Opinion: Rubio may be new Reagan

November 23, 2012


Conservatives have been dreaming that a political reincarnation of Ronald Reagan would lead them to an electoral promised land. I never put my faith in such a possibility, because the past is a dangerous place in which to live. Reagan never lived in the past, though he learned from it.

Yet among the contemporary political figures that closely represent the substance and style that made Ronald Reagan who he was is U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican.

At a fundraising event for Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad last Saturday, Rubio touched all the Reagan bases and focused on solutions, not just a recitation of well-known problems. Probably his best line of the evening was, “The way to turn our economy around is not by making rich people poorer. It’s by making poor people richer.” In this, he resembled Reagan’s favorite president, Calvin Coolidge, who said, “Don’t expect to build up the weak by pulling down the strong.”

Rubio also seemed to suggest that conservatism is larger than the Republican brand, which has become tainted in some minds. He said, “This is not about the Republican Party. This is about limited government conservatism.” While he said the Republican Party “is the home of that movement,” he seemed to suggest that it is not necessarily its permanent residence.

Rubio spoke of the middle class, which President Obama constantly referred to during the campaign. He said a major reason the poor are having difficulty moving into the middle class is that the economy has stagnated. That, he said, is due to the record debt, uncertainty that has kept businesses from hiring and a lack of skills needed in a global economy.

Some Republicans are again suggesting the party would perform better if it divorced itself from social conservatives and their issues. Rubio addressed that directly and rejected it: “The breakdown of the American family has a direct impact on our economic well-being. The social and moral well-being of (our) people is directly linked to their economic well-being. You can’t separate the two.”

While praising “heroic” single mothers, Rubio said, “They would be the first to tell you how difficult it is.” He added, “A two-parent home gives kids advantages,” and he said “the great gift my parents gave me” was staying together and loving him and his siblings.

Rubio was not judgmental, but merely appealed to a higher standard. He is not the angry moralist putting others down. He is a political evangelist showing there is a better way. The difference is subtle, but it is in contrast to Mitt Romney’s remark about a nation in which 47 percent are “takers.”

The way one delivers a message in the TV age is as important as the substance of that message. John Kennedy said, “We can do better.” Then there is his call to patriotism from an American born of Cuban immigrants who regularly expresses gratitude to a nation that offered him opportunity: “I can never do more for this country than what this country has done for me.” It’s followed by a warning: “If America declines there is nothing to take our place.”

Rubio has the message the Republican Party needs. It’s a long way to 2016 and there are many good potential presidential candidates, but Marco Rubio could be the one candidate conservatives have been waiting for: the second coming of Ronald Reagan.

— Cal Thomas is a columnist for Tribune Media Services.


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 3 months ago

So Rubio is the new Great White Hope. Well, blonde anyway (which is how "rubio" translates into English.)

Paul R Getto 5 years, 3 months ago

Rubio was not judgmental, but merely appealed to a higher standard. He is not the angry moralist putting others down. He is a political evangelist showing there is a better way. The difference is subtle, but it is in contrast to Mitt Romney’s remark about a nation in which 47 percent are “takers.”

Good points, but can the R's "Let Rubio be Rubio?"

beatrice 5 years, 3 months ago

Dumb? That seems a rather harsh thing to call the 47% who voted for Romney.

msezdsit 5 years, 3 months ago

The greatness of the Reagon Administration couldn't develop until he had been out of office long enough for history to be re written. Now days republicans just make it up as they go, doesn't matter who they plug into the punch line.

1983Hawk 5 years, 3 months ago

Attaboy, Cal. Never say die! Heck, right-wing columnists still gotta eat. So let's go-ahead and kick off the 2016 campaign with some cliff-hanging punditry aimed at the still shell-shocked GOP "base" -- 90 percent of whom are angry (and increasingly bitter and irrelevant) white men. Yes, maybe they can dream the dream that young Marco is the chosen one, the perfect pliant tool of the Establishment billionaires who can come along and reassemble the sainted Ronald Reagan's electoral coalition. This political wet dream is over, fellas. Time to wake up.

Mike Ford 5 years, 3 months ago

news to GOP.....not every Hispanic person is light skinned.......just the one percent in many of the countries of Central and South America who do a better job of exploiting the dark indigenous peoples and maintaining the encomienda and peonage system than the GOP does in the US. If the the GOP is looking for leaders to maintain the economic trap of no rising up as done south of here then Rubio is your man.

