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In Rubio’s Republican Party, Appeals To Victimhood Are Getting Old

| February 25, 2013

A Republican weighs options.

A Republican weighs options.

By Dan Gelber

About a decade ago Fox commentator Bill O’Reilly published a book entitled “Who’s looking out for you?” Initially I thought it was a parody, some kind of humorous commentary on selfishness in civic life.

I was wrong. It was serious as a crutch, in some respects a cynical rebuke to Kennedy’s famous entreat to “Ask not what your country can do for you…”

The truth is the Republican Party over the last decade or so has made this mantra their appeal to voters. They have become a party that tethered their Election Day successes to an appeal to the lesser angels in people, on convincing voters they need to fear forces trying to take things away from them, that they need to look out for No. one.

In short, they became the Party of Me.

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Of course when your message is to “look out for me”, you have to demonize “them.” So the GOP in each election cycle made major swaths of the electorate enemies.

Not just liberals or Democrats but also immigrants, minorities, gays, believers in climate change, women who want control over their bodies, the 47 percent and supporters of sensible gun control. Especially anyone, even moderate Republicans, who failed to follow blindly their ultra-conservative dogma.

And it worked for a while, until too many “thems” created a limited pool of “me” voters from whom to draw.

So after a bruising defeat in November, the Party of Me decided it must enlarge its numbers and immediately did an about face on one of its core boogeymen. Instead of continuing an anti-immigrant frenzy, the leaders of the Party of Me signaled an abandonment of their demagoguery and rolled out a fresh Hispanic face. Enter Marco and the water bottle.

But as much as I like Marco Rubio, all he really did in his response to the State of the Union was regurgitate the same tired old talking points that have been the anthem of the Party of Me. Government is out to get you. Obamacare is a health-care takeover.

In short, you need to look out for numero uno.

It was a missed opportunity for Rubio because I know he is fully capable of articulating a broader, less strident message. But worse, it is toxic to our national fabric to have a political party whose entire foundation seems to exploit people’s worst instincts.

That is why, more than ever, Democrats and right-thinking Americans must double-down on being the Party of Us.

The Party of Us believes we are in this together, not a crowd but a community, that we are at our best when we root for each other because all ships rise with the tide.

The Party of Us embraces diversity and is proud of its sense of social justice.

Fear and anger are not tools to be exploited. Hope and optimism are the tools of choice.

While we don’t tolerate fraud or waste, the Party of Us doesn’t demonize government either. Government is how we protect our freedoms, link our communities and care for our most senior and vulnerable neighbors.

Government is how our children receive the education that generates true opportunity.

In truth, the Party of Us represents the kind of country we have always aimed to be and the connections with one another that create a uniquely American brand.

Republicans, including Rubio, will have to do more to convince voters they get it. Frankly, I hope they do. America is at its best when our civic debate is about competing routes that are consistent with our national aspirations.

Dan Gelber was a State Senator and former House Democratic Leader from Miami. He can be contacted by email here.

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7 Responses for “In Rubio’s Republican Party, Appeals To Victimhood Are Getting Old”

  1. Sgt Saber says:

    Types of Government – Republic vs. Democracy vs. Oligarchy …………When Americans can understand and tell their neighbors what the differences are between these three types of government, only then will Americans finally realize why this administration and its progressive, liberal, socialist agenda is WRONG for America !!!!!

  2. Magnolia says:

    Government is robbing us blind and turning us into slaves to just to be able to pay the bills. We live to support government. And the bigger the beast becomes, the more money it takes to feed it. We are too busy trying to feed the growing beast to be able to feed our families.

    No thanks.

  3. D W Ferguson says:

    Let me take a drink of water and think about the message in this article before responding !

  4. Stevie says:

    There is more than one form of social justice. One form, the President’s form, is to take from one by force to give to another. The other form of social justice is promoted by a government that protects the rights of people who work hard, prosper, and give to whom they wish. One form is tyranny where the unproductive continue becoming more unproductive, the other is liberty. The choice is very clear. The system of prosperity dictates that you can start with nothing and end up with much by working hard and hiring others to help you grow give them a leg up. The choice is Freedom or slavery to the Federal plantation.

  5. Nancy N. says:

    Absolutely beautiful. Completely sums up the political paths the parties have been diverging on lately.

  6. confidential says:

    Don’t worry with water or dry, the Marco kid does not represent the Hispanics that voted and will continuo to vote for Democrat administrations and for many years to come. After Obama in line; Biden,Hillary, Lizzy Warren and many more…to further up the Middle and Poor Classes recovery agenda and specially after 2014 election when we may get a chance to get out and vote to clean up Congress and Senate.
    Until 2014….the Republican Party I used to vote for, will proceed paralyzing our economy in the can and working hard to increase unemployment rates and hate crimes with their racist rhetoric. What else can we expect, when we have in our neighborhoods in some homes displayed items/signs like ” a skull with the words Hussein-Osama written on it, all in read white and blue by the front door”. All for the sake of freedom of speech and hate? and the city can’t enforce removal…

  7. Sherry Epley says:

    Excellent article! “We have nothing to fear, but fear itself”! The fear based media is intentionally segregating out and targeting those (like myself) who were raised in an under educated, close minded, culture of “us vs them”. “Don’t trust the government, anyone who goes to a different church, anyone who speaks with a non-Southern accent (much less one from a different country), anyone with a different skin color, anyone suspected of being gay”. . . and on, and on!

    WE are the government! WE are City Hall! WE (for better or worse) elect those who represent us! Marco Rubio is so indoctrinated in Republican “talking points” that he is a traitor to his own family, who immigrated here. He presented NO independent thoughts of his own.

    We are given this precious time on earth to at least move in the direction towards a more secure, compassionate, open hearted, loving species. But, it appears many people in our country are moving in the opposite direction. . . towards fear based distrust of fellow human beings. . . complete with all their glorious flaws. Towards the human savage who kept women as possessions for “spreading their seed”, towards creating fortresses and arsonals to “protect me and mine from THEM”, etc. etc. Towards all the negative human traits, now all too common: violence, lying, cheating, stealing, killing, avoiding responsibility for crimes, unethical behavior, lack of integrity, disloyality. . . and on and on and on

    While no one political party is innocent of these negative traits, consider the possibility that we all should resist being manipulated by the fear monger,s regardless of their form. Let us rise above, do our own reaearch and analysis to find the truth that speaks purely to our hearts and minds, and then act and live accordingly.

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