Friday, February 15, 2013

More Things Wrong with Marco Rubio (and the GOP)

The last time I talked about Marco Rubio, I emphasized that, being of Cuban descent, he didn't really represent the Latino community generally and that the GOP was silly to think he could help them win over Latinos from the Democrats.

Now let's look at how he actually hurts the GOP.

Not only do Latinos in general not identify with Cuban Americans; in many cases they resent them.  In the eyes of the often desperately poor immigrants from Mexico and the rest of Latin America, the Cuban immigrants were of a privileged class back home.  Many fled Castro because he was grabbing their land and other holdings and preparing to punish them for their involvement in the pre-Castro regimes that exploited and impoverished the majority of the people.  In short, the loss of wealth and the easy life drove many Cubans to migrate, not grinding poverty.

Cubans are also resented by the general Latino community for another reason.  While Latino immigrants have for decades been hounded by the border patrol and the immigration service  -   and even full-citizen Latinos are thus harassed because of racial profiling  -  Cuban Americans are virtually spoiled darlings.  From the 1960s through the 1990s they served an excellent propaganda purpose: "freedom-seekers" fleeing a Communist dictator.  They were a tool in the Cold War public relations game.

What also is off-putting to Latinos about Cuban Americans is that the GOP keeps using them as poster boys and poster girls for the party's claimed inclusiveness.  This cynical exploitation clearly demonstrates  to Latinos that the GOP knows nothing about them and doesn't care to learn.  "All Spanish-speaking immigrants are the same" seems to be the message.   That's about as prejudiced as you can get, perfect proof that Republicans don't know Latinos and don't care to.

All of this made the "bottle of water" incident a disaster.  While the talking heads are inclined to shrug off Rubio's awkward dive off camera for a drink, it made him look very bad in Latino eyes and possibly to a wider range of voters.  He looked like an amateur.  Sure, any speaker can get thirsty, but all pros make sure ahead of time that water is within easy reach.  Rubio wasn't hip enough to take care of this business, and the GOP managers who shoved him out in front of the cameras didn't respect him enough to provide the water within easy reach for him.  They negligently set him up to look like a clown.

There's a harder truth beyond even these.  Rubio is not ready for prime time.  Anyone who has done public-speaking knows why Rubio needed that water.  He was scared.  It's fear that provokes that sudden speech-freezing dry mouth.  Poor Rubio.  He has a long way to go if he's still wrestling with stage fright at this point.

And what does it say to Latinos when the GOP pushes an ill-prepared Spanish-speaking American onstage where he flounders in great loss of dignity?  The message is pretty ugly and demeaning.

No, Rubio is not the answer to the GOP problems with the Latinos.  The answer for the GOP is lots simpler:  be more like the Democrats.  And, GOP, quit insulting the Latinos out of your profound ignorance.  Come out of your country clubs and get to know the people.  You don't know what you are missing!      



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