Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush told crowds at the East Cooper Republican Women’s Club annual Shrimp Dinner in Mount Pleasant, S.C. (an event and town that both sound fictional) that he will earn the support of black voters with “hope and aspiration” and not with “free stuff,” i.e. universal healthcare or government welfare programs.

“Our message is one of hope and aspiration,” Bush said, according to the Washington Post. “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—that says you can achieve earned success.”

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(Hey Jeb! First of all, I would love to know where I can line up for these sweet government SWAG bags, but speaking of division, you should probably know that black people aren’t the only demographic that utilizes government assistance programs. Also, there are plenty of black people who’ve already achieved “earned success” and most of them still aren’t voting for you.)

It’s worth noting that Bush’s tactic here is nothing new. In 2012, Mitt Romney also attempted to lure (or alienate) black voters with a similar “I’m the guy who believes you can succeed without government handouts” spiel and it went over terribly.

Sean Sullivan at the Washington Post writes:

According to a pool report, Romney, who struggled badly with minority voters in the 2012 election, said during a Montana fundraiser that year: “I want people to know what I stand for and if I don’t stand for what they want, go vote for someone else, that’s just fine. But I hope people understand this, your friends who like Obamacare, you remind them of this, if they want more stuff from government tell them to go vote for the other guy — more free stuff.” Romney was explaining his remarks that day at the NAACP’s national convention, where he was booed.

Hope and aspiration are great and all, but they’re also intangible concepts that, unlike Obamacare, won’t help you pay for your hernia operation or help you put food on your family’s table like SNAP.

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The American Dream of achieving anything through hard work has been letting down poor people and people of color for centuries now. That so many politicians continue to trot out “earned success” as a reason to vote for them (as opposed to what it really is: a condescending excuse for our society’s failures) is fucking cuckoo.


Contact the author at madeleine@jezebel.com.

Image via Getty.