Orwell 5 years, 3 months ago

Grover and the Koch brothers are women? Who knew?

Because no one else in the remains of a once-proud party has any power at all.

yourworstnightmare 5 years, 3 months ago

Rubio wouldn't answer a question about how old the earth is. He said he didn't know and that it was a great mystery.

Wrong. We know precisely how old the earth is. 4.5 billion years. Rubio is already starting to pander to the tea party religious right in the GOP.

Either that, or he is horribly ignorant of science. Either way...

labmonkey 5 years, 3 months ago

Precisely? The current theory dates the earth at 4.54 billion plus or minus 0.05 billion years old. That plus or minus paints a 100 million year window... so no, we don't know how old the earth is.

yourworstnightmare 5 years, 3 months ago

Besides, they look nothing alike.

Rubio the new Reagan?

Rubio the new Reagan? by yourworstnightmare

beatrice 5 years, 3 months ago

Reagan tripled the national debt while in office. We can't afford to triple the national debt again. I would hope a president Rubio wouldn't pull a Reagan and triple the debt.

This is why during the Republican debates - back when Gov. Perry was the frontrunner and Republicans and their big-monied supporters were the ones calling former Gov. Romney a "vulture capitalist" - Ron Paul said (and I paraphrase), "I like what Reagan had to say before he was elected, I just didn't like what he did as President." It was the debate held at the Reagan library, and he earned a bit of respect for not pandering to the audience, which booed him.

Thomas:"It’s a long way to 2016 and there are many good potential presidential candidates ..."

So why didn't any of them show up in 2012?

Perhaps there aren't that many good potential GOP presidential candidates after all. Jeb Bush might be a better choice than Rubio, and I doubt seriously that our nation will ever again vote a Bush into office. A Clinton, however, might be another story. I know she hasn't said she is going to run, but if she chooses to I don't see anyone beating her.

However, considering how entertaining the GOP debates were, maybe Thomas is on to something here by getting it started now. Maybe the GOP could start the 2016 debates immediately. By the time the election comes around, they should have their story together by then.

Alyosha 5 years, 3 months ago

Why must Cal always look backward? Reagan was elected President 32 years ago. The "conservative" reaction to the New Deal — which animated Reagan and his corporate backers / sponsors — has nearly run its course; the demographics of the country are vastly different than 1980; the wider world is far, far different than 1980.

Cal demonstrates a central problem: can't see the facts of the present, and thus can't accurately discern the best way forward.

But by all means: keep it up Cal — keep writing your inanities and misunderstandings and faulty prognostications. Keep thinking all the Republicans need is a magic candidate to make all the very real problems they face demographically and policy-wise go away. Keep thinking 2016 is exactly the same as 1980.

That'll help guarantee continued Democratic popular success and continued holding of the Presidency.

jonas_opines 5 years, 3 months ago

I recall in 2004 (and again in 2010), the conservatives on this site were saying that it was the end of liberalism, finally and for all time. Or at least the beginning of the end.

So I won't go so far to say as the GOP is lost. But I'll definitely agree with Aloysha above. Cal Thomas continues, and I'd say always will be, to be turned backwards, facing a past that likely never existed in such purity except inside his head. That this is emblematic of the party as a whole seems, to me, to be obviously summarized by the very names they stick with in their dialog. Conservative (conserve): themselves, and their enemies: "Progressives" (progress).

Ultimately, the labels don't mean all that much, because they're too fluid and frankly overused to every get a definitive idea of what they actually mean, but it does seem to suggest a great fear of change, and a desire to keep holding on to a status-quo with no real desire to understand why. Personally, I consider it to be their penultimate flaw. They fight every step of the way against the only true constant: change.

jonas_opines 5 years, 3 months ago

Amend that to: never existed except inside his head and in old black and white sitcoms.

jonas_opines 5 years, 3 months ago

Yes, pretty much exactly like that. It is amazing how naivete can take hold of people, and make them believe in worlds that don't and won't exist, blinding them to the realities of the world in which they actually live in, isn't it?

msezdsit 5 years, 3 months ago

Doesn't that make a lot of sense. Looking for the next Reagon when reagon himself couldn't even be elected right now.

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