Rubio’s extremism

I’ve made this point before, but as Margaret Talbot has just dedicated a whole column to it, it seems worth making again– Marco Rubio may be the “establishment” candidate, but he is really, really far right.  So far right, in fact, that it could very well hurt his electability.  Talbot:

From a distance, it’s easy to see why. Rubio is more presentable than Cruz or Trump (or, for that matter, Chris Christie)—more likable, as Cruz keeps reminding people, trying to make it sound like a curse. At times, Rubio can project a soothing, authoritative calm not unlike Ben Carson’s but without the mooniness. He has a legitimately stirring family story: [all emphases mine] he’s the Spanish-speaking, Cuban-American son of two immigrants who worked, respectively, as a bartender and a hotel maid. (“If I’m our nominee, how is Hillary Clinton going to lecture me about living paycheck to paycheck?” he asked, memorably, at the first debate. “I was raised paycheck to paycheck.”)…

One thing Rubio is not, however, is moderate, or even close to it. And to the extent that far-right politics are actually off-putting to voters in a general election—to Democrats but also independents and younger voters, who are instinctually liberal on social issues—that poses a bit of a problem for the scenario in which Rubio is the savior of reason and the G.O.P. He ran for his Senate seat in 2010 with Tea Party support. He is firmly opposed to same-sex marriage and to abortion, with no exception for cases of rape or incest or the health of the mother—only for the mother’s life…

Rubio has a perfect record from the N.R.A. and a lifetime rating of ninety-eight per cent from the American Conservative Union. He is opposed to raising the minimum wage. As Geraghty notes, he “contends the legislative efforts to fight climate change are economically self-destructive and expresses skepticism that human behavior is driving climate change.”…

Telling moderate Republicans that Rubio is the obvious, joyous choice for them means asking them to ignore who Rubio is—or, perhaps, to abandon their notions of moderation. What Rubio’s anointment as the establishment candidate really shows is how far rightward the Republican Party has moved. And, maybe most striking of all, in his case, how intolerant it has become on immigration.

The bad news (for Democrats) is that being ideologically extreme does not seem to hurt presidential candidates as much as you’d think, and maybe even less than ever in these days of super-polarized politics.  But that said, it will not have zero negative impact– especially the same-sex marriage issue– and it what I suspect would be a close election between Rubio and Clinton, his ideological extremism could well be the difference.

Of course, personally, I hope it doesn’t come to this and we get to see Hillary cruise past Cruz, but Rubio certainly has a solid chance of becoming the nominee.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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