Adam Weinstein - DEMOCRACY IN DISARRAY
A lot of people in the United States don't know anything about soon-to-be ex-senator Marco Rubio of Florida, which means he theoretically still has a chance to be president, the same way the Philadelphia Phillies can still theoretically win this year's pennant. It will not last, and it will never have been realistic.
Rubio's entry in the 2016 presidential race will fuck up his hitherto inexplicably promising career. It will cost the Republican Party dearly in Florida and in Washington. It will prove to be one of the dumbest moves in the dumb history of politics. This will happen because Marco Rubio is that rare youthful combination of un-telegenic bumbling incompetence and malign corruption only Florida can nourish to maturity.
The Marco ExperienceRubio has two major political achievements. First, he was speaker of the Florida House of Representatives—an annual beauty pageant of ugly Republicans, by ugly Republicans, for ugly Republicans, so that ugly Republicans shall not perish from the earth. Second, he took an election from political changeling Charlie Crist, something that a reanimated pygmy skink could do, and has done. The thickest section of Rubio's resumé is his involvement in some truly ghastly internecine political and financial corruption. But he's running against a Clinton, a Bush, and a Texan. So much for that advantage.
Sure: On paper, Rubio looks like a formidable candidate, a nod to consensus wisdom on Republican electoral demographics. Part of the problem is not with him, so much as with the contradictions inherent in that wisdom. He sounds like a doctrinaire conservative, who hates social welfare and undocumented immigrants and alternate lifestyles. But! He's young and Latino! Who better to deliver a grumpy retrograde anti-minority vision of America's future?
It's true, Rubio's face is taut next to that of his rough contemporary and fellow Cuban-American, Ted Cruz. But it doesn't really exude freshness—like a Winn-Dixie cheddar log whose expiration date is months into the future, but whose suspicious shrink-wrapped languor still makes you pass it by in the supermarket cooler. You've gotta be really hungry to give it a chance.
The Marco GambleCruz—who also will not be president in 2017—provides a perfect contrast to Rubio. Because Ted Cruz, however much of a detestable pandering creeper he might be, is an astute politician who has real incentives to crash the GOP primary this year. It helps him raise his profile for 2020 or later. More critically, it helps him grab de facto national leadership of rank-and-file Republicans that his Senate colleagues have refused to hand him de jure. Cruz is going the Julius Caesar route, and it will work out just fine for him.
Rubio has none of those incentives. He is skipping a run for reelection to the Senate next year. So in order to kiss an Iowa state-fair butter cow and hope it convinces enough slackjaw racist-emailing state delegates to rush over to his corner of some god-forsaken parqueted gym floor in Dubuque, he will have to give up a job he could have held for life as a United States senator in the union's fast-growing, third-largest, politically up-for-grabs state. A job that could have positioned him well for 2020 or 2024 or the governor's mansion or Fox News, after he'd had a few more seasons to learn to talk with his tongue in his mouth.
Marco Rubio Is the Most Disingenuous Republican Running for President
He's not a reformer. He's a fraud.
By Brian Beutler @brianbeutler
Most of the Republican Party’s primary candidates have internalized something that was blindingly obvious to everyone who watched the 2012 elections unfold. So long as traditional turnout patterns hold, Republicans can’t keep up with Democrats in presidential contests. To win, they need to alter the turnout pattern, and to alter the turnout pattern, they need to break with GOP orthodoxy in some way.
Jeb Bush is jilting the conservative movement by swearing off red meat, hoping an even temperament will appeal to uncommitted voters. Senator Rand Paul is courting young and minority voters by promising to challenge the surveillance and carceral states.
Senator Marco Rubio, who will announce his candidacy for president on Monday, was supposed to lead a GOP breakaway faction in support of comprehensive immigration reform, but was unable to persuade House Republicans to ignore the nativist right, and the whole thing blew up in his face. In regrouping, he’s determined that the key to restoring Republican viability in presidential elections is to woo middle class voters with fiscal policies that challenge conservative orthodoxy.
His new basic insight is correct. The GOP’s obsession with distributing resources up the income scale is the single biggest factor impeding it from reaching new constituencies, both because it reflects unpopular values and because it makes them unable to address emerging national needs that require spending money.
