…What the Rubio campaign needed everyone to forget was that — to anyone who doesn’t live off political news, to anyone not inured to the blocked toilet that is Florida politics — Marco Rubio sounded like either a moron or a crook.
All that might have been enough to overlook if there had been any ideas behind Rubiomentum. But Rubio was a Reagan Republican in the same way that all other Republicans are Reagan Republicans: 95 percent of what he believes hasn’t been updated since 1981. As to the remaining five percent, any time something new came out of his mouth, half the journalists covering him wanted to run around to the side of the stage to catch a glimpse of the puppeteer from the Heritage Foundation with an arm shoulder-deep up his ass.
Even the rare new ideas were insanely atavistic. Only Rubio could write an atrocious book with the word “innovate” on practically every page and decide to solve the college debt crisis with ideas fresh from the Renaissance. Why not, he argued, pair students of promise with an investor class who would pay for their academic apprenticeships in exchange for a fixed period of work after graduation? Sounds great! Rubio was into EDM: Maybe you could become the court DJ for the Archbishop of Salzburg or Emperor Joseph. Just don’t play too many beats. There are only so many beats the royal ear can hear.
The biggest joke of the Rubio campaign was its slogan, “A New American Century,” which is a hilarious reboot concept 15 years into a century. But the slogan also echoed the Project for the New American Century, the Bill Kristol think tank whose gameplan for the Middle East led us into Iraq and the flowering peace and political pluralism we see across the region today. Rubio didn’t disappoint. Between his book and his saber-rattling on the trail, America was poised to drop bombs on — or start firing from warships at — the South China Sea, Ukraine, Iran, Syria and whatever country he thinks ISIS is.
Meanwhile, Barack Obama was trying to destroy America with $17 trillion in debt. Rubio promised a tax plan that would add $8.2 trillion to it, because if $17 trillion is a mortal threat, then $25.2 trillion is a fucking clambake. Abortion? Forget it, go to hell, ladies, not even in cases of rape. Obamacare? Repeal and replace. Devolve everything to the states. Fix poverty by having people get married.
Over the course of his career, Rubio was slapped with the well-deserved label of someone not especially interested in his current job except as a vehicle for applying for the next one in between meeting rich people. He almost immediately ditched the West Miami Commission for the Florida House, then displayed a chronic absenteeism while there. This is not necessarily a liability in the party that rejects almost all government functionality as tyranny, and it was no obstacle to entering the U.S. Senate, where his work allergy metastasized into outright contempt for the concept. By October, 2015, one of Rubio’s core arguments for his candidacy was give me the most important job in the world because I don’t feel like doing my current one.
Rubio spent the last two weeks of his campaign apologizing for betraying his principles and the dignity of his office by mocking Donald Trump’s hair and dick. He claimed that he could no longer abide the unfair, classless street fight that Trump had reduced the discourse to, and merely got carried away. But it was bullshit. He was trying to shore up falling numbers. He’d never have apologized if it had worked.
His announcement that his campaign was over could not have been more fitting for what his campaign represented: A passionate delivery of an old idea everyone had already memorized, delivered instead as news. A few people listening had red eyes, as some internal mechanism in Rubio yanked down a lever to the Emotionally Uplifting Twaddle setting.
“I ask the American people: Do not give in to the fear. Do not give in to the frustration,” he said. “We can disagree about public policy, we can disagree about it vibrantly, passionately. But we are a hopeful people, and we have every right to be hopeful.”
It was a valediction of bullshit, as inexorable and damned as the rising Florida tide.
But don’t worry, folks; he’ll be back with another act when he gets tired of doing whatever he finds interesting and self-promoting at the moment.