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  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Gulp; Rubio can’t help GOP — so I’ll try

Posted by James McPherson on February 14, 2013

Some Republicans have been talking about how their party needs to come up with a new message. Aside from trying to “stop being the stupid party,” though, they apparently haven’t figured out what that message might be, and so I want to help.

You might think I’m kidding because I generally oppose almost everything the modern Republican Party seem to favor, but in this case I’m absolutely serious. And I’m willing to help out the GOP for a couple of reasons. First, I’m not a loyalist of any party (I didn’t vote for either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney). I want to see progress (and the end of pointess gridlock), regardless of who can claim responsibility. Second, the few Republicans who read this will probably automatically dismiss it, anyway, either because they can’t believe a liberal would have a good idea or because they’re so cluelessly entrenched in their own decreasingly relevant mindset that they can’t budge.

Before I get to what the national Republican message should be, though, a few words about the messages we heard Tuesday night. Obama’s State of the Union Address was about what you’d expect — not much discussion of the current  state of the nation, but a well-delivered (if sometimes inaccurate or misleading) speech that matters little in the long run. More interesting was poor dry-mouthed Sen. Marco Rubio. who became yet another victim of the official SOTU response, the latest Jindalesque would-be GOP savior to prove himself not ready for prime time. As Ian Crouch wrote for the New Yorker:

By the second minute of Marco Rubio’s official Republican response to the  President’s State of the Union address last night, it was clear that the  Senator’s body was betraying him. His lips caught each other in the way they do  at moments of stress, when we are suddenly confronted, after long lapses of  unthought, with the actual mechanics of speech. Under the hot lights, Rubio’s  mouth went dry. A few minutes later, sweat trickled down his right temple, and  he moved his hand instinctively to wipe it away. The dry mouth persisted, and,  at times, his eyes flashed with a kind of pleading and mounting desperation: the  speech was less than halfway over, with words and words to go. His hands,  already large in the frame when he kept them low in front of him, flashed a few  times to his lips. And then back to his temple.

And then, of course, came Rubio’s awkward eyes-forward stretch for what appeared to be Barbie’s water bottle (which did create a new marketing opportunity for his PAC), the moment destined to become the one thing most viewers would remember from his speech. However unfair, we live in a television age; as the Republicans who keep idolizing a misremembered Ronald Reagan should know, staging matters.

And instead of being able to cooly reach for a glass that should have been placed before him in case he needed it, Rubio ended up lunging as if he were trying to keep his presidential hopes from rolling off of an off-camera table. Or perhaps he just wanted to be sure to emphasize the GOP’s anti-environmental approach by highlighting not just bottled water, but water from  company that repeatedly has been the subject of a lawsuits over its product.

Rubio did follow up with a nice little story about how he still lives “in the same working-class neighborhood I grew up in,” a story that was irrelevant to any plan he might have for actually improving the state of the union. It also was a story that make Rubio look like just another shifty politician, since apparently he’s trying to abandon that “working-class home,”if he can get someone to shell out $675,000. And apparently it’s OK for Rubio to benefit from lots of government help, but others should make do with less.

From a substantive point, the worst thing about Rubio’s speech was what it didn’t offer: answers or solutions to anything beyond the rotely regurgitated but meaningless “free market solutions” that voters soundly rejected three months ago. As David Brooks pointed out immediately afterward, except for a vague mention of immigration reform, Rubio’s speech was virtually indisinguishable from one Mitt Romney might have given a day before he was hammered in the election. Or as I heard someone say the next day, Rubio was “another Romney — just add water.” Ouch.

As a Republican friend of mine has said, “We can’t just say no to everything.” And since national Republicans don’t know where to go, I’ll help them out: The “states’ rights” party should actually look to the states for direction. After all, despite its failures at the national level, the GOP controls most state legislatures and most governors’ seats. At that level, many party ideas obviously appeal to voters. Perhaps that’s because at the state level they’re actually more in touch with the voters, and less influenced by national lobbyists and interest groups.

