Political Animal


February 11, 2013 4:45 PM Is Rubio the Republican Wes Clark?

By Ed Kilgore

I’ve been among those mocking the Savior of the GOP status of novice Sen. Marco Rubio, especially in terms of the false notion that his championship of moderately responsible immigration policies makes him some sort of breath of fresh air, given his consistently extremist positions on most issues. The widespread desire to promote someone to the presidency because they represent the minimal amount of ideological change in an attractive package is not a healthy sign for Republicans.

But Josh Marshall comes at exactly the same phenomenon from a slightly different perspective today: the Rubio boom is the product of a Republican delusion that all they need to win is to address one problem, their weakness among Latino voters. In that respect, if only in that respect, Rubio resembles a 2004 Democratic savior, General Wes Clark, insofar as many of his backers similarly thought he could fire a sliver bullet at his party’s fundamental problem:

[T]here’s no question Democrats seized on Clark in 2003/2004 because his credentials as a retired 4 star general and a combat vet promised to serve as a heat shield to protect them from charges of weakness in an era in which an aggressive national security posture was the sine qua non of national elections.
Nor was Clark the only example. Finding the retired General or combat vet to carry the Democratic banner was a thing for a couple decades — and for obvious reasons: the public consistently rated Republicans better on national security issues.
But nominating a general doesn’t solve the political problem. Ask President Kerry. And neither will nominating Marco Rubio or putting him at the party’s helm.

The bottom line is that if a party has a particular problem with certain issues—and Republicans currently have a lot of such problems—just finding candidates who symbolically address one or two of them won’t necessarily work. But as always, recognizing that temptation and dealing with the underlying problem more directly requires the kind of serious reflection that isn’t presently evident in the conservative movement or its wholly owned subsidiary, the GOP. The maximum electoral payoff for the minimum adjustment in party ideology and message is likely to be what Republicans aim for in the next cycle or two, and this is why pols like Marco Rubio are going to look very golden until the gilded edge wears off.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • c u n d gulag on February 11, 2013 5:14 PM:

    Sure, Rubio's a good-looking young Hispanic man.

    But not only is he not any sort of intellectual heavyweight by any measure (not that that ever stopped the Republicans), but he's Cuban.

    And Cubans are not exactly the most beloved of people, of others with a Latino heritage.

    Plus, he's been near bankruptcy, and he ripped-off his Republican credit card to the tune of over $100,000.
    That's known as being a "crook!"

    So, yeah, please Republicans, PLEASE run him!

    Because, like that idiot Bill Kristol not knowing that there was more than one problem between the Shia, the Sunni's, and Kurds, what you Conservatives know about Hispanic culture would fit on the back of a postage stamp.

    And if you think that Marco Rubio is your "Great Non-white Hispanic Hope," I think you'll find a lot of Mexicans, Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, Costa Ricans, Guatemalans, etc., have a much different idea of where some political Latino savior should come from.

    They're kind of tired of the Cuabans getting all of the attention from your party.

    But, yeah, have fun - and assume some dimwitted crook from Florida is your salvation.

    VIVA RUBIO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Hyde on February 11, 2013 5:31 PM:

    I agree with c u n d gulag on the matter of Rubio's being Cuban: I don't think it would be a drawback in the sense of other Latinos deliberately not supporting him on that basis, but the idea that Mexican-Americans, Puerto Ricans, etc. who have been reliable Democrats will turn around and vote for a Cuban-American on the grounds of him being "one of ours" strikes me as very naive. Look at the vote totals for the Cuban-American Ted Cruz in the Texas Senate race this past year--it looks like he got almost exactly the same voters Mitt Romney got.

    It's the "mascot theory" of politics, most recently seen in the widespread speculation, prior to the rise of Obama, that the first black president would likely be a Republican (on the theory that you could fracture the usual Democratic coalition that way). Republicans won't solve their problems with Latino voters until they start advocating policies those voters prefer. A brown-skinned front man who won in Florida by turning out angry white Tea Partiers won't be that advocate.

  • T2 on February 11, 2013 6:15 PM:

    Ted Cruz, the other Great Hispanic Hope of the GOP is Cuban also. It's such a typical Old Guard GOP move...."We gotta find some guys with Mexican names to trick the mexicans ini to voting for us". Then they go out and find a couple TeaBaggers who barely speak Spanish and off they go to swing at windmills. Fail.

  • Mark-NC on February 11, 2013 7:35 PM:

    I'll never forget that the Repugnant Ones who LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the military and service to the country are the same people who didn't give a damn that Bush was a deserter and Kerry came home with a Silver Star, Bronze Star, and 3 Purple Hearts. Will they care about Rubio's checkered past? No way.

