Rubio, the Conservative
One thing I’ll never be accused of lacking is stubbornness – I’m a Missouri mule through and through. However, as I’ve grown older (and theoretically wiser), I’ve had to learn that “being right” isn’t the be all-end all of life. Faith, family, friends – those are what matter most. And often, in order to honor those, one must learn to stand down and focus on what IS right, rather than on BEING right.
That said, I’m not one to shy away from a challenge when one is put to me – particularly in the realm of politics. So, when my friend Jamie Allman, a local radio and television host, voiced some criticism yesterday of those employing the #NeverTrump hashtag, I decided to call in to his radio show and share my thoughts in defense of the #NeverTrump sentiment. I’ll come back to that in a bit, but in the meantime, Jamie replayed our discussion this morning and followed it with a query as to how a #NeverTrumper can claim to hold that stance based on conservative principles, yet still support Marco Rubio, whom some claim is a Liberal – or, at least, a liberal Republican.
There’s no question that as this race has developed, Rubio has merged into the “Establishment” lane, particularly as other Establishment candidates like Jeb Bush and John Kasich have failed to gain traction. (Jeb! even moreso than Kasich.) And Rubio is possessed of several positions which would rightly land him at least partially in that camp – most notably, his role in the infamous “Gang of Eight” debacle. However, I find it rather amusing that a guy swept into office on a Tea Party wave, who took on Charlie Crist to get there, is now to be written off as an undesirable Establishment guy. And I find it ludicrous to characterize him as a Liberal.
Ludicrous? That’s a strong word. Well, here’s why I think it’s fitting:
- Marco Rubio has a lifetime ACU (American Conservative Union) rating of 98 (out of 100). That puts him fifth among sitting US Senators in terms of conservatism, behind only Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Tom Coburn and Ron Johnson, and one spot ahead of Rand Paul. ACU Ratings – US Senators
- Marco Rubio has a 100% rating from the National Right to Life Committee. NRLC Rating – Rubio
- Marco Rubio was rated a “Taxpayer Super Hero” by the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste. Citizens Against Government Waste Ratings
- Marco Rubio has a 90% rating from Gun Owners of America and a B+ rating from the NRA (National Rifle Association). A summary of Rubio’s ratings on guns can be found here: Marco Rubio’s Ratings & Endorsements (scroll down for guns). A summary of Rubio’s positions/statements on guns can be found here: On the Issues – Rubio – Guns
- Rubio’s ratings on a variety of topics can also be found at the two preceding links.
Hundreds of articles have been written in support of Rubio: Here are two which specifically make the case for him as a Conservative:
The Conservative Case for Marco Rubio
Marco Rubio is Plenty Conservative
So, no, I don’t consider it fair or accurate to characterize him as a Liberal. In fact, his record demonstrates a strong case for why he’s one of the more conservative candidates we’ve had in recent years. That doesn’t render him perfect – not by any stretch of the imagination. (He’s a good deal more hawkish than this hawkish-dove; his proposed tax policy isn’t my favorite; and his immigration stance has been troubling. However, I can live with his current stance on it. (For more on that, see the Immigration heading here: Rubio on Immigration. For what I consider a very thoughtful take on the issue, see Annie Frey’s recent piece on the topic: IMMIGRATION: CONSERVATIVES & AMNESTY.))
Once the primary was underway, I took my time committing to a candidate. I sized up their respective positions. I took the “I Side With” Quiz (which is actually fairly thorough if you click through all of the questions) back in June and got these results:
Rubio – 82%
Santorum – 81% (which surprised me)
Cruz – 79%
Walker – 79%
Paul – 78%
Carson – 65%
Sanders – 52%
Clinton – 46%
Fiorina – 37% (another surprise for me)
But I didn’t commit at that point. I waited and watched the primary unfold. I watched their debate performances. I kept an eye on the polls regarding their match-ups with Hillary Clinton (whom I considered to be the likely Democratic nominee.) And Rubio did eventually win me over. When asked by a friend to explain my (January) declaration of my support for him, I responded with this:
- His policy stances match closest to mine of the current candidates
- He’s a policy wonk
- He has a record of conservative accomplishments in Florida (including limiting the impact of the Kelo decision)
- He took on (and beat) Charlie Crist
- His tax plan is okay, though could use some tweaking (I actually prefer Cruz’s)
- He’s electable
- He has a good sense of humor
- He’s intelligent and quick on his feet (usually – New Hampshire debate? Not so much!)
