The Historical Case for George W. Bush Endorsing Joe BidenRoundup
tags: George W. Bush, Alexander Hamilton, Donald Trump, 2020 Election
Louis P. Masur is distinguished professor of American studies and history at Rutgers University and author of The Sum of Our Dreams: A Concise History of America.
Former president George W. Bush has not publicly supported Joe Biden in the presidential race, and, according to his spokesman, will not be doing so. This decision stands in contrast to the other prominent Republicans who have endorsed the Democratic nominee, including some 300 former members of the Bush administration and his political campaigns.
It is not that Bush has been entirely silent during 2020. He offered a statement on the coronavirus pandemic that called for an end to partisanship. “Let us remember how small our differences are in the face of this shared threat,” he said. He also addressed the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd and declared: “It is time for us to listen. It is time for America to examine our tragic failures — and as we do, we will also see some of our redeeming strengths.”
But Bush has avoided the issue of the 2020 campaign, with his chief of staff emphasizing that he is “retired from presidential politics” with no “plan to wade in.” According to the Atlantic, Christine Todd Whitman, the former governor of New Jersey who served in Bush’s Cabinet, lamented that Bush so far has not spoken out because “there’s been significant damage done to our democracy.”
Whitman is right that there is good reason for Bush to break his silence. The views of leading politicians matter. Having served in prominent positions, they understand what is required to do a job effectively and well. Their constituents certainly will make up their own minds, but politicians, whether former presidents, congressmen or Cabinet members, have the standing to help shape choices and outcomes.
This was the case in the election of 1800, when Alexander Hamilton exercised his influence with House members who would resolve a deadlocked electoral college competition between two candidates: Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr, his political opponents. In the end, Hamilton chose to act on behalf of nation and not party.
He did so even though he despised Jefferson and the Democratic-Republicans. As a leading Federalist who supported a strong national government, Hamilton saw the opposing party as too wedded to unchecked principles of liberty. To him, Jefferson’s radicalism helped spark the French Revolution, and his views were “subversive of the principles of good government.” When the question of George Washington’s successor emerged in 1796, Hamilton wrote, “all personal and partial consideration must be discarded and everything must give way to the great object of excluding Jefferson.”
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