Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Used Tea Bags

How quickly they forget.

If the tea party is expecting [Senator-elect Marco] Rubio to plant its yellow ”Don’t Tread on Me” flag in the hallowed Senate chamber, it’s in for a letdown. This career politician who once carried the state party’s American Express card defines himself first and foremost as a Republican.

Rubio’s pollster, Whit Ayers, tactfully put it this way: ”I think he’ll carry the banner for hopeful and optimistic conservatism and whoever wants to follow that banner is welcome to join.”

Rubio has already made it clear that he will not be a rogue senator. One day after the election, he declared his support for the GOP establishment when he said he looked forward to serving under Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. He didn’t mention Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, viewed as the more ideologically pure conservative and alternative power center, who championed Rubio’s campaign early on.

Two days later, McConnell tapped Rubio to deliver the weekly GOP address.

Rubio, 39, struck a pragmatic tone at the post-election news conference held in Miami, saying Republicans and Democrats have to work together to tackle big, immediate problems like the national debt and the war in Afghanistan. He did not launch salvos at President Barack Obama, as he usually does, and said he would reach out to Florida’s Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

This is nothing new. The GOP is famous for finding a vocal and supportive group like the teabaggers or the Religious Right, using their database to stir up votes, stump in their yards, and get them all to turn out to whoop their candidate into office only to have them dump them like a one-night stand: “Hey, baby, it was a lot of laughs and you were terrific. I’ll call ya.” Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush did it with the Moral Majority and Focus on the Family. The difference between them and Mr. Rubio is that at least they waited until they were sworn in before giving them the heave-ho. Mr. Rubio didn’t even give them a week.