Donald Trump uncovered an underserved segment of the American electorate, one hostile toward the GOP’s rigid fiscal austerity but amenable to the Republican Party’s cultural grievances. Subordinate the former to the latter, his candidacy seemed to confirm, and you have yourself a winning coalition. The challenge before politicians catering to this voting bloc is how to do it while preserving intellectual consistency. As Sen. Marco Rubio demonstrated, that’s an obstacle that is not so easily overcome.
This week, Florida’s senior senator delivered an address at the Catholic University of America entitled “Catholic Social Doctrine and the Dignity of Work.” Modeled on an essay the senator published in the journal First Things, Rubio evoked increasingly familiar themes on the right about the inherently flawed aspects of the modern economy and its supposedly destructive effects on community and the family. His speech began with an invocation of Pope Leo XIII’s 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum, which the senator noted was delivered against a backdrop of economic upheaval, social discord, and rising popular discontent with laissez-faire markets and governments.
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