'I Want Somebody Who Isn't Evil': These Right-Wing Conservatives Really Don't Like Jeb Bush

There are a lot of people with a beef against the new Republican presidential candidate, but perhaps none are so hostile as the libertarian and Tea Party activists in his own party.

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Jun 17 2015, 9:47pm

Protesters come out for the cameras in New Hampshire. Photos by author

There are a lot of people who don't like newly declared presidential candidate Jeb! Bush. Social liberals with their namby-pamby ideas about not shaming unwed parents or letting for-profit companies run public schools. Pacifists who have a reflexive shouting reaction any time someone mentions the word bush. Political commentators terrified at the ratings drop they'll face in the event of another Bush v. Clinton election. But none are so hostile to the idea of a third President Bush than the far-right wing of the political scion's own party.

The former Florida governor got the full brunt of this vitriol when he arrived in New Hampshire this week, after finally announcing his presidential campaign at a Miami rally on Monday. The following day, at a town hall in the small town of Derry, dozens of activists lined up outside the event, waving signs with witty slogans like "No Banker Left Behind" and "Duck Dynasty not Bush Dynasty" and "NSA Bugs Me. So Does Jeb Bush, Who Supports It."

Get it? It's a "bush."

The rally was billed as a protest against the Common Core education standards, one of the issues where Bush has distinguished himself by opposing the consensus view of most conservatives, and most of his rival Republican candidates. But it was clear that universal educational standards were far from the only thing on the protesters' minds.

"We have enough government. We have too much of it. It needs to shrink," said Merav Yaakov, a local libertarian and Republican Party activist who said she helped organize the rally. "Jeb Bush is definitely one of those big-government people."

The Derry town hall—the first time the Republican front-runner and human cash machine has been in New Hampshire as an official candidate—was an obvious place for any group that wanted to get media attention to show up with signs. Activists for a whole range of causes were there: A gaggle of young people with neon signs about climate change, another dozen or so from the aggressively boring nonpartisan group No Labels, a couple of stragglers who came to yell about Social Security cuts and campaign finance reform.

Protesters congregate outside of Jeb Bush's town hall in Derry, New Hampshire.

But the large showing for the anti-Common Core rally suggested just how hostile the far edge of the conservative movement is to Bush. While liberal supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and other progressive alternatives to Hillary Clinton have made a point of not bad-mouthing the party's likely nominee, Republicans like Yaakov don't seem to care if their criticisms of Bush hurt the party's chances in a general election match-up.

"I will not vote for either of them," she said. "I cannot fathom voting for one of them, even against the other."

Yaakov didn't want to divulge which candidate she does support, but a number of participants weren't as demure. Among them was Leah Wolczko, an avowed Rand Paul fan in a New Hampshire Firearms Coalition shirt who carried a sign that said "Read my Lips No New Bushes." "I'm a Republican and I definitely don't want him on my ticket," she told me. "I definitely don't want a dynasty. That's kind of what we fought the Revolutionary War over."

Like Yaakov, Wolczoko said she isn't worried that opposing Bush would mean potentially helping Clinton win, noting that Paul generally polls better than the presumptive frontrunner in hypothetical match-ups against Clinton.

Rand Paul fangirl Leah Wolczoko tells a reporter just how much she hates Jeb Bush.

Another protester, Cathy Peschke, said she showed up because she's doesn't like Jeb Bush's support for Common Core. She home schools her kids because "public schools are atrocious," and she said she recently changed from one curriculum to another to avoid the Common Core approach to math lessons. Her concerns about education go way beyond that, tough.

"Compulsory education has no place in this Republic," she said, adding that she doesn't think taxpayers should have to pay for other people's kids to go to school.

Some at the rally defied the usual model of a conservative entirely. Ann Elliot, who wore a long dress, a silver pendant in the shape of a leaf, and white-lady dreadlocks pulled up a bun, said she falls somewhere in between a conservative libertarian and a Green Party supporter. She said she's thinking of voting for a third-party candidate, maybe the Greens' Jill Stein or the performance artist, activist, and pony enthusiast Vermin Supreme.

Daniel Cuevas said he actually used to be a "hardcore liberal activist" but has drifted toward libertarianism because he's a fan of capitalism and gun rights. He's suspicious of Bush partly because of the candidate's ties to educational software companies that benefit from education reform laws, which Cuevas sees as a classic example of the crony capitalism conservatives are always denouncing. Cuevas said his top choice for president is Paul, followed by Sanders. Both have strong stances on data privacy, he explained.

"It's an election, not a horserace," Cuevas said. "You don't bet on the one that's going to win, you vote your conscience."

Another protester, Dason Campbell, echoed the sentiment. "It seems like you're forced to choose the lesser of two evils, and I want somebody who isn't evil," he said. "But I guess that may be too much to hope for in most elections."

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