senator Ted Cruz (65% very favorable).
In contrast, only 49% of those same hardline Republicans in Texas have a favorable opinion of George W. Bush (18% very favorable) and 29% a favorable opinion of George P. Bush’s father, the former governor. of Florida Jeb Bush (5% very favorable). favorable). George P. Bush is the most popular Bush among these Texas Republicans, but even he is viewed favorably by only 51% (14% very favourable).
And while only one in 10 of those Texas Republicans have an unfavorable opinion of Trump (10%), Abbott (11%) and Cruz (11%), about half have an unfavorable opinion of Jeb Bush (57%) and George W. Bush (46%) and two-fifths have an unfavorable opinion of George P. Bush (42%).
Between the election of his great-grandfather Prescott Bush as a United States senator in Connecticut in 1952 and the re-election of George Prescott Bush as Texas land commissioner in 2018, no family has come close to occupying the heights of power in America as long as the Bush family. One of its members was president for 12 years, vice president for eight years, governor of Florida for eight years, governor of Texas for six years, United States senator for 10 years, United States representative for four years and governor of Texas for four years. Land Commissioner for eight years.
But the May 24 defeat of George P. Bush in the Texas GOP attorney general primary runoff will mark the end, at least for now, of a 70-year-old political dynasty. And the Bush dynasty will be extinguished not by the Democrats, but rather by the Republicans of Texas, who once considered George HW Bush and George W. Bush their favorite sons. But in 2022, they will be tasked with ending the political career of George P. Bush, the last politically active member of the Bush family.
Mark P. Jones is a Political Science Fellow at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy and Joseph D. Jamail Professor of Latin American Studies at Rice University, as well as a co-author of “Texas Politics Today”. Follow him on Twitter @MarkPJonesTX.