Obama actually gave me the idea for a new Republican strategy, by highlighting the success of early-childhood education programs in the deep-red states of Georgia and Oklahoma. Recall that the model for Obamacare was signed into law by a Republican governor (remember him?). And some Republican states are now embracing expansion of Medicaid and the opportunity to create state-run insurance exchanges as ways to meet their obligations under the law while keeping some control over how the projects work.

What national Republicans ought to do is to start seeking out and embracing the various state-level successes, encouraging other states to adopt programs similar to those that work elsewhere. At the same time, they can then point out to voters what responsible leaders can accomplish without federal interference. And if they focus on the things that people actually want and need — better roads, schools and medical care, for example — maybe the nation as a whole will benefit.

In truth, I don’t think this plan will go anywhere. One problem is that some Republicans would be inclined to cite the dumbest state actions — such as Arizona’s immigration policies — as the models for others to follow. And too many states likely would simply continue to neglect their poorest and most needy residents, regardless of how much federal money and control was shifted their way, leading to all-new calls for federal intervention.

Most significantly, such a plan would require conservative voters to embrace some level of government (and some taxes), a hard pill to swallow for too many modern Republicans even at the state or local level — regardless of how many little bottles of fake spring water they may gulp to wash it down.

10 Responses to “Gulp; Rubio can’t help GOP — so I’ll try”

  1. Reuel said

    Yes they do seem to miss the reality of the rest of the country from the blinders of the Capital beltway, (that now has spread outside the original borders of the intended area for DC). Your point makes a case for both of the major two parties that they both have lost touch with their original intent of the Federal Government and until the money pushers that are now living in the extended area around the beltway are run off we will be divided by the two parties for the purpose of control of whom gets repaid for their investments to buy law. As I have said a many of times, “We could do without about half of the House of Representatives”. I would agree to removing half from both side equally. Your point also shows that most of the country does support tradition conservative actions at the street level. The old adage I have heard so many times that is so true. The people hate congress, but it is not their congressperson that is the problem. The only answer is “Term Limits”. This will remove the power brokers from both sides. I to did not for Obama or Romney. I voted other and insert my own name.

    My criticism of the SOTU speech By Obama was he said “I” 44 times. (44 time 44th President, I bet World Nut Daily will find some how a way to spin that into a conspiracy) (Sorry side joke) and used the word “Investment” many times. Now we all know what investment means. It means his party financial supporting groups living in the (New City) suburbs of DC will be the receivers of said money.

  2. James McPherson said

    Reuel, I agree that both major parties have largely lost touch, and appealing too much to the same big-money donors (your “investment” comment is on target for both parties), but the Dems obviously have managed to reach out better to women, minorities, young people, etc. (pretty much everyone except old white guys like us).

    “Your point also shows that most of the country does support tradition conservative actions at the street level.”

    Perhaps, though it’s more complicated than that. For example, I live in a very conservative area, but voters overwhelmingly agreed to a new library tax on Tuesday while also approving a moronic and anti-democratic supermajority requirement to raise taxes. And most Americans support immigration reform and some forms of gun control, would allow abortions under certain circumstances and might even now support gay marriage.

    I don’t support term limits, because they’d have to be done by every state at the same time, and the process is already so complicated that too much of it is run by aides and lobbyists. If you had new legislators every time, that problem would worsen. Besides, we’d have “term limits” if people were smart enough to vote against incumbents more often. And yes, every Obama speech is an “I”-ful. Sorry, bad pun. Thanks for the comment.

