During Marco Rubio’s remarks announcing that he was suspending his presidential campaign, he gave voice to the anger and frustration that many Americans feel. That was the dominant emotion in Campaign 2016, and it’s something into which Donald Trump has brilliantly tapped.
Senator Rubio said that, from a political standpoint, the easiest thing in this campaign would have been to “jump on all those anxieties… to make people angrier, make people more frustrated. But I chose a different route and I’m proud of that.” It would not be best for America, he said. Mr. Rubio was right on both counts. The Florida senator then went on to say this:
The politics of resentment against other people will not just leave us a fractured party. They’re gonna leave us a fractured nation. They’re gonna leave us as a nation where people literally hate each other, because they have different political opinions.
This nation needs a vibrant and growing conservative movement, and it needs a strong Republican Party to change the direction in which the country is headed, or many of the things going wrong in America will become permanent and many of the things that make us a special country will be gone.
America needs a vibrant conservative movement, but one that’s built on principles and on ideas, not on fear, not on anger, not on praying on people’s frustrations.
Senator Rubio didn’t mention Mr. Trump, but he clearly had him in mind. The former reality television star embodies and gives voice to the politics of resentment more frequently and more effectively than any major national figure in my lifetime.
Marco Rubio was one of several Republican candidates who offered a profoundly different way, one that was far more intellectually serious, far more conservative, far more hopeful. But like his fellow Floridian Jeb Bush, Rubio was a man out of place and out of time this presidential cycle. That isn’t a criticism of Bush or Rubio; it’s a criticism of this place and time.
I understand that we’re supposed to coddle voters, to go to great pains not to offend them. But vox populi is not vox dei. There is a fever that is raging through significant parts of the Republican Party these days, one that is immune to reason. If you doubt me, consider simply this: We’re dealing with people who are inspired and impressed by the likes of Ann Coulter.
This disorder doesn’t describe anything like a majority of Republicans – but it describes enough that Donald Trump is now the only candidate who can plausibility secure the Republican nomination before the convention in Cleveland this summer. Trump critics can only hope that Trump falls short of the 1,237 delegates needed to win outright and in an open convention someone else wins. But that’s a thin reed to hold.
Marco Rubio said last night that he was on the right side but not the winning side this year. That sounds right to me. The fact that a classy and intellectually formidable figure like Marco Rubio is out of the race and a morally degenerate and unprincipled figure like Donald Trump is in a dominant position to win the Republican nomination tells you just about everything you need to know about what’s gone profoundly wrong with the Party of Lincoln.