The popular narrative emerging after Jeb Bush’s exit from the 2016 race is that it’s now up to the establishment candidate, Marco Rubio, to battle Donald Trump for the heart and soul of the GOP. Of course, Ted Cruz, John Kasich and Ben Carson probably don’t see it that way. But what will Republicans do when they eventually realize that on many issues, Marco Rubio and Donald Trump’s hearts beat one and the same?
The reality is, the GOP’s last great hope for a candidate who might have helped the party embrace the changing face of America — not demonize it or deport it — is already gone from the race. It was Jeb Bush who was the most willing to take on Trump’s rampant xenophobia, even if his attempts came off as clumsy in the face of Trump’s incessant bullying.
Yes, at one time Rubio had also been a safe establishment alternative, writing a comprehensive immigration reform bill that would have put millions on a path to citizenship. The “Gang of Eight” bill — Rubio was one of the eight — passed the Senate by a wide margin back in June of 2013, 68 – 32. But in the time since then, Rubio chose his political ambitions over the path he helped carved and disowned it. And, he’s cynically disowned many of his other pro-immigrant positions since then, too.
Perhaps Rubio’s most severe shift to the anti-immigrant extreme was his recent promise to end DACA, a program protecting some 700,000 young immigrants from deportation. He not only promised to end DACA, but to end it on day one of his Presidency. It was a dramatic turnaround from what he had once told Univision in Spanish, that the program would have to end, but just not right away because it would be “so deeply disruptive.” So much for that. As Greg Sargent explained, Rubio is in Trump and Cruz anti-immigrant territory now:
Rubio has arguably done as much to surrender to the terms of the debate that Trump has laid down as he has to challenge them. He has shrouded his past support for legalization of the 11 million in clouds of vagueness about the need to secure the border first. He has now echoed Ted Cruz’s hard-line vow to end Obama’s executive action protecting DREAMers — many of whom have spent most of their lives in America — from deportation.
The stark truth is that Rubio’s Trumpian vow to kill DACA completes his fall from grace, and his party’s. With no Republican Presidential candidates left to protect young DREAMers from deportation or put immigrants on a path to citizenship, it’s Trump’s party now, and Rubio has willfully joined in on the cruel action. Rubio might be banking on his name and heritage to win over the vital Latino voter bloc if he miraculously makes it to a general election, but Latinos are not quick to forget betrayals.
“The candidates still have their differences, of course,” concluded HuffPo’s Jonathan Cohn over the weekend. “One (Cruz) is a true-believing conservative, one (Rubio) is an ideological shape-shifter, and one (Trump) is a nativist bomb-thrower. But they’re all embracing policies at the far right end of the American political spectrum, leaving the middle without a champion among the leaders in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.”