It also happens to be the raison d’être of the conservative establishment. Challenging the right’s commitment to lowering taxes on high earners, and reducing transfers to the poor and working classes, will encounter vast resistance. Where Paul can appeal to the moral and religious sensibilities of elderly whites who might otherwise oppose criminal justice reforms, a real challenge to GOP fiscal orthodoxy will get no quarter from GOP donors.
If Rubio were both serious and talented enough to move his party away from its most inhibiting orthodoxy, in defiance of those donors, his candidacy would represent a watershed. His appeal to constituencies outside of the GOP base would be both sincere and persuasive.
But Rubio is not that politician. He is no likelier to succeed at persuading Republican supply-siders to reimagine their fiscal priorities than he was at persuading nativists to support a citizenship guarantee for unauthorized immigrants. In fact, nobody understands the obstacles facing Marco Rubio better than Marco Rubio. But rather than abandon his reformist pretensions, or advance them knowing he will ultimately lose, Rubio has chosen to claim the mantle of reform and surrender to the right simultaneously—to make promises to nontraditional voters he knows he can’t keep. My colleague Danny Vinik proposes that Rubio wants to "improve the lives of poor Americans" but he must "tailor [his] solutions to gain substantial support in the GOP, and those compromises would cause more harm to the poor." I think this makes Rubio the most disingenuous candidate in the field.
Marco Rubio Is Running for President. Read These 7 Stories About Him Now.
Rubio's Sheldon Adelson, his strange views on ISIS, his immigration reform meltdown, and more about the latest GOP 2016 contender.--
By Sam Brodey
That makes three: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has told donors that he will mount a presidential bid. He is scheduled to officially announce his candidacy Monday evening in Miami with a speech on the steps of the Freedom Tower, the historic landmark where the US government processed Cuban refugees in the 1960s.
The first-term Florida senator was considered one of his party's brightest rising stars until a doomed immigration reform push in 2013 eroded his support among conservatives. Rubio has since worked his way back to prominence, casting himself as a leading foreign policy hawk. His candidacy is not a surprise at this point, but it does set up a political soap opera, given that Rubio will be challenging another establishment-minded Florida Republican—Jeb Bush—who was once seen as Rubio's mentor. Bush's expected (official) entry into the race will likely diminish Rubio's chances.
Here are some of the best Mother Jones stories on Rubio.
the very truth of the matter is that a candidate from the 'corporate party', whether democrat or republican, will not improve this nation...
More to the point, Rubio's decision is going to cost Republicans hundreds of millions in critical political money at best, and lose them a previously safe Senate seat at worst. He was uniquely positioned to hold his seat in a presidential election year, which typically favors Democrats in Florida. Thanks to his blandness and his refusal to do, like, policy, his approval numbers and net positives beat those of any other state politician. No other Republican comes close.
And for all that risk, what is to be gained? When Rubio fails to win a ride on Marine One, he becomes an unemployed loser. Another Charlie Crist. Only younger and with fewer friends.
The Marco BrandDidn't we say all this about a gawky rogue presidential candidate named Barack Obama? Sure. But Obama had the advantage of not looking and sounding like a complete fucking idiot. Obama was on the Harvard Law Review, not the Santa Fe Community College football team. Then again, that's not really fair to community collegians and football players: Plenty of each are smart enough to run the country. It just so happens that Rubio isn't one of them.
For proof, simply look to Rubio's campaign message, a bizarre simulacrum of "hope and change" focus-grouped by Red Stripe-swilling blue blazers who are slightly scared of hope and change because they've witnessed its power but never fully understood its appeal, like those crouched simians sizing up the galactic monolith in 2001.
Nothing captures Rubio’s irreconcilable commitments quite like the evolution of his plan to reform the tax code. From the outset, Rubio never intended to sideline the interests of the wealthy. As originally conceived, his tax plan would’ve paired modest middle class benefits with very large tax cuts for high earners, much like George W. Bush’s first big tax cut in 2001. But when conservatives voiced dissatisfaction with that particular distribution, Rubio responded not by telling them to buzz off, or by eliminating the middle-income benefits and plying the savings into further high-end tax cuts. He kept the benefits, and layered hugely regressive additional tax cuts for the wealthy on top of an already unaffordable plan. What once would have increased deficits by $2.4 trillion over a decade, according to the Tax Policy Center, would now increase them by trillions more. The beneficiaries would be investors, who would no longer pay any tax on capital gains and dividends, and wealthy families, whose enormous bequests would be subject to no tax either.
