Marco Rubio Embraced His Inner Trump. Here’s What He Should’ve Done Instead.

This is how low Marco Rubio has descended: he’s attacking Donald Trump with a collection of second-rate Trumpisms right before Super Tuesday:

This is, of course, the exactly wrong move for Rubio; you can’t beat Trump at his own game. A significant portion of the Republican primary vote has been swept up in Trump’s anti-establishment zeal, and Rubio has no hope of gaining those votes. What he should be doing is trying to win the Republicans who would never vote for Donald Trump. There are plenty of them out there, and Rubio’s insult-comic schtick is scaring them all away.

Actually, the truth is that Rubio has been scaring those anti-Trump voters away since the very beginning of his presidential campaign. As we’ve been telling you since last year, Rubio’s policies are just as terrible and unrealistic as Trump’s. So what should Rubio have done if he wanted to be his party’s nominee? What would a sensible Republican presidential candidate look like? I’m glad you asked.

  • Quit with the exclusionary talk. Stop talking about getting rid of gay marriage. Stop making immigrants out to be the great Satan. Stop punishing women for being women. Quit making all your foreign policy about Christians versus everyone else. Every time you exclude a group from your platform, you’re pushing voters away. Why any presidential candidate would tell voters not to vote for them is a mystery to me, but that’s been Rubio’s plan from the very beginning.
  • Get over this tired “government-is-the-enemy” routine. Look, we know that Republicans are for limited government, but this is getting ridiculous. Rubio, a sitting Senator running for president, wants us to believe that he thinks government can solve absolutely no problems except those involving the military? It just seems a little disingenuous, doesn’t it? So why not accept the fact that government does some things really well—roads, fire departments, certain kinds of research and development, and so on—and then start talking about efficiency and other ways to drive down the costs to taxpayers? An honest approach to this discussion would invite a number of voters back to the discussion.
  • Stop fighting the minimum wage. Most Americans understand that the minimum wage has been kept artificially low for too long, and they’re ready for a raise. Commit to a real, substantial minimum wage increase.
  • Get serious about poverty. Lots of Democrats agree that the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit are successful anti-poverty policy. Here’s a chance to take the lead on a bipartisan issue.
  • • Most importantly, quit with the trickle-down threats. Everybody knows that if you cut taxes for the rich, that money doesn’t trickle down to the poor. When you cut taxes for the rich, the rich keep that money, and they try to devise more ways to keep more money for themselves. This all sounded new and promising when Reagan promoted it back in the early 1980s, but now we’ve seen decades of proof to the contrary. Stop lying about how the economy works.
  • Do I think Rubio will follow this advice? Hell, no. I suspect it’s way too late for him anyway, now that he’s made jokes about Trump’s small—uh—”hands.” But if Trump wins his party’s nomination, he’ll very likely do significant and lasting damage to the Republican Party. At some point, they’re going to have to rebuild. Maybe whoever the nominee will be in 2020 will take some of these words to heart. If they do, the whole of democracy will be stronger for it.

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    Paul Constant
    Paul Constant has written about politics, books, and film for Newsweek, The Progressive, the Utne Reader, and alternative weeklies around the country.