In a big Republican field, it is difficult to stand out. But Marco Rubio has managed to do just that with strong policy solutions, youthful optimism, and firm principles. The Florida senator has already distinguished himself as a rising star who can earn the support of most of the Republican coalition.
Rubio’s potential was clear from the start. Born the son of Cuban immigrants in Miami, he grew up in a working class environment. He made it to the senate by his own hard work and intellect. In 2010 Rubio challenged sitting Florida governor Charlie Crist for the Republican nomination. Crist, a popular and well-known figure in Florida was considered a virtual lock for the nomination. As Rubio often says there were very few people that believed he could win and they all lived in Rubio’s house. But he emerged victorious in the primary, bolstered by tea party support.
In the general election, Rubio faced not only Democratic congressman Kendrick Meek but also Crist, who was by this point running as an independent. In this challenging three way race, which Rubio began as the least known of the three eventual candidates, it was Rubio who prevailed on election night by a large margin. Florida, the forth most populous US State at the time of the 2010 election, has long been a key swing state in presidential election years. Recent history has shown that one party or one ideology does not monopolize the state’s loyalty. Rubio’s continued popularity in the state demonstrates his skill as a politician.
While in the senate he has shown courage numerous times. He made a firm stand on immigration reform that won him no friends in the Republican base. He felt it was the right thing to do and he was willing to take a hit for it. While his proposal was not perfect, his conviction to do what he thinks is right over what is popular is admirable. Rubio has shown an intimate knowledge of foreign policy and has pointed out the failures of the Obama administration. Rubio has stated “our friends no longer trust us and our enemies no longer fear us.” He is right. Adversaries of the United States like Iran, Russia, and North Korea have been emboldened, while rifts have appeared in relationships with our strong and loyal allies like Britain, Israel, and Germany. As president he will improve our relationships with these and other allies. He will take a firm stand against nations that threaten world peace and oppress their own people. In a time when the US is failing to be a leader when American leadership is needed, he is an attractive choice for president.
Rubio is also a strong fiscal conservative. He favors a business friendly plan of fair regulation, low taxes, and living with in our means. After two terms of irresponsible spending by the Obama administration this is sorely needed in the white house. He understands the importance of a strong economy to the revival of the American dream. He recognizes the unique appeal of America and this country’s ability to change lives. Rubio’s parents came to America as poor Cuban immigrants. They were able to have steady jobs, own their own homes, and give Marco, his brother, and his two sisters opportunities they never dreamed of for themselves. That’s the essence of the American dream, and Rubio understands it.
Rubio can also argue that, unlike Hillary Clinton, he is a candidate for tomorrow. His campaign announcement had the following jab at Clinton: “Just yesterday, a leader from yesterday, began a campaign for president by promising to take us back to yesterday. Yesterday is over. And we’re never going back.” His youthful optimism rooted in a firm belief that tomorrow will be great for America is reminiscent of John F. Kennedy. The theme of Rubio’s campaign, ‘a new American century,” is forward-looking and well thought out. Rubio has the potential to inspire a new generation of American voters, and this matters more than anything else. Despite a few mistakes here and there – his positions on immigration and on the NSA will turn off some voters – his record is one of the most impressive in the field. There are many appealing candidates for the Republican nomination, but Marco Rubio is undoubtedly an early standout.
Even though the 2016 election is over a year away, the election cycle has already commenced. We have several major candidates on both sides that have already begun to campaign for the presidency. Although it remains early, it is time to discuss the upcoming election. The Republicans already have a crowded field, with Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, George Pataki, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Carly Fiorina, and Ben Carson. The Democrats have a much smaller selection to choose from consisting of Martin O’Malley, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders. Today, we shall commence our analysis (in no particular order) beginning with a man making his second run for the presidency, Mike Huckabee.
Mike Huckabee has been in the news recently for all the wrong reasons. In May, Josh Duggar, a reality TV star from the TLC show 19 Kids and Counting, revealed that he had molested young women while a teenager. People across the country were shocked by these allegations, as they should be. But Mike Huckabee took to facebook in defense of Duggar and his family. This story would not be relevant to post on a political blog if it wasn’t for the disproportionate influence on political matters that this family has.
