Marco Rubio and the Politics of Nada

Marco Rubio is the most hyped Latino/Hispanic politician in America today. As a senator from Florida, he plays a much more visible role than, say, Luis Gutiérrez, a representative from Obama’s political home, Chicago. And despite the sporadic buzz about Puerto Rico governor Luis Fortuño as a possible player in the Republican Party’s attempt at damage control caused by provoking anti-immigrant, anti-Latino hysteria, Rubio may actually have a shot at the Republican nomination for Vice-President.

From this video, it’s obvious that Rubio’s rhetorical skills are quite limited. His speech is littered with platitudes, stale talking-points and inept jokes about Democrats, like the one he makes in the beginning about Obama’s use of teleprompters. I guess he thinks that since it’s been two years since he was caught looking at a teleprompter while telling a similar teleprompter joke, the statute of limitations has run out. From the beginning, he reveals himself to be little more than a glossy “telegenic” candidate whose style is at best clumsy and unimaginative. In other words, the perfect Republican candidate for office.

More talking points: Obama is a “terrible” president because he has “decided to pit Americans against each other.” In accusing Obama of creating class antagonisms he is engaging in the Republican strategy of projecting their own corruption, as the party of the corporate class, which has exacerbated class conflict, onto a scapegoat, Obama. It doesn’t matter that for many in this country Obama hasn’t disassociated himself enough from that corporate class. He represents people of color looking for a “handout.”

There are a series of code words and code agendas, laid out, including an incoherent rambling about a “simplistic tax code,” the need to “invest in national defense,” and how Obama is “bankrupting medicare.” Losing momentum, he resorts to this winning one-liner, which like many of his other assertions, is completely lacking in context: “America doesn’t have an energy policy, it has energy politics!” Wink, wink.

Then, we get to the crux of Rubio’s argument, American exceptionalism. “This idea, that the only way for some people to do better is for others to do worse is what other countries believe.” He invokes the story of his family, who came here, not exactly as emigres fleeing Castro’s socialism, but as people wanting to pursue a prosperity engendered by, in Rubio’s words,  “the freedom to pursue dreams.” This is conservatism in a nutshell, he explains.

Then he recycles the central myth of the Republican Party since the 1980s, which is that Ronald Reagan restored America to its rightful place as the greatest country in the world. “The American Century has made the world what it is today,” he said. The defeat of the Nazis and the fascist killing machine would not have happened “if not for the power and resolve of the American people.” Turns out those people were led by a Democratic president who the entire room Rubio was addressing would call a dangerous socialist.

That’s where Reaganism scored its greatest victory–by appearing to have vanquished the economically collapsing Soviet Union through the use of rag-tag clandestine armies to confront its presence in Afghanistan and its imagined threat in Central America, he erased the memory of how Germany was defeated in World War II.

So we are told, over and over again, (and Obama is also a willing participant), that the only way of conceiving of our lives going forward is to reassert the primacy of the United States as the “greatest country,” the true purveyor of the contradictory goals of democracy and unfettered free enterprise, by looking backward to an illusory triumph of the will.

There is no future in this vision. Only a distorted past. It’s a bunch of nada.

And so we are left with the shining city on a hill. It’s a biblical reference, you know, Rubio reminds us. Certainly he must have drawn on his moral beliefs to forgive his  sister’s husband, who was convicted in 1989 of possession and sale of large amounts of cocaine and marijuana and served 11 years until paroled. No one here is casting the first stone. What’s inexplicable is how Republicans continue to present crudely crafted ciphers like Rubio in an attempt to get voters, Latino or otherwise, to swoon for the same agenda that has belittled and exploited them for years.


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