The Republican I Would Have Voted For

It’s been a while since I’ve been enthusiastic about voting for anyone in a presidential election. In fact, I don’t know if I’ve ever voted for a presidential candidate with enthusiasm. It’s usually a “lesser of two evils” sort of thing. But this year I had hoped to vote for Marco Rubio, a candidate I have been hoping for years would run for president. I had hoped to cast my vote for him in the California primary and then in the November general election. I will not have that chance this year. What do I like so much about Rubio? I like that he has real faith and makes sensible connections between Christianity and public policy. I like that he is whip-smart and a great orator, yet can talk fantasy football or Tupac in a non-Romney-awkward way. I like that he has a robust grasp of foreign and domestic policy. I like his believable vision for a compassionate conservatism that is more about opportunity than fear. I like that he presents a real opportunity to broaden the demographic coalition of the Republican party, a necessity for the GOP going forward. I like that Rubio has consistently been the only candidate who beats Hillary Clinton in head-to-head polls. I like that he would be the first Latino president in U.S. history. I like that he represents a changing America.

I like that Rubio cares about minorities and racial injustice. I like that he is consistently pro-life. I like that he is a family man and a man for families. I like that he says things like, “If you want to be president of the United States of America, you must love the American people, even the American people that do not love you back.” I even like that he has a nerdy favorite genre of music (EDM).

I like that in an election of ugly junior-high rhetoric, Rubio (mostly) stayed above the fray. I like that he stands up to Trump and will never sell out to him like Christie or Carson or any of the others have. I like that he speaks up for sanity and civility and against divisive rhetoric. I like that he essentially gave up his own chances in order to help stop Trump by telling his fans to vote for Kasich in Ohio, showing a “for the greater good” love for America that few other candidates manifest.

I also like many of the qualities that I think made Rubio unappealing to the Trump/Cruz wing of the Republican party. I like that he has the courage to work across party lines to tackle important but politically risky issues (e.g. in the “Gang of Eight” for immigration reform). I like that he is a sort of GOP version of Obama: a young, idealistic, intelligent, articulate, inspiration, hopeful man with convictions and yet with a genteel, statesman quality that can win friends and fans of various stripes.

Ultimately I think Rubio was too good for this election cycle. His qualifications, his energy, his vision were perhaps too coherent and too sensible for an America that is in rage rather than rational mode. His rhetoric was probably too nuanced and his policy proposals too well researched to connect with a nation more compelled by reality TV theatrics than reasoned political discourse; a nation with a dangerously short-term memory and a penchant to vote reactively more than responsibly.

I hope Rubio stays in the Senate and considers a future White House run, but honestly after this election I wouldn’t be surprised if he distanced himself from the Republican Party, whatever is left of it. I will likely do the same, as the Trump/Cruz GOP is not one I can get behind.

With Rubio out of the race, Hillary Clinton has all but secured her path to the presidency. And if Trump is her opponent in November, I’ll be glad she won. I’ll be glad for the necessary gut-check and dramatic recalibration that will occur within the GOP after that day, and I won’t feel sorry for the Republican party one bit. A party that chooses an amoral, racist, divisive demagogue over a clear-headed, conscience-driven conservative like Marco Rubio is one that deserves to be blown up so that something new can emerge.