Jeb Bush: “We should not have a multicultural society” in America


American Bridge 21st Century just released video of Jeb Bush at a campaign event in Cedar Falls Iowa. In the video, Bush says that “we should not have a multicultural society” in America. He argues that the United States is not just a place, but is rather “a set of values that people share” that “defines our national identity…not race, not ethnicity, not where you come from.” Because people continue to embrace their cultural heritage, Bush argues, “the assimilation process has been retarded.” In case you thought Bush was misstating his own position, he concludes, “we’re creeping towards multiculturalism, and that’s the wrong approach.”

This is kind of a weird tack for Bush to make, considering the fact that back in February he was promoting the “fact that I’m bilingual, bicultural.” So does Bush still think biculturalism is something to praise, but multiculturalism is not? If so, when does “multicultural” begin? Is it three cultures? Triculturalism is just too far? Or is quadculturalism where he draws the line?

It’s frustrating in 2015 to hear a presidential candidate decry multiculturalism as something that tears society apart. In fact, multiculturalism is how we as a society come together to solve problems better than anyone else. As Nick Hanauer and Zach Silk wrote on this blog last week, “diversity does not hinder growth—it supercharges it. That has always been America’s competitive advantage: we have the most diverse workforce in the world, and for all our problems, we do a better job of integrating diversity than anyone else.”

The homogeneous culture that Bush is arguing for (this month) is a dumber, less vibrant culture. If immigrants were to heed Bush and Bobby Jindal’s calls to assimilate, they would lose part of their unique experiences, and the culture would be poorer for it. Look: would you rather live in a city with a thriving restaurant scene full of food from Vietnam and Mexico and El Salvador and Ethiopia, or a city where the closest you can get to intercontinental cuisine is the International House of Pancakes? This comparison may sound glib, but it’s the simplest case for diversity. We don’t want people to run away from who they are. We want them to share their experiences and heritage, to help make our culture, and therefore our economy, even more inclusive. It’s frustrating that Bush, who apparently used to agree with us on the value of multiculturalism, is making such a regressive about-face.

Paul Constant

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