Bush versus Clinton? It's millennials' worst nightmare

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After years of speculation over whether he would run for president, we finally got an answer from Jeb Bush on Tuesday. He announced on Facebook that he's "actively exploring" a White House bid, a major step toward an official presidential campaign.

The fact he made his decision public on Facebook is significant. According to the Washington Post, Bush's top aides believe his campaign "would need to be aggressive and digitally savvy" in order to rebut any notion that that the former Florida governor, who last held office in 2007, is a washed-up creature of the establishment.


Soon after Bush made his announcement, it became apparent this concern was well-founded. In fact, it’s hard to imagine a bigger turnoff for young voters who crave new ideas: America's most entrenched political families, the Bushes and Clintons, resurrecting themselves at the same time, setting up a potential crash course in 2016.

Trying, and failing, to come up with a better example of American stagnation than a Bush/Clinton 2016 race.

— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) December 16, 2014

Many voters worry that electing a Bush or Clinton to the White House for the sixth time in the past quarter century would offer no new solutions for the country's problems.


Almost half of registered voters said a Jeb Bush presidency would "represent too much of a return to the policies of the past" and just 30 percent said he could “provide the new ideas and vision the country will need," according to a June NBC/Wall Street Journal/Annenberg poll. When it comes to Clinton, 49 percent said she represents a turn to the past, while 42 percent said she could offer new ideas.

Clinton is already facing doubts from some liberal corners about her ties to corporate interests and whether she can address populist concerns like stagnating wages and income inequality. Bush may have even bigger problems with the right over his support for immigration reform and Common Core education standards.


But the greatest concern for Bush and Clinton may be that their candidacies could further fuel disillusionment about politics among young voters.

Matthew Dowd, an ABC News political analyst and a former adviser to George W. Bush, said that a Bush-Clinton matchup "would negatively affect turnout overall, but especially among millennials."


Young voters, he said, are looking for fresh faces who don't represent the political establishment.

Indeed, young voters don't feel loyalty to either political party; a plurality of voters between the ages of 18 to 29 consider themselves independent, according to a survey released by Harvard's Institute of Politics this fall.


Although young voters enthusiastically backed President Obama in both 2008 and 2012, support for Democrats has waned driven by growing disapproval of Obama. Harvard polling director John Della Volpe sees young voters returning to their "pre-Obama roots of being a swing constituency."

Young voters' frustration with Washington also crosses party lines—56 percent said Obama and both parties in Congress are all to blame for gridlock, according to the Harvard study. In another Harvard poll from last year, a majority of young voters said that elected officials "don't have the same priorities I have."


Bush and Clinton both have tried to position themselves as forward-looking politicians who know how to solve the country's problems. But if they do run for president, the debate could be dominated by their families' past records.

Already, newly uncovered papers detailing Clinton's involvement in the failed 1993 health care reform effort, the U.S. military intervention in Bosnia, and the fallout from her husband's marital infidelity have generated headlines. Bush's decision to release 250,000 emails from his time as governor is sure to dredge up old controversies, like the Terri Schiavo case. And Bush will certainly face scrutiny over his brother's record too (torture anyone?)


"This Bush-Clinton possible race would just be a throwback," Dowd wrote in an email. "It is like Nick at Nite TV. Might be interesting to watch old classic reruns but it certainly isn't exciting."

Jordan Fabian is Fusion's politics editor, writing about campaigns, Congress, immigration, and more. When he's not working, you can find him at the ice rink or at home with his wife, Melissa.