Political Parties

Why Marco Rubio Will Probably Recover From Tea Party Anger Over Immigration


When Marco Rubio burst on the national scene, he inspired nicknames like “the great Latino hope” and “Latino Reagan.” He seemed to be exactly what the Republican Party needed to revive its hopes among a growing Hispanic demographic hostile to the Republican Party.

With his recent and strenuous defense of the immigration bill which so many on the right have criticized for it’s “path to citizenship,” Rubio has lost a lot of the political favor he once had.

But has Rubio abandoned his right-wing base, or will he regain his popularity in time for what some hope will be a run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016?

Despite my deep misgivings about the immigration bill as a Tea Partier myself (or as I am coining myself, a “LaTEAno”), even if he’s damaged politically by his support for this bill, I believe there is reason he can and will recover from his current low popularity.

The timing of the bill works in Rubio’s favor. This early before the midterm election, there’s plenty of time for people to forget his role in the amnesty bill. For evidence of this, look back to the 2008 election. In 2007 an immigration bill with similar amnesty provisions lit up the phone lines in Washington DC, and eventually the public furor torpedoed immigration reform.

Barely one year later, the most prominent Republican sponsor of the amnesty bill, John McCain, was nominated as his party’s presidential candidate.

There is not much reason to believe the same can’t happen with Rubio three years from now, given the lower level of public outcry against this current bill.

Among one of Rubio’s most common talking points is to try to convince his detractors that he will be able to persuade newly legalized immigrants of the benefits and value of our conservative principles. In this respect he closely resembles none other than Barack Obama – he believes strongly in the power of his rhetoric to overcome audiences that may not agree with, or are oftentimes hostile to, his political agenda.

Indeed, it seems that it is for this very reason that the GOP has shoved Rubio in front of so many microphones – to mollify those on the far right enough to secure passage of the bill. It’s no great leap to think that perhaps he made a similar promise to the establishment GOP about his rhetorical ability to sell amnesty to the far right.

Whether the bill passes or not, Rubio will no doubt benefit by doing the bidding of the Republican leadership when it comes times to defend his seat or attempt the leap into the White House.

Much of Rubio’s political destiny is intertwined with that of the Tea Party’s future. He rode a wave of anti-establishment sentiment into the Senate in 2010, and with this political base turning against him, he may be looking to parlay his immigration efforts into a broader base of more moderate voters.

Looking back to the 2012 election is instructive here – despite the large gains made by the Tea Party in the 2010 midterms, the establishment GOP was able to shoehorn Mitt Romney, their nominee, into the candidacy. Unless the far right of the party is able to gain more strength in these upcoming midterms, there’s nothing to prevent the pattern from repeating.

And in the event that the Tea Party isn’t able to garner as much clout as it did 3 years ago, then that means a smoother ride for Rubio with all the backing of the GOP establishment.

As for the bill, if it passes, the media will ensure that the Democrats and Obama will receive all the credit, garnering the loyalty of Hispanics despite the claims that this will be the gateway for Republicans to gain favor with the increasing population.

Again, Rubio will endear himself to the establishment class and probably further enrage the right. Hopefully he’ll be better at persuading other Latinos to vote Republican than he has been in convincing the far right to embrace comprehensive immigration amnesty.

On the other hand, if the bill is defeated it will be because of representatives with Tea Party sympathies dubious of the amnesty loopholes and weak border security promises. The media will make sure they take all the blame, while the GOP establishment helps pass the buck onto the far right Tea Party contingent.

Rubio is smart enough not to criticize his base himself, but everyone else will.

And no matter what, the Right will be accused of racism and sexism and probably homophobia somehow.

So it is somewhat ironic that some dubbed Marco Rubio the “Latino Reagan” – it appears that he is heading towards advocating the same amnesty debacle that Reagan did, and will most likely avoid too much political fallout, just like “the Teflon president.”

For the political aspirations of the “the Great Latino Hope,” the comprehensive immigration bill will most likely have a sunny side whether it passes or not. For America and the GOP, neither course may hold much promise.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments.

Previous posts:
Marco Rubio’s Immigration Plan is Bold, Pragmatic, and ComprehensiveNO Illegal Amnesty Without Border Security: Reject Any Rehash of Reagan’s Immigration Error
SooperPodcast #44: DOMA! Snowden! And Marco Rubio’s Amnesty Bill!