I am one of those HispanicLatinos who wants to like Marco Rubio. Anyone who knows and understands how fast HispanicLatinos need to rise within high leadership circles to affect the challenges the country faces should cut a wide swath around individuals like Rubio, especially those gifted with the kind of presence, charm and personality that some people equate to that possessed by John F. Kennedy. In today’s media-driven world, Rubio possesses all the traits that lead to success.
Except that Rubio is so wrong on so many fronts.
Watching him over the weekend on Jorge Ramos’ Al Punto on Univision and on NBC’s Meet the Press, I did not know whether to laugh or cry. No other HispanicLatino political personality ever has been given the kind of national attention that Rubio is receiving. On Sunday alone, he was on the air on national television for 51 minutes. This in an eternity. His are not the perfunctory appearances of other HispanicLatinos who have served or are serving as members of a President’s Cabinet or of a Congress.
And that is the tragedy. Few professionals believe that Rubio is seriously being vetted for the Vice Presidency by Mitt Romney’s campaign. Yet, Rubio has attained an unparalleled national platform. But instead of using the stage to come into his own and find his voice, he parrots old lines rather than searching for the new leadership the country needs so desperately.
Rather than stamp himself as a leader and articulating an independent, bold vision for the future, he spends his time defending his rank hypocrisy of having an illegal-immigrant grandfather while not cutting any slack to those undocumented today. And he supports the Arizona state law through which the Supreme Court this week almost certainly will empower local governments to embark on sweeping, suppressive and discriminatory actions against HispanicLatinos throughout the country. And he wants English declared the official language of the country, which while sounding right feels wrong coming from someone whose own Spanish is wonderful evidence of what can be.
Worse than all of these things, really, is his buying whole hog the idea that unbridled markets, unregulated corporations and minimal government spending are the way forward at a time when HispanicLatinos — the future of the country — require long-term investment in education and public health.
Rubio reveals a deep misunderstanding of the role government has played in the development of the economic miracle that America was for century and can continue to be. Over time, the national government injected sizeable resources in the country’s economic development: Land-grant colleges laid for foundation for so much of the nation’s progress. The vast interstate highway system created the modern America way of life. Investments in NASA put the whole world on a new trajectory. The list is endless.
In many ways, Rubio is an unfortunate prisoner of circumstances. As more HispanicLatinos nationally maintain their support for President Obama and many in his own state of Florida gravitate to the Democratic Party, he is left holding a bag of bad numbers and it seems he is desperately trying to get out from under his demographic reality before it closes in on him. He is also a prisoner of an insular Cuban-American ideological experience that gave no one in that community any options and of a Republican Party that, well, today takes no prisoners. In the short months ahead, when the next fiscal crisis erupts towards the end of the year, he will have another chance. But, given the highly restricted road he has travelled so far, it seems unlikely he can forge a new personal path. Perhaps beyond the evident gifts on the surface, he might not be more.
When John Kennedy ended his campaign for the Presidency his Irish compatriots by the tens of thousands marched with lit torches in the night in Boston and other cities in New England in one final push to make history as the nation prepared to vote. Some of the Irish got rather rowdy.
Rubio most likley will not have to worry about that sort of thing.