    Repugnant Ones have no core values of any kind. If they think they can lie Rubio into office, they'll line up to support him. If they could install a dumb fake Texan deserter into the White House, why not a slick but sleazy Cuban?

  • Rick B on February 11, 2013 10:25 PM:

    "...just finding candidates who symbolically address one or two of them wonít necessarily work. But as always, recognizing that temptation and dealing with the underlying problem more directly requires the kind of serious reflection that isnít presently evident in the conservative movement or its wholly owned subsidiary, the GOP"

    American conservatives are conservative because they fear the social changes that modern society requires. But modern society is a direct result of industrialism and the population explosion industrialism has caused. The rural agriculture-based society so beloved by conservatives is dead and has been since after the Korean War.

    But recognizing that requires thinking about society as a whole and its implication for individuals in it. Today's Republicans prefer the fantasy of libertarianism and unfettered individuals doing their own thing within a loose umbrella of religious moral control and limited government with few enforcement powers.

    They are certain that their vision of America is shared by everyone who matters (not minorities - just white heterosexual males.) All they have to do is appeal to a few Hispanics who agree with them and the Hispanic vote as a block will swing their way! Romney almost made it and the next guy just needs to build on the power of the conservatives. Conservatives have no need to think broadly about society. They have the vision and with a few tweaks everyone who matters will recognize that and stop the "cheating and vote-rigging" which the minority voting blocks are being led by their dominant leaders to conduct. [Minorities are sub humans who cannot think for themselves any more than their own lower class conservatives and evangelicals can.]

    Rubio looks great to the conservatives. He is the Judas goat the Hispanics will follow. They are certain of it!

    Modern urban-dwellers demand mass public education and reject religious guidance regarding who to vote for. The urban minorities are not going to buy the conservative crap, but the conservatives will not believe this for another few electoral losses. Like Bobby Jindal before him, Marco Rubio is headed for a big failure nationally.

  • Rick B on February 11, 2013 10:29 PM:

    I'm looking for an argument above. What have I gotten wrong?

    By he way. I'm told that the Spanish speakers in the Eastern U.S. are labelled Latino. In the West they are labelled Hispanic. I'm a Texan using Hispanic and cund is a New Yawker using Latino. Is it true?

  • pol on February 12, 2013 1:51 AM:

    He's the perfect Republican candidate -- he looks good in a suit.

    No other attributes necessary.

  • Kevin on February 12, 2013 2:40 AM:

    The Rubio phenomenon is emblematic of the GOP's whole mindless, narrow-minded groupthink mentality. They are obsessed with trying to salvage whatever they can of the Latino vote. Shouldn't they focus some resources on the female vote? It seems to me that if you spot the other side half the country's population, it will be difficult to win another national election.


  • Helen Bedd on February 12, 2013 7:11 AM:

    I'd point out that while recently the GOP successfully won governor's races with Hispanic candidates in Nevada and New Mexico...both of them lost the Hispanic vote by large margins...in NM Susana Martinez's numbers were 38-62 and in NV Brian Sandoval's were considerably worse.

  • c u n d gulag on February 12, 2013 8:27 AM:

    Rick B.,
    I recently read somewhere that people of that heritage prefer Latino, to Hispanic - so I kind of switched.
    But I'm really not sure how true that is.

    I once worked with a lot of Hispanics/Latino's, in NYC and NC, but I don't work now - and I'm not about to walk up to some random person at the supermarket or gas station, and ask them which they prefer.

    Maybe someone who knows which "label" they'd prefer, could clue me in on a comment today?

  • Th on February 12, 2013 8:37 AM:

    The biggest way the Clark/Rubio comparison breaks down is that only one was in step with their party's base. Clark was not only a decorated General but his foreign policy of invade Iraq-bad, build alliances-good was very much the mainstream Democratic Party view. Rubio's immigration policies are wildly out of step from the rank and file.

    Neal Boortz bragged for days how he went to meet Bush in the WH and told him that immigration reform wasn't going to pass and Boortz was going to do everything he could to make sure it didn't. Attitudes haven't changed yet.

  • BarryM on February 13, 2013 1:08 PM:

    It's amazing to watch even "objective" reporter types on the networks refer to Rubio as "non-white" himself, or even an automatic connection of some sort to non-white voters. Do they know anything about race in Cuba at all? The guy looks 100% Spaniard, and probably is, and his mother must be asking how he became non-white by now. Talk about "white" as a construction of the mind (which it is)! He's "non-white" in the sense that they once talked about Italians, or Jews or, further back, even the Irish as that. Hilarious--and other Latinos know it.