I know I’ve posted a lot about Marco Rubio getting into the presidential race and I suppose there are some of you who are getting tired of me treating him like a rented mule, but since he’s not going to be in the race for very long, we might as well get in our licks now.
Actually, I’ll turn it over to
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.
Rubio 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.
Cruz—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.
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.
Florida has had its share of idiot politicians, probably more on a per-capita basis than a lot of other states; it must have something to do with the weather and the freakishly large cockroaches. (I know that’s what kept my parents from moving here two years ago.) In the fifteen years I’ve been back, we’ve seen the likes of Jeb Bush, Katherine Harris, Ted Yoho, Charlie Crist, and Allen West, and those are just the ones who made themselves famous on TV. The state legislature has its fair share of whackos, and that’s according to people who like them and work for them.
And now two of our more embarrassing examples are running for president. People who think they know say that Jeb is a “moderate.” Yes, compared to Ted Cruz or Rick Santorum, I suppose he is, the same way that Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia was a “moderate” dictator compared to Joseph Stalin. He’s not a bomb thrower, but remember Terri Schiavo, remember endorsing the state constitutional amendment against marriage equality and the ban on gay adoption and his “moderate” facade slips down to reveal he’s just another right-winger desperately trying to salvage his family name in the same way the last of the Medicis decided it might be a good idea to dress up as Santa Claus and try to get folks to forget about all that earlier stuff.
Marco Rubio will land on his feet, I’m sure. He probably found the Senate to be a bore, what with all that homework they made him do and being held accountable for latching onto an immigration bill that would generate some street cred until it blew up in his face with the Tea Party, who already are plotting to birther him. But hey, when he can go back to your nice house in Weston, land a teaching gig at FIU and get the T.A.’s to do all the boring stuff like grade papers, and collect both his Florida and U.S. Senate pension and benefits, ignominiously losing a presidential primary is just a fly in his cafe con leche.