If Jeb Bush represents the last gasp of the WASP power structure, then who won? The only answer I can think of is Jews. Until the 1950s, WASPs ruled America. Since then, Jews have.
DERRY, N.H. — Tennis. Boating. Summers at Walker’s Point.
Life among the white Anglo-Saxon Protestant elite (or WASPs, in sociological shorthand) was good for a young John Ellis Bush.
James Bruner, whose father was the Bush family pastor at St. Ann’s Episcopal Church in Kennebunkport, Me., remembers Mr. Bush, known as Jeb, as a larger-than-life presence at the Kennebunk River Club. His enduring image is of a youthful Mr. Bush “playing tennis in tennis whites” — a white Lacoste shirt, white shorts and canvas sneakers.
But that era of polite and high society — on the courts and playing fields of New England, in the halls of boarding schools and in the corridors of government — is fast fading. And in many ways, the travails of Mr. Bush’s presidential campaign can be seen as perhaps the last, wheezing gasp of the WASP power structure.
Against a frustrated, profoundly un-WASP-like Republican electorate that craves the visceral pugnaciousness of Donald J. Trump or the outsider anger of Senator Ted Cruz, Mr. Bush’s family values — of cordial restraint, of civil discourse, of earnest public service — can seem almost quaint.
Mr. Bush tells voters who wonder why he cannot summon Mr. Trump’s TV-friendly fury that he “wasn’t brought up that way.” He struggles with a basic task in politics — bragging — conceding that, when he does, he feels “the looming presence of Barbara Bush,” his boast-averse mother. And in an age of topic-changing sound bites, he is oddly determined to respond to every inquiry.
“I’ve had 62 years of life that’s been jammed into my DNA that when someone asks you a question, you answer it,” he said recently.
Longtime friends still speak with admiration of Mr. Bush’s anachronistic outlook, sounding a bit like Miss Manners tsk-tsking the political world for leaving its elbows on the table.
C. Boyden Gray, who served as White House counsel under the elder Bush, ticked through the code of conduct the Bush dynasty has long embodied: “Civility and good manners were kind of assumed,” he said.
“You would be generous to a loser, you would not boast about your victory, you would be civil during an engagement, but you’d use every trick you had, every skill you had to win,” Mr. Gray continued. “They represented a whole generation of people, and I think a whole way of looking at things has been lost.”