Thursday, March 3, 2016

Saving Marco Rubio And The Republican Party

Marco Rubio is pinning his hopes on winning the primary in his home state of Florida.  If he can't overcome Trump's double digit lead in the polls and win Florida he is history.  That makes life difficult for those in the GOP who are not happy with Trump.  They are left with Ted Cruz.  Rubio's strategy is to belatedly attack Trump's personal history which is a fertile field that has not been aggressively exploited.  He will be helped in this effort by several conservative PAC's that will spend millions on negative Trump ads.  Mitt Romney also plans to make a speech on Thursday attacking Trump.

Rubio's attack strategy raises some interesting questions.  He has been unable to sell himself to the GOP electorate for a good reason.  He has done nothing in his brief career that might qualify him for the presidency.  Many of the comments that follow this article are from Floridians who are familiar with his record.  Its hard to understand why the GOP establishment, led by commentators like David Brooks, jumped on the Rubio bandwagon when Jeb Bush's campaign floundered.  They selected an empty suit who they thought that they could sell to the public because of his personal attractiveness.  Rubio failed to convince the GOP base that an empty suit could satisfy their demands for change.

One of Rubio's problems is that he failed to convince many voters in the South that he is a real conservative.  They voted for Donald Trump who many in the GOP establishment refuse to accept as a conservative.  That raises an interesting question about how to define conservatism.  It means many different things to Republicans.  David Brooks and George Will believe that it has a philosophical base in the ideas of dead scribblers who reacted to the French Revolution by defending social hierarchy.  For most of the folks, who like Donald Trump, conservatism is defined by the things that they don't like, or by what they fear.  They want a strong response to creeping liberalism which they define in terms of a variety of social and sexual values that they oppose. There is also a strong scent of racism and nativism among the things they fear. They hate liberals or progressives, but they have also lost trust in the elites who run our political parties.  Trump speaks their language; he is not part of the GOP hierarchy, and he projects more power than his competitors. Many believe that Trump will make the changes that Republican elites have not made because he is not dependent upon financial support from wealthy donors.

At a deep level,  the GOP elite is concerned that  Trump and many of his followers do not support the Party line and its definition of conservatism which is defined in economic terms.  That is, tax cuts for the wealthy which are paid for by cuts to social programs,  deregulation, and a more spending on the military.  Trump has barely mentioned his economic policies in his campaign.  However, he has been critical of Paul Ryan who is the mastermind of the the GOP budget.  He claims that Ryan cost Mitt Romney the last election by proposing unpopular cuts to Social Security and Medicare which were necessary to pay for his tax cuts.  Trump is too smart to attack popular social programs, but that is one of the key elements in the GOP economic plan.

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