Senator Marco Rubio of Florida has announced his candidacy for the Presidency of the United States of America. The son of a bartender and a maid, and a proud product of the Cuban exile community, he has effectively become the first viable Latino candidate for the highest elected office on the face of the earth. This is a powerful testimony to how far Hispanic Americans have come in the soon-to-be Estados Unidos. Without a doubt, the possibility of Rubio winning is high, but the positions he maintains while entering a primary slugfest will make or break his quest.
On November 2, 2010, Colombian-American wife and four young children in tow, Rubio gave a victory speech upon his election to the United States Senate, having overwhelmingly vanquished a sitting governor. He ended his speech humbly, asking for the prayers of his constituents to help ward off the greed and ambition that taint the halls of power. The 39-year old newcomer to national politics had served more than a decade as a city commissioner and member of the state legislature, and as Speaker of the Florida House during the last two years of his tenure. The golden boy of Little Havana had spent his Florida career reducing property taxes and trimming the state bureaucracy, and was ready for a new challenge.
Rubio’s insurgency campaign to the Senate mirrored that of an Illinois upstart only six years earlier, whose victory also foreshadowed a presidential run. Like President Obama, the Senator comes from modest means, and had to rack up heavy student debts to qualify as a lawyer. Deriving from his personal struggle to receive an education, Rubio is proposing to completely overhaul the American education system, with the introduction of merit pay, technical programs, school choice, more vouchers, and loan repayment plans that are linked to salaries. Although he lacks domestic policy legislation in the Senate, Rubio understands that growing the pie is more important than slicing it up – as shown through his support for a simpler tax code and the Keystone Pipeline. He embodies the Cuban-American community in all of its success and pain, particularly its long-standing entrepreneurial spirit since the flight from Castro.
Marco Rubio has the option to become the voice of his generation
Rubio’s tenure in the Senate has been mixed, at best. He crashed and burned during an unfortunate thirst-quenching episode amidst a rambling response to President Obama’s fifth State of the Union Address. On the legislative side, extremists from his party torpedoed what started off as a positive attempt to offer a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants with children. Rather than trying again, he shelved the proposal in its entirety, groveling instead to teabaggers about the lack of border security. This circumventive response is harmonious with the cleverly devised social stances that we have seen him take in the past – whether it be voicing opposition to abortion without alluding to a litmus test for judges, or respecting gays while lamenting the erosion of DOMA. Rubio is proud of his heritage, his knowledge of pop culture, and his command of Spanish. Unfortunately, he is also comfortable with the social conservatives that will most likely be the cause of a Democratic victory in 2016.
Foreign policy has been the Senator’s forte, since he stands as the only American politician to have forcefully addressed the plight of the Venezuelan people, who are being crushed by a brutal socialist regime. When Rubio delivers a statement on the House floor annihilating those who defend Castro’s system, or when he achieves sanctions against the upper echelons of Nicolas Maduro’s criminal inner circle, he is not just acting for Americans, but also for the millions of people in our continent who live without freedom of enterprise or freedom of speech, without well-stocked grocery stores and hospitals. Rubio’s unyielding opposition to tyranny is admirable, and it makes pragmatic, sensible citizens become enchanted with his rhetoric. They may forget about his aforementioned fundamentalist flirtations, but only for a moment.
Marco Rubio has the option to become the voice of his generation: a fiscal conservative, in touch with a changing social landscape, and a wielder of an aggressive, yet lean foreign policy. On the other hand, he could select a distinct and disastrous route; one lined with bible thumpers, birthers and bozos (the 20% of Americans who believe that Obama is an Islamist born in Kenya), whose intolerance matches their political toxicity. Only time will tell which path he takes, but he should choose wisely because the descendants of those who made Little Havana their own shall be watching.
– Avik Jain
Photo: Gage SKidmore / Flickr Creative Commons