Marco Rubio’s State of the Union Response: Mitt Romney with a Latino Twist
You needn’t bother watching Senator Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) strikingly mediocre response to President Obama’s State of the Union Address. It boils down to this: in their cynical analysis, the G.O.P. is convinced that its dogmas will sound better coming from the mouth of a Hispanic-American with humble roots than a lily-white plutocrat born with a silver spoon in his Mormon mouth.
Oh, and then there was the desperate grab for a bottle of water. But we’ll let Bill Maher and SNL tackle that little comic nugget and stick to the substance of the speech.
Ironically, Rubio’s story recalls that of the President’s, albeit rendered in a clichéd, focus-group-tested fashion. The narrative of struggling to overcome outsider status and achieve the American dream is there. But whereas the President uses his life story to justify and elucidate his political philosophy, for Rubio it is only window dressing.
In substance, his arguments are almost identical to those put forth by Mitt Romney. Essentially, this constitutes an endless regurgitation of basic movement conservative principles combined with coded language stoking Americans’ lingering suspicion of “big government” as an abstract concept, even as they embrace it in practice.
The G.O.P. would likely call such allegations racist, but in fact, Rubio went out of his way to invoke his ethnicity and humble beginnings as a defense against every suggestion that the deep budget cuts he support just might be bad for the 99% of Americans who rely on government programs to maintain a basic quality of life during a recession. His healthcare argument was especially cynical, essentially boiling down to, “Don’t worry, my hardworking parents relied on Medicare back in the day, so how can I possibly pose a threat to it now?”
Well, backing the Paul Ryan budget provides ample reason for concern, and independent economists agree that such measures would harm today’s generation of immigrants. Rubio’s catch-all invocation of his background to preempt accusations of being against popular government programs is an insult to the intelligence of the American people and a hypocritical invocation of the race card they claim to resent. The Republicans’ new star (flavor of the week?) does not suggest a re-invention or even a modest re-examination of the party’s basic formula. It’s pure, Madman-style re-branding.
Senator Rand Paul’s (R-KY) response to Obama possessed the sole virtue of ideological honesty, an uncloaked expression of Republican values circa 2013. You know, the kind that Mitt Romney was forced to adopt in order to secure the G.O.P. nomination and that, with the exception of his stance on immigration reform (a forced reaction to demographic reality), Rubio echoes.
If Chris Christie doesn’t go on a diet and no new standard bearers emerge for the G.O.P. in the next four years, things are looking pretty good for Democrats in 2016, especially if Hillary Clinton runs.