By Francisco Alvarado
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting
The fact that Florida’s ex-governor checked the wrong box on a 2009 voter registration form, and that he is indeed not Hispanic, may have dominated headlines recently, but the issue is not as damaging to his presidential ambitions as another report crediting his policies with ending affirmative action at state universities.
The Washington Post recently reported that African American student enrollment at University of Florida and Florida State University, the state’s top institutions of higher education, has dropped dramatically as a result of Bush’s 1999 executive action nixing race-based college admissions.
The article debunks Bush’s assertion during a speech at February’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) that his order led to more African-Americans and Hispanics attending Florida’s universities. But on a slow news Monday, it was Bush’s erroneous 2009 voter registration form, where he self-identified as Hispanic, that whipped up a national media hungry for a juicy tidbit about the Republican presidential frontrunner.
The New Yorker asked, “How Hispanic is Jeb Bush?” And then concluded the issue would hurt Bush with true Hispanic voters. “It matters, generally speaking, because minority groups tend to recoil when outside individuals identify with them under false pretenses or with ulterior motives,” wrote managing editor Silvia Killingsworth. “It rankles, and feels disingenuous.”
Salon offered a more light-hearted take, compiling tweets poking fun of Bush and running with the headline, “It’s pronounced ‘Heb’: Jeb Bush registers to vote as “Hispanic” and Twitter pounces.”
While The Atlantic took the time to dissect the psychology behind Bush’s errant check mark:
so Jeb says he is not a WASP, but a bicultural man, raising a bicultural family. He emancipated himself from one identity by adopting another. As Karen Tumulty and Mary Jordan reported in the Washington Post in March, Jeb Bush did not introduce his future wife to either of his parents until the day of the wedding. In that marriage, Jeb Bush found a new self-definition that would shape his life in business and politics over the next 40 years—and that is now the basis for his ideas about how to reshape the nation. The kind of change that he experienced as emancipation, he now urges on the country, in order to keep the United States “young” and “dynamic”—favorite words.
For the record, Bush chalked it up as an honest faux paux in a twitter response to The New York Times, which broke the story.
— Jeb Bush (@JebBush) April 6, 2015