The mainstream media has drawn a great deal of attention to the fact that Josh Duggar has appeared in photos with several republican politicians, including Huckabee, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and Texas Senator Ted Cruz, all of whom are running for president. It is ridiculous to assert that these figures are therefore connected to Duggar. People who are at events with famous political figures often pose for photos with them, and to say that this establishes some personal or political link between the two is absurd.
However, the links between the Duggar family and Mike Huckabee (and to a lesser extent Rick Santorum) go far deeper than just a simple photograph. The Duggars endorsed Huckabee’s bid for President (and did so for Santorum in 2012). Huckabee felt it necessary to defend the family on his official facebook page. This story doesn’t get much better when the extreme beliefs that the Duggar family promotes and believes in are examined. The family is associated with the Quiverfull and Christian patriarchy movements, two groups on the fringe of fundamentalist Christianity that espouse that all birth control is not to be used, women are to be confined to roles as mothers and homemakers, and fathers (and husbands) hold ultimate authority over their families (particularly over women and girls). Josh’s mother, Michelle, was given an award by Vision Forum, which was a leading organization in this movement before its shut down last year following a sex scandal involving its leader, Doug Phillips. The Duggar family is prominent in both movements.
This is not what most evangelicals believe. In fact, most people in the evangelical movement would likely find many of these positions rather appalling. It is very sad to see a movement which takes positions most people find very degrading to women and girls given a national television show and the support of a man running for president. Evangelical leaders have been distancing themselves from the movement for some time now. Michael Farris, a leader in the homeschool movement as well as the former president of Patrick Henry College condemned the movement and Vision Forum. There is absolutely nothing wrong with associating oneself with evangelical christianity. Many Americans adhere to this movement, and they have done a great deal of good for this country. But the Christian patriarchy movement is an entirely different matter. Huckabee should have had the good sense to avoid it. The fact that he didn’t says a lot about his candidacy.
Huckabee’s positions on economic issues are also problematic. We have an impending crisis with Social Security and Medicare. If it wasn’t for entitlement spending, the US government would actually have a surplus. In order to preserve these programs for future generations we must make changes. Our massive debt is holding us back. It is difficult for our economy to grow when our government is fiscally irresponsible. Many conservatives are making good progress on this issue. Paul Ryan, one of the smartest members of congress, has worked tirelessly to put us on track for a balanced budget. The new Republican senate has taken up the noble cause of tax reform (which this country desperately needs). They held a hearing in which they brought in former senators Bill Bradley and Bob Packwood to testify (Bradley and Packwood were two of the primary architects of the last major tax reform bill, passed in 1986 and signed by President Ronald Reagan). The Senate also passed a budget in May (simply passing a budget is more than the Senate could do, or was willing to due, under the control of the Democratic Party and under the leadership of Harry Reid) that would give us a balanced budget in ten years. All this would allow for a strong national defense, continued protections for those people in our society who need help, and the preservation for Social Security. This kind of bill is what the United States desperately needs.
Huckabee offers no serious ideas about balancing the budget and, in fact, has been fear mongering about how Social Security is under threat from reform efforts. For one thing, gradually raising the retirement age for Social Security is not gutting the program. The country and the world have changed a lot since Social Security was first passed into law. One of these changes is that people live longer today than they once did. Three of my four grandparents are still alive. All three are in their mid eighties, and two of those three remain very active today. Such a situation would have been unusual fifty years ago, but is relatively common today. Gradually raising the retirement age for Social Security is a sensible reform that would preserve the program for future generations. Huckabee criticizes these and other efforts as trying to steal from seniors. The fact is if we do not take action, there will not be a Social Security program for our seniors.
Huckabee did not show any restraint for spending while Governor of Arkansas. According to a 2007 article published by the Cato Institute’s Michael Tanner, Huckabee increased state spending by 65 percent, and had a net tax increase larger than that of Bill Clinton when he was Arkansas’ Governor. The Cato Institute gave him an F for fiscal responsibility, and he scored worse than fifteen Democratic governors.
Huckabee does have his merits. He is good with words and his heart is in the right place. But from his associations with unsavory groups to his big government, big spending fiscal policies, he is not the right candidate for Republicans in 2016. Other Governors like Scott Walker, John Kasich, George Pataki, and Rick Perry have better records on fiscal policy, and while many Republicans offer real solutions to our debt crisis, Huckabee is not among them. Voters looking for a strong social conservative would be better advised to turn toward the likes of Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio. With such a large field of candidates, Republicans should look elsewhere for their 2016 nominee.