Unbelievably, this play to have it both ways still doesn’t satisfy supply-siders. “This business side of the plan is pretty darn good and I like it,” Larry Kudlow told Politico’s Ben White. “The personal side of it is a mess and will be politically and economically indefensible and he is going to take tremendous criticism for it and my guess is he will have to back off it very fast.”
That a Republican’s tax math doesn’t add up is nothing new in politics. But most Republicans brush off the shortfalls with vague promises to make huge reductions in social spending. That’s what Mitt Romney did, and what Paul Ryan did back when he chaired the House budget committee. This didn’t put them on the level, but it helped complete a picture—that cutting taxes was a higher priority to them than supporting lower and middle class incomes. Rubio, by contrast, says he will hold anti-poverty spending flat. Now that Ryan is no longer responsible for writing Republican budgets, and doesn’t have to reconcile his incompatible priorities, he also claims he wants to hold anti-poverty spending flat. Rubio isn’t so lucky. As a presidential candidate, he, unlike Ryan, will be held to account for all of his tax and spending proposals.
Either Rubio is promising to run up bigger deficits than any president in history, or he’s swindling someone. Upper income tax cuts, middle class tax credits, anti-poverty spending—at least one of these will have to give. The experience of watching his tax plan evolve tells us a great deal about which one won’t.
Note the tagline. This is how we freshen up the Republican brand: by declaring a new American century in 2015, a sixth of the way into the century. (And by stealing mojo from the Iraq "regime change" neocons who formed the Project for a New American Century in 1997, just after Rubio finished his work on fresh-faced newcomer Bob Dole's presidential campaign.)
This queer store-bought concept of newness is Rubio's shtick. "Yesterday is over, and we are never going back," Rubio said to canned cheers yesterday upon announcing his candidacy, just after attacking Democrats for "looking backward" and before declaring that his novel vision of a future America involved militarism, banning abortion, school vouchers, and celebration of "family—not government."
That's not to say he didn't go out on a limb. See, for example, the New York Times' analysis of his bold, audacious campaign:
Or his clearly controversial pronouncements to ABC News:
Even in the history of vapid political horse-races, this is a new level of content-free mad-libbing, an adolescent appropriation of the tissue-thin framework that undergirds our nation's political discourse: "I think the CILANTRO can be the SNOZZBERRY, and I believe that I can lead this TED TALK in that GLORY HOLE." Rubio is, as Hedley Lamarr might say, a provincial putz, and he is running a provincial putz's campaign to lead the free world.
The Marco RationaleSo why are we talking about him at all? For two main reasons. One is that, at least for the time being, he moves reporters' copy because he is enough of a phony cipher to shoehorn into their phony narratives. One need look no further than the writing of Jason Zengerle —whose Monday piece, "Why Rubio vs. Jeb Will Become the GOP Title Fight," talks little about Rubio and less about why he matters to American voters. But who cares? We have two guys who know each other, competing for the same prize! Make it work, man!
But the larger and more insidious reason we are talking about Marco Rubio is because his waifish, manufactured brand appeals to a small number of highly influential idiots with billions of dollars to spend fine-tuning a plutocratic system that's immediately responsive to most of their whims—but not yet all of them. These are the Koch-heads, the sugar barons, the neocon casino magnates, the football-and-car-dealership tycoons, the i-bankers and hedge-funders looking for a soft, supple hand to stimulate their sacks of cash with a youthful wink and a nod to old-fashioned values. Or just opportunistic contractors who see the wisdom in investing a little campaign money now to build billions worth of Coast Guard cutters later.
As long as Rubio holds these dollar-worshiping dullards in thrall, he has a card to play with smarter Republican leaders and more promising presidential candidates who need those coffers to win a general election—like a penny-ante land speculator who holds the last few deeds in the shanty town where the interstate highway is going up. He is not running for votes, but for the kind of power most voters cannot comprehend, because they will never see it out in the open.
This, in the end, is probably the soon-to-be-ex-Florida-senator's strongest campaign pitch: "MARCO RUBIO 2016: I Will Trade You My Big Donors For a Veep Nod and a Juicy Juice." He is destined to be the next John Edwards or Sarah Palin, only inordinately duller.