Marco Rubio offers a blend of the familiar and the future

Marco Rubio leaves the stage after his speech in Athens on Friday. (AJC Photo / Hyosub Shin)

Marco Rubio leaves the stage after his speech in Athens on Friday. (AJC Photo / Hyosub Shin)

The Republicans’ 2016 presidential primary, which made a stop at the Georgia GOP convention in Athens today, resembles even more than in most years a series of high-wire balancing acts. There’s the line between reviewing the bad policies of the current presidency and offering a clear look ahead. The line between addressing the people’s anxieties and going full-tilt populist. The line between taking traditional conservative stances and broadening the party’s base of supporters.

Marco Rubio took his turn on the tightrope this afternoon, addressing a convention hall that was still filling up and a crowd that was still warming up. The first-term senator from Florida decried “our outdated leaders” who are “wedded to ways of doing things that no longer work as well as they once did.” Electing someone with a more forward-looking vision, he argued, is key to ensuring the 21st century is another American one.

But what does that mean? How do Republicans and their policies need to change, and how do they need to stay the same?

“I think our principles still work, of limited government and free enterprise, but they have to be applied to the unique challenges of our time,” Rubio said in a post-speech interview. “For example, we all believe in higher education, but higher education in the 21st century has to mean something different than it meant in the 20th. It has to mean more vocational training, because there are good-paying jobs that require more than high school but less than four years of college.”

Rethinking higher ed, he said, along with other reforms from taxes to regulations to energy policy, has to be done “because it makes us more globally competitive, not just to serve some ideological end.”

Much the same goes for Rubio’s embrace of a robust defense, which on the surface sounds a lot like the talk of a 20th-century Republican.

“It is still true that the world is a better place when America is the strongest country in the world,” he argued. “But the nature of the challenges of the 21st century are different from the ones of the 20th century. The 20th century, its first half was defined by two world wars, and its second half was defined by the conflict between the free world and communism and the Soviet Union. Neither one of those are around today. What’s around today is the rise of authoritarian governments in China and Russia who are trying to subjugate their smaller neighbors. What’s true now is the rise of non-state actors, radical jihadists. And what’s true now is (there are) rogue states like Iran and North Korea that have either acquired or are trying to acquire nuclear weapons.”

Those challenges may be different, he said, but the solution — a leading role for the United States — is not. “There’s this kind of thinking out there that … now’s the time for America to retreat from the world,” he said. “Every time we’ve done that, it’s led to chaos and uncertainty.”

Expect uncertainty, and its resolution, to be a major theme of the 2016 campaign; many Americans are still doing their own balancing acts six years after the end of the Great Recession. That will take a combination of the familiar as well as the future, a union that seems to suit Marco Rubio well.

Reader Comments 0

23 comments
LogicalDude
LogicalDude

"Now’s the time for America to retreat from the world,"


I don't think "decrease defense spending to more rational levels" means "retreat from the world"



Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

 “I think our principles still work, of limited government and free enterprise, but they have to be applied to the unique challenges of our time,”


Tell that to the folks in Kansas

lvg
lvg

Nothing said by Rubio indicates any fundamental knowledge of the complexities of handling US foreign poicy. His solution for everything is for US to be "more muscular". Tell me what that means in the Mideast? Boots on the ground and body bags???? Is there anything US is currently doing that he would do differently to combat terrorism and radical Jihadists? What????More drones? More NSA searches?  

MHSmith
MHSmith

I'm close enough to Hillary's age to call her old without  lying or showing any disrespect. And I'd rather vote for Jim Web if I had no other choice. 


Thankfully, on my side, I've plenty of choices to choose from, some of those candidates have a few good ideas and some of them have  pretty lousy ones. 


There is nothing wrong with populism, ordinary people have interests like people who are acclaimed "accomplished" or "extremely successful".  The thing conservatives have to keep in mind is that in America it is the ordinary people who often do the most extraordinary things.


What I hope the  good folks on the right will do different this time around is to concentrate on alternatives to the mundane talking points. 


So far on Marco..


Rubio did better than stand his ground or simply hold his on, in a debate with Jeb Bush on foreign affairs without personally assaulting Bush. Rubio has good points and a genuine likability, though, his knowledge in one area shouldn't be the deal maker. Having a sound standing on domestic issues to balance the ticket and showing a willingness to give the interests of the common people a very heretofore "uncommon treatment" will seal the deal. 


Rubio needs to look for alternatives to Rep. Tom Price's "High Risk" healthcare. Ones that don't throw the old and past their prime common people into a "death spiral"

MarkVV
MarkVV

I wonder if those mocking Mrs. Clinton’s age do or will feel that way when they are as old as she is. And let’s see, she would just about the same age in 2017 as Ronald Reagan, the patron saint of the Republicans, when he started his Presidency. Tired old hag? Past his prime?

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

@MarkVV

"Tired old hag" is a state of mind, not a number.  Our President Reagan re-energized America after the Carter malaise.  Hillary IS malaise in a pant suit.

MarkVV
MarkVV

@LilBarryBailout @MarkVV  "Tired old hag" shows the mind - or rather the lack of it - of the one who uses it to describe Mrs Clinton.

MiltonMan
MiltonMan

@MarkVV 


Mark is too young to remember people talking non-stop about Ron's age.

lvg
lvg

Enjoy the clown parade - Kyle. Do they have enough clown cars?

NorthAtlanta
NorthAtlanta

@lvg

Let's see.  We have two Hispanic candidates, a woman, an African American.  Other than name-calling, what have y'all got, Ivg?  Where's your big tent?

MiltonMan
MiltonMan

@lvg 


All they need to do is borrow the cars from the GA democrats

Dusty2
Dusty2

Rubio sounds like a young man with new ideas.  But what are they?  "Be strong!  Be new!  Be fresh!"  Is that it? 


I think that I will still be hanging on to the old "tried and true".  We have already experienced the "youthful & inexperienced." 


 I don't want to try that again.  With the national debt out of sight we better start looking for a banker or Bill Gates.

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

It sure is great to have a slate of candidates with energy, fresh ideas, and a love of country!  Meanwhile, Democrats are stuck with a tired old hag from yesterday with nothing new to offer.  Oh, and a crazy, socialist, nutty-professor type!

Mick11
Mick11

Rubio has the charisma of a wet noodle; he talks about the future but all his policy thinking reflects the past, the absolute wrong past.  Cuba?  He wants to continue the failed embargo and I can tell you first hand that most of the younger Cubans disagree.  They are peeved that he tried to pass his family off as exiles, they were not.

As for war, do you really believe he has learned something about war from Iraq?

He talks tough but he doesn't seem to walk the walk.

No... GOP he is not your answer...

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

The best thing he brings to the table is vigor, energy, and the ability to adapt.  Hillary appears to be in past her prime decline.