TAMPA — “Marvin, what do we do now?” This is one of those memorable lines, familiar to most movie-goers of a certain age. The line concludes the 1972 Robert Redford movie, The Candidate, and is uttered by Redford’s much compromised liberal senator-elect Bill McKay.
Florida’s new senator-elect, Marco Rubio of Miami, doesn’t have McKay’s problem. Rubio is not a liberal. And he in no way compromised his conservative principles to win big last Tuesday, though his main opponent, partyless Florida Governor Charlie Crist (I-Narcissus), compromised whatever principles he may have once had by floating, unsuccessfully, a series of bogus charges against Rubio during the campaign.
Crist’s political career is almost certainly over. Few here are weeping for the guy who changed his political positions so often, so completely, and so opportunistically that Brit Hume called him “the most flexible politician I’ve ever seen.” In a column this week George Will referred to Crist as “Plasticman.” In Florida politics, Crist is so 2006.
Rubio knows exactly what he wants to do now, which is to work to bring about a clear alternative to the toxic leftist agenda of President Obama and the Democratic Congress, an agenda which is turning America into something that it’s never been and that most Americans don’t want. After the election Rubio said his first priorities would be to cut federal spending, to see that the Bush tax cuts are made permanent, and to repeal and replace ObamaCare.
In his acceptance speech last Tuesday Rubio called the Republican surge “a second chance for Republicans to be what they said they were going to be not so long ago.” Exactly. Rubio realizes the profligacy of Republicans in 2006 and 2008 is partly responsible for the country’s woes. “Our nation is headed in the wrong direction and both parties are to blame,” he said repeatedly on the campaign trail. If most members of the Republican Class of 2010 understand this, and I hope and trust they do, the better the chances Washington’s wild spending will be brought under control.
Showing the influence the rookie senator-elect has in the new Republican Party, he was chosen to deliver the weekly Republican address Saturday. In it he said the Republican Party had given nothing less than a promise that if given power again “we would not squander the chance you gave us… we must not. Because nothing less than the identity of our country and what kind of future we will leave our children is at stake.”
Marco gets it. And he invites voters to “hold us accountable to the ideas and principles we campaigned on. This is our second chance to get this right. To make the right decisions and the tough calls and to leave our children what they deserve — the freest and most exceptional society in all of human history.” (And if the Brits or the Greeks want to complain that we go on too much about our exceptionalism, they can complain to President Obama, who agrees with them.)
Timing is critical in war, love, and hitting a baseball. It’s no less so in politics. And Rubio was the guy in Florida’s three-way Senate race whose time had come.
Democratic Kendrick Meek watched Obama’s dramatic win in 2008, in which he won 52 percent of red-state Florida’s vote, and concluded it was time for another black liberal candidate to win state-wide in Florida. But the air went out of “that hopey-changey thing” (thanks to Sarah Palin for the expression) so fast that all Meek could scare up in 2010 was 20 percent of the vote in the Senate race.
Crist, who has never had a fixed ideological address, listened to the Republican establishment, and therefore thought 2010 was the year for moderate Republicans. When it turned out not to be, he tried to out-conservative Rubio to win the Republican nomination. When he fell hopelessly behind, he became an independent, gussied up all new liberal positions, and tried to fish for Democratic voters. He got more of these than Meek did, but ended with only 30 percent of the vote, a full 20 points behind Rubio.
Looks like Rubio was right when he repeated on the campaign trail, “We already have a Democratic Party. We don’t need another one.”
Rubio pledges to pursue policies that will help grow our economy, policies that re-assert our reliance on the free market and limited government. In addition to reigning in spending and extending the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, Rubio would like to cut corporate taxes to make American companies competitive, end the death tax, end double taxation, reform the U.S. Tax Code, stop consideration of the value-added tax, repeal regulations that hurt job creation, reduce barriers to free and fair trade, and fix entitlements.
These may not be all the actions and answers we need. But they’re good ideas, and enough to keep Rubio and the Republican Class of 2010 off of K Street for a good long while. Maybe until another of Rubio’s campaign suggestions is fulfilled. He said on the trail, “If you don’t like the Republican establishment, get another establishment.” Who said there are no new good ideas?
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