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Jeb Bush tells conservatives to welcome more baby-having immigrants

Posted June 14, 2013, at 3:56 p.m.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks at the Faith & Freedom Coalition conference, June 14, 2013 in Washington, DC.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks at the Faith & Freedom Coalition conference, June 14, 2013 in Washington, DC.

The emerging theme on day two of the (deep breath) Faith and Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority conference is the womb. Conservatives use it. Conservatives respect what’s in it. Liberals don’t—they have fewer babies, and they keep abortion legal.

“Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan won a majority of the vote,” said movie critic-turned-right wing radio host Michael Medved. “They won voters who were married by 16 points.” The Democrats had bested them with landslides among the poor and the single, and could conservatives allow that trend to continue? “Who wants to be poor, and single, and childless?”

Jeb Bush, who gives political speeches like he’d rather be anywhere else, put it in blunt terms that reporters weren’t used to hearing. “We’re going to have fewer workers taking care of a larger number of people than the country has a social contract with, to be able to allow them to retire with dignity and purpose,” he said. “We cannot do that with the fertility rates that we have in our country.” The low fertility rates could be partly explained by “social mores” (he didn’t mention abortion), and they could be rejiggered by immigration. “Immigrants are more fertile, and they love families and they have more intact families and they bring a younger population.”

According to National Journal (and my Twitter feed), Bush’s comments made people angry. Their beef is with the word “fertile”—if you’re a stickler, it means the ability to have babies. You wouldn’t say that a 29-year-old female lobbyist who chooses not to have kids until she’s 35 is “infertile.” But this is pedantry, and pointless—it’s fascinating that Bush would up and tell conservatives that they should embrace immigrants because their higher birth rates will keep the welfare state humming. That’s not a good reason for them! They see a future in which single liberals have one or zero children while conservatives produce armies of Duggars who will outvote the enemy.

David Weigel is a writer for Slate.

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