Written for Carolina Review
February 29th, 2016
At the time of the 2008 election, I was eleven years old. As you might expect, I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to the election. I knew who the Democratic and Republican presidential and vice-presidential nominees were, but I couldn’t tell you who any of the primary candidates were. By 2012, I was paying a bit more attention. I remember watching Romney dominate that first debate in Colorado with excitement and being elated when Paul Ryan was chosen as his running mate. And, I remember waiting up with my parents, watching the general election returns come in, only to head to bed in disappointment when the outcome became clear.
This year, however, I get to vote. It’s also the first time that I’ve realized something: this election is going to have a major impact on my future.
With that thought in mind, I’ve watched the primary race attentively. I’ve stayed up to watch the caucus and primary results come in. I’ve tracked the national and state polls. And I’ve been scared out of my mind by what I’ve seen.
I am afraid because of Donald Trump. I genuinely don’t like the man, something I say very rarely about anyone. I don’t like how he speaks to and about women. I don’t like how bigoted he is. I don’t like how crass he is. I don’t like how arrogant and narcissistic he is. And I don’t like how he gives conservatives a bad name.
Every conservative has been called a bigot at some point. To liberals, conservative values are homophobic, racist, and misogynistic. For most conservatives, these accusations couldn’t be further from the truth. But Trump is the embodiment of all the insults liberals have thrown at us over the years, a bizarre, warped caricature of a conservative that seems to confirm all of liberals’ stereotypes.
Instead of driving voters away, Trump has somehow managed to attract support with his crassness. Followers like how Trumps is unafraid to “speak it like it is,” how “real” he is. I take issue with these reasons, and have actually already written an article on the subject.
If Trump’s immature and un-presidential behavior isn’t enough, polls have shown time and time again that Trump would lose the general election to both a self-proclaimed socialist and a woman currently under investigation for playing fast and loose with state secrets. These same polls show Ted Cruz in a better position, slightly ahead of Clinton in most polls, but losing to Sanders in every one of them. While these two aren’t polling well, Marco Rubio has distinguished himself as the only candidate to beat Clinton in every poll and to beat Sanders in two of the three polls.
Rubio has stood out for more than just his performance in hypothetical head-to-heads. He’s separated himself from the field with his political experience, eloquence, and strength of character.
Rubio, as many of you already know, was born to Cuban immigrants and worked his way up in the world, eventually obtaining a law degree and serving in the Florida House of Representatives. At the age of 44 he has faced accusations of being inexperienced despite the fact that he served in the Florida House of Representatives for eight years, the last two of which he was the Speaker, before being elected to the United States Senate in 2010.
During his time in the Florida House of Representatives, Rubio was selected as one of the Majority Whips, and garnered a reputation for eschewing the coercion tactics typically employed by whips, instead trying to persuade representatives to vote with the Republican party. He also demonstrated an ability to unite political enemies, with colleagues interviewed in a National Journal article saying that he “sought out Democrats and groups that don’t typically align with the GOP.” According to the same article Rubio would even invite former political rivals into his inner circle.
Another charge brought up against Rubio is that he’s missed a large number of Senate roll calls. It’s true, since being elected Rubio has missed 220 out of 1,508 roll call votes, roughly 14.6%. Of his missed votes, 120 were during Rubio’s presidential campaign. Remember, though, as a senator Barack Obama missed 182 roll calls during his campaign. Rubio has served in the senate for over five years and only missed 38 more votes than Obama did in a one-year period. In fact, in his entire tenure as senator, Obama missed 314 out of 1,300 votes or 24% of all votes. It also seems odd to see these accusations hurled at Rubio when his fellow Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz has also missed 14.5% of all votes during his shorter tenure in the Senate.
During his time in the Senate Rubio has served on the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, the Committee on Foreign Relations, the Select Committee on Intelligence, and the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. He has also served on eight subcommittees, serving as chair for the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmospheres, Fisheries, and Coast Guard and the Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights and Global Women’s Issues. Despite accusations that he has nothing to show for his time in the Senate, Rubio has sponsored 107 bills, approximately 24 per year. Ted Cruz has sponsored 66, or a comparable 22 per year, yet has not faced similar accusations. I attempted to locate the same information for Trump, but unfortunately, my Google search for “Donald Trump political accomplishments” yielded no results.
In addition to being a fantastic public servant, Rubio is also a genuinely nice guy. He’s a practicing Catholic who also frequently attends Christ Fellowship, a Baptist mega church in Miami. Between 2004 and 2008 Rubio gave a total of over $66,000 to two churches, Christ Fellowship and First Baptist Church in Perrine, Florida. He said in an interview with Christianity Today, “There has never been a moment when faith hasn’t been an important part of my life,” and that religion and the political life can be connected. “If you’re living out your faith, it influences every aspect of your life. It teaches us to glorify God in everything we do. In everything we do in our lives, we’re called to bring glory to God, primarily by the way we live our lives and the things we do so people will look to us and say, “That’s what it means to be a Christian; that’s what it means to be ambassadors of Christ.” If our faith influences every aspect of our lives, then if we decide to become politically active, it should influence that as well.”
And he’s carried himself well as an ambassador of Christ on the campaign trail. Throughout the primaries Rubio has stayed above the muck and the mire. In the most recent debate he even showed it was possible to be hard on his fellow candidates (specifically Trump) without descending to the classless, rude level so many politicians think they must go to in order to attack their opponents. Just take a look at the biggest controversies of the top three Republican candidates’ campaigns. Trump has caused controversy almost every time he opens his mouth. We’ve seen him go after women, Muslims, disabled reporters, Hispanics, Democrats, Republicans, and anyone who disagrees with him, all in the crassest ways possible. Ted Cruz’s campaign lied about Ben Carson leaving the race and faked a video of Rubio trashing the Bible. And Rubio? Well, one time he repeated himself in a debate.
Everyone who meets Rubio comes away impressed with the senator. Throughout his career he’s shown himself to be a speaker with a knack for rhetoric and eloquence. He’s composed, calm, and witty, but never comes across as fake. Andra Oyler, the mother of a disabled Rubio supporter, recently wrote an article about attending a Rubio rally in Texas. Her son Drew was hoping to get a picture with Rubio, and at the end of the rally called out to Rubio who “looked at him, and gave us the biggest smile, then stopped and leaned in towards Drew for the best picture ever. It was real. He was real. And everyone around us witnessed a very special moment in time.” Oyler said this act was consistent with the Rubio they had seen throughout the rally and that she “was immediately impressed with his demeanor, and what he had to say, how he said it, and the natural way he interacted with the crowd.”
Come primary day in North Carolina on March 15th, I know who I’ll be casting my vote for; the candidate most likely to take back the White House, and the best man for the job: Marco Rubio.