|Posted by MLGoodell on March 9, 2016 at 3:40 PM|
Watching this election is kind of like passing a wreck on the highway. You don’t want to look. You tell yourself not to look, but you want to see what made the gawkers pause. So you look. And if you’re unlucky, what you see will stay with you for a long, long time. It will wake you up at night. It will sear your brain in radiant color.
(The only thing that could improve that analogy is if Al Gore were running again).
After nearly eight years of marveling at how Barack Obama, with whom I shared an identical world view at the age of 25, has managed to make it this far into adult life without changing one iota of it, I face the prospect of seeing other way stations of my youth and childhood made flesh.
Bernie Sanders and I shared the same world view when I was 18, one characterized by a 1970’s era Coke commercial, (watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ib-Qiyklq-Q), and the world hasn’t changed his outlook in the slightest.
Hillary Clinton, in terms of her sense of entitlement and outraged amour propre when things don’t go her way, reminds me of me when I was 12. All these years, and no improvement. And then we come to Donald Trump, who, other than his strip club lifestyle, is pretty much me, circa three years old.
This inability to adapt, change or grow is particularly disturbing when you consider two of the three would be the oldest people to assume the office of President, while the third would be the second oldest. Perhaps this intellectual and emotional stasis is the consequence of a life in politics, or in Trump’s case, show business. The constant alteration of opinion to reflect the latest fad or poll result must winnow out their personalities, leaving them nothing to hold onto but some hazy recollection of what they were or thought they were a long, long time ago.
During the Cold War, the flawed infrastructure of the Soviet system was illustrated by the decrepitude of its leaders. They were too cowed by the consequences of change, the terror of stepping blindly into the unknown, to countenance anyone who could not hail back to the age of putative glory.
So too, this campaign. Of those still standing, only one, Marco Rubio, has had the courage, insight and wisdom to look at the world not as he would like it to be, but as it is. Only Rubio understands that there are challenges afoot, that those who call themselves our enemies will not be content to merely let us walk away. Every other candidate blithely embraces the Pollyanna outlook of the person presently Occupying the White House.
Sadly, Republican voters have taken their measure of him, and found him wanting. Too young, too pretty, too shallow, unlike those giants of integrity and character looming over the stage. He launched his campaign with a tale of hope and a positive vision of the future. He tried to stay above the fray, refusing to attack Trump, believing as did so many that the showboater’s time was fleeting.
It should have been, but for some reason the public forgave Trump his multitude of sins. He broke every rule of politics, and the public loved him more. They ignored his boasting, they cheered his bullying, and they forgave him his vulgarity.
Meanwhile, Rubio, whose Tea Party origins were so pure that he once drove his Senate primary opponent, Charlie Crist, right out of the party, was tarred with the “Establishment” brush. To the fire breathers who have flocked to Trump, ever holding the vicious Ted Cruz in reserve, in whose eyes even Paul Ryan is too liberal, anyone who isn’t willing to torch the White House is tarnished goods, unworthy of their support, consigned to the ash heap of history.
Rubio made his share of mistakes. At first not taking Trump seriously, then taking him too seriously, worried about offending the pitchfork and firebrand crowd he was attracting to the party. He played Trump's game, allowing himself to be goaded into a pissing contest with Cruz. It hurt them both, but it hurt Rubio more, because unlike the unlikable Cruz, he was supposed to be better than that. Then, when it became clear he needed to attack Trump, for the sake of his candidacy, and for the future of his party, he made the mistake of responding in kind to Trump’s vulgarity.
He couldn’t see a way to remain above the fray and so descended into the pit with the master mud wrestler. Then Rubio learned, as did we all, that the rules do apply. He broke the same rules of decency and courtesy which Trump did, but unlike Trump, the people did not, and will not forgive him.
It’s hard to see a way forward for Rubio. Though some are urging him to drop out now, it is only natural that he will try to turn it around by winning his home state. It’s unlikely he will. Thanks to the scourge of early voting, Floridians have been voting for four weeks, which means countless votes were wasted on Jeb! before he dropped out, votes which Rubio could have used to blunt the brute force of the Trump campaign.
Rubio made the same mistake so many of us did. He believed sooner or later the scales would fall from the people’s eyes, and they would see Trump for the grotesquery he is. It was H.L. Mencken who said “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.” Perhaps there should be a Rubio corollary, “No one ever got elected overestimating the judgment of the American people.”