The Republican Party is currently in the midst of an aggressive rebranding campaign that seeks to attract more of the minority (mostly Latino) vote they missed out on in the 2012 campaign. The centerpiece of that is a young upstart named Sen. Marco Rubio.
Rubio, the junior senator from Florida, is the 41-year-old son of Cuban immigrants, and he is quickly becoming the national favorite for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. The GOP is branding him as a conservative candidate who also understands the struggles of young minorities in America. But as I watched his response Tuesday night to the President’s State of the Union address, I couldn’t help but notice that, other than being the face on the policies, nothing separates Rubio from the rest of the rank-and-file far right of the Republican Party.
This is a serious problem.
Essentially, the Republican Party is currently placing a bet that as long as the candidate they push is from a diverse background, the policies he or she supports are inconsequential. So if they can find a token Latino to vote against the Violence Against Women Act (yes, Rubio and 21 other Republican senators voted against it again), then it’s okay. These are very telling actions from the man who was dubbed by TIME Magazine as “The Republican Savior.”
With the advent of the Internet, a resurgence in the attention given to everyday politics by the average American has also emerged. With a variety of online news sources at the fingertips of virtually every citizen, anyone who wants a piece of the news can get it, and they can do so through the lens of whatever political ideal that they so choose. That is why I believe that the Rubio gambit is doomed to fail.
Americans aren’t stupid. I believe that as the years pass, the electorate, especially the youth, is becoming more educated — not less. I believe that instead of voting along the same party lines as their parents, millennials are instead deciding to vote for what they believe. Which means that choosing a charismatic young Latino as the new face of the party isn’t going to trick DREAMers into suddenly believing that the Republican Party has dramatically changed its views on undocumented immigrants.
So when the children of undocumented immigrants see Rubio flip-flopping from supporting the ghastly Arizona immigration laws one second, to drafting legislation that would grant citizenship to children of undocumented immigrants the next, to yet again returning to his “enforcement first” policies, they aren’t going to be fooled. Sen. John McCain lost a lot in the 2008 election for the same thing. Rubio would do well to learn from his mistakes.
Diverse candidates are important. People want to vote for someone that they can identify with on both an ideological and demographical basis. And, for that reason, I applaud Republicans for pushing the involvement of diverse conservatives such as Rubio, Allen West, Sarah Palin and others. But the policies of the Grand Old Party also need to shift if they will have any hope of attracting the new, racially diverse electorate they so badly need to survive.
Provided nothing unexpected occurs, history shows that a Republican president will be elected in 2016, and it very well may be Marco Rubio. Hopefully by then we will have had bipartisan legislation that corrects the serious issues with our immigration system. But if not, and immigration becomes an issue in the campaign, it will be a serious weakness for Rubio given his constantly changing viewpoint. Time will tell what Rubio’s legacy will be. However, if he continues on the road that his response to the State of the Union address laid down, I have little hope for a positive outcome.
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