  3. Reuel said

    Term limits on a stagger schedule like the Senate would work and make it 6 year term with no more than 12 years total. It would require a Amendment. But why not? Then also there would be less money funneled into the whole process. I know to logical. As for the Democrats and what I call a scam with the Minorities, young people and everyone else except us old white guys as you called it. They have been spending trillions for years to fix enter-cities, women’s issues and free rides for “Undocumented works” for the soul purpose of getting their vote. The Gay Issue at which I fully support them having all the right any married couple has, See I evolved way before Obama did and he only evolved when he knew it will soon not be a wedge issue anymore. Yes there will always be neanderthals that will still hate the LGBT crowed and I will say I do not still understand the complexity of the “T” part of all that community. But let move on from the wedge issues and focus on a country as a whole. Dems are way ahead of Repubs in all these circles, but if you really look at all they have promised them, they are mostly empty promises for control. These communities will soon realize this someday abd see it for what it is. Now for Rubio, he seem like a very nice, honest person who was not raised a privilege cookie cutter Republican and the Dems are scare to death of him and is that why CNN, NBC, ABC, MSNBC and all the Liberal newspapers jumped on the “Watergate” and if you actual read what he was trying to say it does have good content, but none of them focused on that. Thing is as of right now Hillary could get elected by a write in vote for 2016 if you listen to the same source I wrote of above.

    I always thought at some point Obama would own the troubles we are still in but he going to have a legacy that surpasses the founding fathers. But they will all be fueled by lies as most of his real life was. Just Imagine if President Bush had a kill list for Drones that included US Citizen without a trial. Heck Cuba is still open and they are still trying to try the people partially responsible for 911. He will really be the Executive Order/Memorandum/By the Kings law President in my view and he has no respect for the Constitution of this Republic. On purpose I am certain.

  4. melfamy said

    I am against term limits…..
    Terms are meant to be limited by elections. Denying an incumbent the right to keep his seat for reasons other than being thrown out is unfair to those who elected him/her, obviously a majority of the voters.
    Lobbyists have no term limits; having more naive freshman representatives to influence would be a dream come true
    Also, knowing that his time in officeis limited, would cause the less honest office-holders to speed up their looting.

  5. James McPherson said

    Reuel, I’d argue that both sides “pay off” their supporters–and that Dems are also simply more likely to support things (abortion, education, gay rights, stem cell research, etc.) that appeal to women and minorities, while Republicans are less likely to support those things (but more likely to support “strong defense,” while Dems figure that military spending that exceeds the spending of the next 10 nations combined may be overkill (pun intended).

    “if you actual read what he was trying to say it does have good content”

    I watched it, and wonder what you consider to be the “good content.” There’s no “there” there, as they say, no real ideas, just well-worn GOP platitudes. Maybe I missed something.

    “I always thought at some point Obama would own the troubles we are still in”

    It could still happen–there’s a lot of his term left, and second terms don’t tend to go well. He’s finally getting some pushback on drones. That might have come sooner if most Republicans didn’t like the idea even more than most Democrats.

    “Just Imagine if President Bush had a kill list for Drones that included US Citizen without a trial.”

    I suspect he did. We know that he started the drone program.

    “He will really be the Executive Order/Memorandum/By the Kings law President”

    Well, one of them, anyway. He still has issued far fewer executive orders and far, far fewer “signing statements” than Bush did, though Republicans seemingly didn’t care about those. You can see comparisons of each at https://www.federalregister.gov/executive-orders and http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/01/04/obama-embraces-signing-statements-after-knocking-bush-for-using-them.html

    Greg, good point about the increase looting pace. Thanks, gentlemen.

  6. Reuel said

    It is the content of the Executive Orders that is a huge difference and the number is less somewhat due to his staff have come up with other words to call them instead of “Executive Orders”. Senator Rubio statement in his response on spending was right on target. Also Obama saying nothing in the SOTU address will cost us one single dime is a lie. Maybe his and his wife vacations at separate locations this weekend will “Change”. A new comment by him the other day on some Google something another web cast stated the the Republican are running out of questions about Benghazi Libya. DOH, the problem is they are not getting any answers.

