Thoughts and Commentary from VOXXI contributors
When he was little more than a child running around a national political convention, his grandfather had spotted him and joked that “he’s our little darkie.”
The grandfather was President George H.W. Bush, and no one knew exactly what to make of his comment about his dark-skinned grandson, George P. Bush, the son of Jeb Bush and his Mexican-born wife Columba.
Was it a racist comment, especially at a time when Republicans were beginning their worst period of disfavor among Hispanics? Was it simply politically incorrect? Or just insensitive? It also was a comment about a child, and not just any child but a quite privileged one.
The elder Bush was never heard to utter the comment again, at least not in public, and George Prescott Garnica Bush became just another face among those who often appeared on stage at conventions and political triumphs of his father who became governor of Florida and his uncle George W. Bush who, of course, became president.
Who would have thought, though, that the dark complexion over which an innocent comment made some squirm would one day become one of the young man’s biggest political assets.
Today he is known as P. Bush. He is 36, a former navy officer, head of an investment firm in Fort Worth and quite possibly the future of the Republican party in Texas, should the GOP succeed in maintaining it as a Red State in the face of meteoric Latino growth that some say will eventually swing it into the Democratic fold.
Bush is expected to make his first political run for Texas Land Commissioner in 2014 when his chances for election are excellent given that Republicans are still in control of the state.
But a lot of eyes will also be on P next year because it will offer the first real chance for predominantly Democratic Hispanic voters in Texas to react to a prominent “darkie” Republican—a Republican candidate who is not just Latino but bears the distinguishable characteristics of being mestizo, of mixed blood as are the majority of the state’s Mexican-Americans.
Texas just recently elected its first Hispanic to statewide office, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, but he is Cuban-American and no one would ever have described him as “our darkie” because he is light-skinned and Mexican-American voters did not especially take to him.
“P. Bush, though, looks like he could be the son of a Mexican-American factory worker who has gone off to college and is doing well—he looks like me and my friends,” says Monica Romero, a school teacher in Houston.
“He’s Mexican-American. He’s raza.”
Democrats, of course, will be the first to scoff at the notion that Mexican-Americans in Texas will vote for a Republican like Bush just because he is one of their own.
But as this past president campaign showed, Democrats were of that same thinking flying in their Mexican-American elected politicians like Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to campaign for President Barack Obama wherever the number of Latino voters dictated the need.
It is the reason, too, that Hispanic leaders are concerned about the slowness of Obama to name a Latino to his second administration Cabinet—to appoint someone they can relate to, someone who will make that Cabinet reflect America and continue attracting Latino voters to the Democratic ranks.
Young Bush understands it will take more than a famous name and being known as the family’s beloved “darkie” to make it in politics, and he says that’s what he’s been doing with his life as he prepares to seek public office.
“My grandmother (Barbara Bush), who I always seek advice from, told me that before you enter politics—or even think about entering politics—you should distinguish yourself outside of politics by doing something in the business world or any other world,” he said in an interview.
“Make a name for yourself, have a family, marry someone great, have some kids, buy a house, pay taxes and do the things everyone also does instead of just running out and saying, ‘Hey, I’m the nephew of or the son of or the grandson of…’”