[guest post by Dana]
This is making the rounds, and depending on how you feel about Jeb Bush, it may or may not cause you to bat an eye:
There is little doubt that Jeb Bush possesses strong credentials for appealing to Hispanic voters.
He speaks fluent Spanish. His wife, Columba, was born in Mexico. For two years in his 20s, he lived in Venezuela, immersing himself in the country’s culture. He was born in Texas and is a former governor of Florida, two states with large Hispanic populations.
But on one occasion, it appears, Mr. Bush may have become a bit carried away: He listed himself as Hispanic on a 2009 voter-registration application in Miami-Dade County.
Of course, an immediate comparison was made between Señor Bush and that of Elizabeth Warren conveniently identifying as Native American during a time when top schools were desperately trying to hire minorities and diversity was all the rage. Except that while Warren clearly had much to gain from her Native American claims, Bush doesn’t appear to have had anything to gain from his claim of being Hispanic.
For his part, Bush admitted the mistake and even joked about it:
Further, Kathryn Jean Lopez spoke with Bush today:
“I have no clue what happened,” he says. “I appreciate the New York Times using all these valuable resources to point out the obvious: I am not Hispanic. Wow. That’s a Pultizer Prize–winning fact, I guess.” The former governor of Florida again added: “I have no clue how that happened . . .”
In a similar spirit, he adds on the phone today, “I guess . . . there wasn’t a little box that said WASP?” Of course, that wouldn’t quite work either, he says, since he converted to Catholicism two decades ago. “It seems pretty trivial to me,” he says.
Asked about how Hispanic culture has been a part of his life, he explains: “My wife is from Mexico. We live in Miami. I grew up in Texas. We lived in Venezuela — my two oldest children were a baby and a toddler at the time.” Honorary Latino or not, he says, “Hispanic culture has been an important part of my life.”
If he’d checked “Asian,” I could believe it was an error, but this was no error; it’s just another manifestation (maybe even subconscious) of his rejection of his own background and embrace of a different one. It’s his way of subscribing to the tribalism that Jay notes today has replaced color-blindness and assimilationism (on the post-American right as well as on the left).
Jeb’s fakery suggests why we should abolish government racial and ethnic categories, building a wall of separation, as it were, between race and state, as we do between church and state. No one would think of asking your religion on a voter-registration form or job application — in fact, it’s illegal. So should it be for other attributes that are irrelevant to the content of your character — hair color, say, or handedness or what country your grandparents came from.
(Bush is currently polling second at 17% to Scott Walker’s 20%.)