I should note that when I recently took the “I Side With” Quiz, I got a 90% match with Cruz and an 85% match with Rubio. By that point, my sense that Rubio would fare better in the General Election kept me in his camp, but I like Cruz and happily claim him as my second choice. One thing I said at the outset of the primaries though was that there were two GOP candidates for whom I could not and would not vote: Mike Huckabee and Donald Trump. Huckabee’s a long story for another day, but my opposition to Trump has been a constant since before he officially announced in June (long before I settled on Rubio as my choice or even thought he (Rubio) had a serious shot at the nomination) and has remained steady ever since. Which brings me to:
A principled opposition to Trump
When Jamie was kind enough to take my call yesterday, I was a bit nervous, so I’m not certain I recall all of the reasons I gave, but I do know I mentioned concern over several of his not-so-conservative positions and his authoritarian impulses. What I may not have been clear about is that, yes, a good deal of it also has to do with his style. More than anything, one of the key factors which I take into consideration as to any candidate is whether (and how) I’ll be able to defend my support of him or her – and do so credibly. And I do not feel — have never felt — that I could do that with Donald Trump. His rhetoric is bombastic and often a bridge-too-far (feeding into the negative stereotypes assigned to Republicans and Conservatives), and even if I could look past that in order to get behind his core principles, I’ve never been able to discern with any confidence what his core principles actually are! In short, he’s never come anywhere close to closing “the deal” with me.
And I’m not alone in that. Of the multitude of articles I’ve encountered expressing opposition to him as the nominee, these three best (and far more eloquently than I can) capture and express my sentiments on the topic:
Clarifying the Message of Never Trump
An Open Letter to Trump Supporters
This is why I decided (months ago) that should Donald Trump become the GOP nominee, I will write in someone else (probably Rubio, maybe Calvin Coolidge) for the Presidential spot and vote the down-ticket races. I would never not vote. I was raised on politics, and the thought of sitting out an election goes against the core of who I am. Nor could I bring myself to vote for Hillary Clinton. (As cool as the thought of electing a woman President may be, I’ve never cared for Hillary, not even when I was still a liberal Democrat who voted for her husband – twice. More on that in a moment.)
What happens, though, when one makes this sort of declaration, is that others object. They argue (and there’s a legitimate logic to this) that a non-vote for the GOP nominee is a de facto vote for Democratic nominee. Sometimes they even try to bully or guilt you into walking it back — a tweet the other day insisted that because I’d survived breast cancer, I couldn’t possibly shirk my obligation to vote for Trump in order to stop Hillary. (That one left a little to be desired in the logic department. Points for originality, though!) Well, I won’t be guilted or bullied into violating my conscience.
The argument that I’m duty bound to support my party’s nominee no matter what fails for me, as well. Because, you see, I’m not a Republican. I’m a Conservative (or, to be exact, a recovering liberal Democrat who converted to conservatism a dozen-or so years ago, and who can most accurately be described as a fiscal conservative/social moderate/with libertarian leanings – just like it says on my Twitter profile!) And the primary reason I’m not a Republican is because as I’ve grown in my understanding of and appreciation for conservatism, I’ve repeatedly been disappointed by the way the GOP as a party handles – well, just about everything. The GOP’s knack for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory is legendary. And for the past five-or-so years, as I’ve been more active in the conservative movement, I’ve been right there alongside the “grass roots,” railing against the Establishment when it was clearly selling out core conservative principles. For me to turn around now and vote for a nominee whom I don’t believe espouses or even truly understands what conservatism is simply because he has an “R” behind his name would be just as much of a sell out. So I won’t do it.
What I also won’t do, though, is run down those who’ve chosen to back him (or another candidate.) So if someone were to start a #NeverRubio movement, I’d raise an eyebrow and shake my head, and I might even question them about it – but I won’t attack them for it. We all have our reasons for supporting certain candidates and not supporting others. I may find other’s reasons lacking (as I’m sure some will find mine), but in the end, we’re all Americans, trying to elect leaders we feel will best do honor to their offices and their country. Hopefully, sometimes, we get it right.