Marco Rubio & the Republican Politics of Nostalgia. Trumpism Without Trump
FL Sen. Marco Rubio attacked President-elect Joe Biden's newly named foreign policy team yesterday as he started to position himself as the GOP's "Trumpism without Trump" 2024 nominee. Over the next two years, Rubio and other potential Republican candidates will try to devise a strategy to capture Trump's white working class base but without the bigotry and insane late-night tweets.
Yesterday Rubio tweeted:
“Biden’s cabinet picks went to Ivy League schools, have strong resumes, attend all the right conferences & will be polite & orderly caretakers of America’s decline. I support American greatness. And I have no interest in returning to the ‘normal’ that left us dependent on China.”
Rubio's staff probably worked on his tweet for weeks, so, let's unpack it a bit to see what points they think will connect with Trump's base.
1. "Ivy League schools". This captures the new anti-intellectual bent to the Republican base, Rush Limbaugh's "all you need is common sense" gift to the GOP. It's wrong on so many levels, of course, not the least of which is that Trump and most of his cabinet also went to Ivy League schools. But, even more importantly, the idea that you don't need a good education and a specific knowledge base to make wise foreign policy decisions is just dangerously wacky. That kind of thinking is precisely what led George W. Bush to blunder into Iraq without any idea of the likely consequences.
2. "all the right conferences". This is an easy one; the DEEP STATE! Rubio is insinuating that working stiffs aren't invited to such conferences, because it's where all the deep-staters get together, speak French, and plan to move all the factories to Shanghai.
3. "orderly caretakers of America’s decline/ dependent on China". This is Rubio's way of saying that America would be great again if we could just go back to the 1980s when America made everything and white guys could skip college and make tons of money working on an assembly line or digging coal. Nostalgia has played a large role in Republican politics since Reagan [the glorious 1950s], but now the pre-NAFTA era is America's pinnacle and China is the new boogeyman.
Globalization has reduced American manufacturing and exacerbated income inequality, but nostalgia is not a policy; it's a chimera, a fantasy, and venerating the past will prevent us from crafting 21st century policies to rebuild the middle class. And, yes, China's neomercantilism is a problem, but one that must be addressed through collective action by America and its allies, not by an ineffective and chaotic tariff regime that inflicted the most pain on America's manufacturers, consumers and farmers.
By: Don Lam