Jeb Bush, Uber Mensch, Comes To San Francisco

The GOP frontrunner wants voters to know he's not afraid of the sharing economy.

Jeb Bush prides himself on campaigning joyfully, and on his visit to the San Francisco headquarters of a tech start-up took the form of a near-Schumpeterian celebration of creative destruction.

“Y’all are the disrupters that create the angst,” Bush cheerfully informed a town-hall meeting for the 118 employees of Thumbtack, a six-year old company, which links consumers to local professionals in fields from home repair to tutoring. “I don’t think people want to wait in line anymore,” Bush said. “I think they want to customize their dreams.”

Bush praised Thumbtack for its innovation and partnership for local small businesses, a model for circumventing established institutions that he linked to his ideas about health-care reform and education policy. “All of this institutional crud, if you will, needs to be cleaned out,” Bush said. “Right now, we’re in a heap of trouble. But you’re not going to stop innovating as best I can tell.”

But the queries from Thumbtack employees demonstrated how far Bush had chosen to stray from Republican primary constituencies in the the one public event on his West Coast fundraising tour. Bush was challenged on gun control, wage disparities based on gender, and Florida’s lack of a law forbidding discrimination against gays and lesbians. (Bush suggested that he thought no new laws were necessary to ensure equal pay for women, but that he supported non-discrimination bill covering employment and housing at the state, though not federal, levels.)  When a question invoked Barack Obama, it was to ask which of the incumbent’s qualities he would emulate.

The event was designed to show Bush’s comfort around technology. He made a big show of arriving in an Uber car, even though his staff had selected Thumbtack to host the event in part because it represented the same “sharing economy” but was not as politically fraught as the transportation company or Airbnb. A day earlier, a California administrative judge had levied a $7.3 million fine against the car-hailing service and recommended that it be suspended from operating in the state, a decision that Bush shrugged off to reporters before entering another Uber vehicle idling at the curb.

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