Tim Alberta of the National Journal has written an article called “The Ryanization of Rubio.” Alberta’s thesis is that Marco Rubio has inherited the role many thought Paul Ryan was going to play — conservative intellectual presidential candidate armed with daring policy proposals.
There’s little doubt that Rubio is attempting to play that role. And, as Alberta points out, Rubio has impressed some leading conservative thinkers with his ideas across a range of issues. For example, Elliot Abrams and Yuval Levin are full of praise for the Florida Senator.
Levin puts it this way:
Paul Ryan in some respects is a policy intellectual who’s decided to be a politician. And Marco Rubio in some respects is a politician who’s decided to be a policy thinker.
Rubio, then, is well-positioned to be the 2016 standard bearer for the “reform conservative” movement.
At the end of the day, however, Rubio needs to be judged not based on the label of a movement he associates himself with or the praise of conservative intellectuals who belong to that movement. He should be judged instead on the merits of the concrete, fully worked-out reform proposals he has advocated.
The main reform proposal Rubio has advocated is the comprehensive immigration bill that he, Chuck Schumer, and a few others proposed in 2013. In fact, Alberta says the Schumer-Rubio amnesty is the only transformative piece of legislation that has been attached to Rubio’s name.
Like many conservatives, I consider this legislative an abomination. Personally, I think Rubio was “played” to some extent by Schumer. If so, this makes him a poor prospect for the presidency. If not — if Rubio was Schumer’s equal in concocting the amnesty legislation — this makes him a poor prospect for the presidency.
Marco Rubio is only 43. One day, he may have a record of legislative accomplishment sufficient, not to make us forget Schumer-Rubio, but to instill confidence that his reform conservatism no longer overlaps with the liberal agenda.
That day won’t arrive before 2017.