Marco Rubio Is Yesterday’s Idea of What Tomorrow’s Candidate Looks Like

"Wa...ter. My ancient bones thirst for water."

“Wa…ter. My ancient bones thirst for water.”

Of all the Republican presidential candidates, Marco Rubio offends me the most on a personal level. As a relatively young, relatively fresh-faced presidential candidate, he claims to represent “the future, not the past.” He says he understands the “disruptive” change that the country has gone through, and that if he’s the presidential nominee, he’ll transform the Republican Party into “the party of the future.”

It’s interesting that Rubio is trying to capitalize on his youth and inexperience less than eight years after the primary Republican assault on candidate Obama revolved entirely around Obama’s youth and inexperience, but whatever. Times change.

But the reason this really bugs me is that even as he positions himself as the dynamic young man, Marco Rubio’s ideas are literally the oldest in his party. He does not have one original policy. Worse than that, he reaches back further into the past for guidance on the issues than anyone. In musical terms, this isn’t even the Ronald Reagan’s Greatest Hits that everyone else in the race is playing; Rubio is a washed-up lounge nostalgia act, fastidiously covering oldies from the dawn of rock ‘n roll. His Cuba policy, for example, is an antique from the 1960s.

ThinkProgress looked at Rubio’s proposed energy plan and found that it’s ridiculously regressive. How far back does it turn the hands of time? So far as crude oil is concerned, Rubio wants to send us back to 1975, when the Ford administration banned crude oil exports. The Rubio plan would allow “7,600 more oil wells would be drilled each year than if the ban stayed in place.” Rubio is also against incentives for clean and renewable energy resources, and he doesn’t believe that climate change exists. So, basically, Marco Rubio is unrolling the finest energy plan that 1952 has to offer.

Rubio’s a little more forward-thinking than that when it comes to his economic plan—that’s been plundered straight from the same tired Republican playbook that was introduced in the 1980s. Which means his economic policy is three decades more advanced than his energy policy!

We’re not done doing the time warp yet: Rubio has come out in support of Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who refuses to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, claiming that it’s against her religion. Rubio says that the government should not be able to compel its employees to do their jobs, if they interpret their jobs as running counter to their religions. But this isn’t really about religious freedom; Rubio is out-and-out against same-sex marriage. Marriage, Rubio says, “should be between one man and one woman.” That’s so 1996.

Rubio is also against equal pay for women (that’s an issue from 1972,) he’s backwards on marijuana reform (basically lifted from Richard Nixon’s 1971 War on Drugs announcement,) and he blasted Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty exactly 50 years to the day after it was announced. Because he’s timely like that.

Just because Rubio looks like a 12-year-old boy wearing his dad’s suit, he expects us to believe he’s got fresh ideas. His ideas are so old that some of his policy papers probably refer to the United States as “the Colonies.” It takes a whole lot of nerve to try to sell yourself as fresh when you leave an inch-thick trail of dust everywhere you go.

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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.