Contact Committee hosts Jeb Bush

Bush spoke about the future of the Republican party

Jackson Sharman

Former Florida governor, Jeb Bush, joined Professor Robert Strong and Washington & Lee students over Zoom on Oct. 20 to talk about the state of American politics today— and whether it can change for the better.

Over 260 members of the W&L community tuned in. Bush, who was also a presidential candidate in 2016, answered questions from Strong and students..

Strong’s first question to Bush was whether America has a good system for selecting the nominees of our political parties. Bush said that while the primary system has drawbacks, there are many positives.

“The good thing is it tests candidates,” Bush said. “I think there’s some real virtue in candidates going through the meat grinder.”

Bush pointed to his own experience in the 2016 Republican primaries to highlight what he thought were problems with the system. Instead of focusing on substance and policy, a lot of media outlets (and therefore voters) were focused on the name-calling largely instigated by then-candidate Donald Trump.

“It’s not just social media. It’s also how the press covers campaigns,” Bush said.

Bush focused on positives and negatives of current American politics for much of the talk. Jack Hunter, ’24, asked Bush about the direction the Republican Party would take in a post-Trump world.

Bush acknowledged how Trump capitalized on discontent with the system that many Americans felt. He also said how nativist and isolationist tendencies existed in both parties long before Trump got into politics.

He added that things have to change if we hope for our political culture to improve. There needs to be a focused effort on reconciliation, he said.

“One thing Bush mentioned that stuck out to me was the fact that Nancy Pelosi and President Trump have not spoken in eight months,” said Lottie Folline, ‘23, a Contact Committee member. “There is no way for us to be able to accomplish tasks if our leaders cannot find common ground.”

Samantha Carley, ’22, who is a member of College Republicans, said that she found Bush’s perspective on election integrity interesting.

“He was directly involved with the 2000 presidential election as governor of Florida, and was able to give real insight into how the 2020 presidential election could play out if there is a concern about election integrity,” Carley said.

Contact Committee invited Bush as part of a virtual speaker series due to his extensive experience in presidential campaigning.

“Few people in the Republican Party have more first-hand knowledge of the presidential campaign process than Jeb Bush, as he brings both personal experience and time spent with his brother and father,” said Committee Chair Donald LeCompte, ‘21.