Marco Rubio launched his presidential campaign this afternoon with an event in Miami. In my opinion, Rubio understands, and is able to speak to, the current mood of most Americans better than any of the other candidates of either party. He began by striking a populist note, but with his characteristic focus on American exceptionalism:
Both of my parents were born to poor families in Cuba. After his mother died when he was nine, my father left school to go work. My mother was one of seven girls raised by a disabled father who struggled to provide for his family.
When they were young, my parents had big dreams for themselves. But because they were not born into wealth or power, their future was destined to be defined by their past. So in 1956 they came here, to the one place on earth where the aspirations of people like them could be more than just dreams.
My father became a bartender. My mother a cashier, a maid and a Kmart stock clerk. They never made it big. But they were successful. Two immigrants with little money or education found stable jobs, owned a home, retired with security and gave all four of their children a life far better than their own.
My parents achieved what came to be known as the American Dream. But now, too many Americans are starting to doubt whether achieving that dream is still possible.
Rubio portrayed himself as the voice of a new generation that is ready to take the lead in a new century. Sort of like John Kennedy, only smarter and without the moral turpitude:
[W]hile our people and economy are pushing the boundaries of the 21st century, too many of our leaders and their ideas are stuck in the twentieth century.
They are busy looking backward, so they do not see how jobs and prosperity today depend on our ability to compete in a global economy. So our leaders put us at a disadvantage by taxing, borrowing and regulating like it’s 1999.
They look for solutions in yesterday, so they don’t see that good-paying modern jobs require different skills and more education than the past. They blindly support an outdated higher education system that is too expensive and inaccessible to those who need it most.
And they have forgotten that when America fails to lead, global chaos inevitably follows, so they appease our enemies, betray our allies and weaken our military.
At the turn of the 19th century, a generation of Americans harnessed the power of the Industrial Age and transformed this country into the leading economy in the world. And the 20th century became the American Century.
Now, the time has come for our generation to lead the way toward a new American Century.
Rubio certainly meant to draw a contrast with Hillary Clinton, but he referred to her only briefly, and not by name:
Just yesterday, a leader from yesterday began a campaign for President by promising to take us back to yesterday.
But yesterday is over, and we are never going back. We Americans are proud of our history, but our country has always been about the future. Before us now is the opportunity to author the greatest chapter yet in the amazing story of America.
We can’t do that by going back to the leaders and ideas of the past. We must change the decisions we are making by changing the people who are making them.
Importantly, Rubio portrayed not just Hillary Clinton, but liberalism itself as superannuated, over the hill and out of ammo. This is, I think, more significant than his brief reference to Mrs. Clinton. Liberalism is indeed vulnerable to that charge: the leadership of the Democratic Party is uniformly geriatric, and is there any idea so thoroughly discredited, so dismally left over from the 19th century, as socialism? Of course, to persuade voters Rubio will have to show that he has ideas that are newer and better. But that is an eminently achievable task, given the comprehensive failures of the Obama years.
Watching the event on a live stream this afternoon, I thought it was successful: the optics were good, the crowd was enthusiastic and the right size to showcase the candidate. Rubio plainly felt the burden of the occasion. His delivery was not as polished as it usually is; he stumbled here and there, especially in the beginning. Marco is a very serious man, and, especially early on, he seemed too doggedly earnest. At some point, he will need to lighten up a bit. Voters need to see the Marco who chats knowledgeably and engagingly about sports with Hugh Hewitt. But those are quibbles.
It is no secret that I am a fan of Rubio. At this point, I think he is the Republican best able to convince voters to try to reverse the slow decline that corrupt, sclerotic liberal policies have engendered. How? By re-invigorating the principles that made America exceptional in the first place, and applying them to a new era. Today was a significant first step in that process.