What happens if Jeb Bush loses to Hillary Clinton is a perfectly rational question to consider at this point, if the GOP primary season plays out like it did in 2012 with a mass of no-hopers splitting the conservative vote.
The only difference this time might be that there are also a number of Establishment candidates to split the centrist vote but, as with Romney and his finances in 2012, Bush’s huge financial resources plus media backing, would take care of that. Further, I have little doubt that a number of the challengers to Bush are just in it for book sales, profile lifting for a television career, and a fond hope they might be picked for VP (see Fiorina, Carly).
Thus if Bush is the nominee he either beats Hillary or he loses. If he wins then the GOP Establishment is firmly in the saddle for at least another eight years. But what happens if he loses? The answer to that question includes a scenario where the GOP implodes, explodes, fractures or vanishes depending on how things work out.
If beggars belief that the rank and file conservatives base, who may have held their collective noses and voted for what they perceive as a RINO for the third time in a row, would trot to the pols similarly encumbered for a fourth time in 2020. I have no doubt at all that on election right, if the win goes to Hillary, the recriminations on the right will be vocal, loud and will be a flood tide in volume-and that would be just the start.
If after a third loss the GOP’s executive doesn’t resign en-mass, if there is not a clear indication that the party expects the 2020 nominee to be a genuine representative of the conservative base, then the options are clear.
The base can mount a similar grass roots campaign to Goldwater’s (and McGovern’s on the the left) and utterly root out the Establishment from executive offices across the country to such a level that the party machinery will be in the base’s hands and they can determine the rules for the 2020 primaries.
If such a reaction comes to pass and the current Establishment team structure ( or their designated successors) stays in charge then the party itself would be in grave danger of fracturing completely and permanently. If the base does not see a genuine conservative available to lead a presidential run who has a chance getting the nomination, and they face the prospect of either holding their noses yet again, then there is every possibility they will decamp and create a new conservative party.
This party fracturing is hardly novel and of course has happened throughout American history. The Whigs in 1856, the Democratic party splitting into a northern Douglasite wing and a southern Breckinridge wing and of course Teddy Roosevelt and his Progressive party.
For conservatives the Bush candidacy poses a number of challenges then. Do they stay at home as in 2012 which might ensure Hillary wins but the end result of which would be the eventual takeover of the GOP by the base? Do they hold their noses and vote for Bush and risk having at least another eight years of Establishment policies and be seen as ‘useful idiots’ to be brought to the polls once every four years and then ignored.
It may well be that a substantial enough portion of the base sees no difference between Hillary and Jeb and either votes for Hillary, or stays at home, using either mechanism depending on the state they live in, with the aim of cleaning house or knocking it down and building a more comfortable one.
A Bush primary win has every chance of being a severely Pyrrhic victory in that case