Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush mocked Democrats in his speech to South Carolina Republicans on Thursday saying the Left lures African-American voters with “free stuff,” but that Republicans can appeal to Black voters by capitalizing on the intangible idealism of “hope and inspiration” instead of freebies.
Bush shared his campaign tactic to win over voters of color at the East Cooper Republican Women’s Club annual Shrimp Dinner.
“Our message is one of hope and aspiration,” Bush said “It isn’t one of division and get in line and we’ll take care of you with free stuff. Our message is one that is uplifting and says, ‘You can achieve earned success. We’re on your side.’"
The statement echoes a similar hotly criticized remark made by Mitt Romney in the days after his 2012 presidential loss.
“If they want more stuff from government, tell them to go vote for the other guy — more free stuff,” Romney said at an NAACP event.
Bush’s campaign spokeswoman addressed the comment in a statement saying, “The Democrats are creating attacks where they don’t exist because they know their policies have failed the tens of millions stuck in poverty and they fear Jeb’s positive message of expanding opportunity for everyone.”
The former Florida governor did not clarify exactly what he meant by “free stuff” — whether that is housing, food stamps or tax breaks — but his ambiguous declaration of hope falls short with empty promises and reminds minority voters how truly out of touch he is with their group.
Bush defended his controversial remarks in an interview with Fox News Sunday, ironically backtracking on his comment that African-Americans want "free stuff."
“We need to make our case to African-American voters and to all voters that an aspiration message fixing a few complex things will allow people to rise up,” Bush said. “That’s what people want. They don’t want free stuff. That was my point. The left argues all the time taking things out of context.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton vehemently rejected the narrow-minded assumption that Democrats try to win over minority voters by offering free stuff.
In a question-and-answer segment on Facebook, Clinton called out Bush's remark as "deeply insulting, and zoomed in on the outrageous hypocrisy that Republican attitude has.
"That kind of rhetoric is deeply insulting, whether it comes from Jeb Bush or Mitt Romney or Donald Trump. I think people are seeing this for what it is: Republicans lecturing people of color instead of offering real solutions to help people get ahead,including facing up to hard truths about race and justice in America," Clinton replied. "Not to mention - Republicans have no problem promising tax breaks and sweetheart deals to their corporate friends, but when Democrats fight to make sure all Americans have access to quality, affordable health care, early childhood education, and job training, that's giving away 'free stuff'?! Talk about backwards. And that’s not all. I’m calling for an end to the era of mass incarceration, criminal justice reforms, and protecting voting rights, but Republicans across the country are making it harder to vote. That’s wrong and it’s got to change."
While Bush’s campaign presses his message will expand opportunities, Bush’s policies have always been opposed to providing minorities with open doors instead giving the wealthy an unnecessary step-up. ThinkProgress reports his recent tax plan gives breaks to the mega-rich and corporations, and during his time as governor he abolished affirmative action, oversaw a flawed voter purge that disqualified many minority voters and signed in the "Stand Your Ground" law which had devastating consequences for minority communities. When asked how he would help Black voters while running unsuccessfully for governor in 1994, he responded, “probably nothing.”
Bush’s woefully naïve plan to pull in minority voters with “American Dream” optimism yet provide no practical solutions in addressing the grievances and struggles voters of color face demonstrates he will undoubtedly do “probably nothing.”