Deputized by the Republican Party to give its response to President Obama’s State of the Union address, and hoping to lift his own presidential chances, Rubio offered no new ideas.
Rubio asserted, without offering any evidence, that the president is opposed to free enterprise. And the senator’s attacks on government programs fell flat. He spent much of his time attacking the premise that government programs can help individuals and families address problems of economic inequality. But then he turned around and acknowledged that his own family has benefited from government programs such as Medicare, Social Security and federal financial aid.
Rubio became a part of American history when he delivered his response to Obama’s address in English as well as in Spanish. Like most Hispanics, I wanted Rubio to make good use of his time in the spotlight. We need leaders who can make the case that Latinos are an integral part of the social and economic fabric of this nation, and that our ability to achieve equal citizenship will strengthen America.
Unfortunately, Marco Rubio is not that leader.
Take his stance on immigration. Rubio calls for more spending on border security before he will come to the table to discuss immigration reform. This is no way to build a base of Hispanic support for the GOP.
Many Hispanics see trade union membership as a key pathway to achieving middle-class status. An increasing number of Latinas are becoming leaders of unions as well as powerful labor federations in cities such as Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Chicago. Yet, not only does Rubio position himself against unions, he discounted Obama’s modest proposals to raise the minimum wage.
In Hispanic cultures, the idea of community and mutual aid is held in high regard as a critical support to families that often lack the resources to weather hard times. However, Rubio avoided even a mention of community in his address.
Rubio was unable to swing significant Hispanic support to Romney in 2012. Judging from his mediocre performance on Tuesday evening, the senator has not yet learned how to connect with people outside of his base in South Florida.
Paul Ortiz is an associate professor of history at the University of Florida.