    So I see term limits are not going to be answer to the corruption of power that is mostly happens in the Senior lifetime elected Officials. So what can be done to stop this practice of a Middle Class person going to congress and sleeping in his or her office for a couple of terms and next you know they own a large house in the DC area they usually end up with large amounts of wealth. Not all of course. I still support term limits and campaign finance reform. 7 Billion spent by both parties including PAC, Unions, and who know where some of it came from, is insane for the President of the United States of America 4 year gig.

    FYI; I still support President Bush and most of the calls he made in a difficult time after 911. No Iraq was not handled well. After 2 decades of dealing with Iraq it seems the critics are many, but the ideas of other resolutions are few. I still have a copy of the e-mail I sent to the White house in the end of 2002 expressing my disapproval of war and the wish for a more targeted approach. I have more problem with the Democrats that supported the action/said the same things about Iraq then after engagement their actions actually embolden our foes while we had troops in theater. Libya was a mistake from the beginning and he was more interested in re-election than the life’s of his State Department personnel in Libya. Obama will never have President in front of anything I ever write or speak. He is destroying our country and is financially bankrupting our future.

    Have a good weekend.

  7. I like your idea of giving each state more power (at least I think that was the gist of your idea.) Every state has different needs and would be better served without federal govt. interference.

    As to Rubio, I recall when I predicted that he would beat Crist in the FL senate race. Nobody believed me. I told them the same thing I will tell you and all the other silly boys: He’s hawt. He’s Latin. He’s Floridian. He’s conservative.

    He will be our next president………………. and I’d let him drink my bottle of water any day. 😉

  8. James McPherson said

    “I like your idea of giving each state more power …”

    Thanks. Mind you, the idea doesn’t appeal to me much personally because of the two concerns I mentioned in the next-to-last paragraph. But I do think it would appeal to many others, and could help Republicans regain some credibility that they’ve lost just by seeming to oppose everything.

    “Every state has different needs”

    True–but every individual resident of those states has many of the same needs: a job, shelter, food, health care, education, etc. If Republicans prove unwilling to address those needs even at the state level (other than by saying “every man for himself”), they’re going to find people looking to the Democrats and the feds.

    “Rubio … will be our next president”

    I don’t think so–but I do know that in 2005 no one would have predicted that Barack Obama would win in 2008, and George H.W. Bush had a 90-percent approval rating just a year before the 1992 election and looked unbeatable. We’re a long way from the next election, and Rubio definitely isn’t out of the running.

    “I’d let him drink my bottle of water any day”

    He may need it. That tiny bottle of his wouldn’t last long. 🙂 Thanks for dropping by.

  9. SBJ, you are as silly as the RNL boys. I think it all boils down to jealousy…….and the fact that Rubio can handle his H2O.

  10. Reuel said

    2016 is not what I worry about or “Watergate” “Watergate” (Now that’s funny.), I see a splitting Republican party just around the corner in 2014. What worries me more is the Real unemployment numbers. What worries me is that the Left Stream media complained about no access then the first question out of their mouth was “Did you beat Tiger Woods?”. Really with China hacking us, North Korea blowing up mountains, Russia flying bombers like its the cold war again. Iran snubbing it nose at our leadership and Obama did not talk to anyone for 7 hours while his Ambassador to Libya and his staff were under attack. Now I know President Bush was not popular, but “COME ON” “Did you beat Tiger Woods at golf?” Oh I hear CNN is now under new Management and some of the Obama Cheer Leaders are heading for the door. It is amazing that Obama in the stream media has done nothing wrong his whole life and is not responsible for anything. But taking a drink of water is the career ending thing of the year? Ryan and Rubio both understand better how Washington is suppose to work than Obama will ever know. I finally get it “He has locked in the Low knowledge voters that think everything should be for free, Romney was right about the 47 percent and that was the game plan from the beginning for Obama, because all the ever matters to him is him.

    Yeah I know Rant. So what I feel better now.
    Try it some time, it addictive.

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