Conservatives have been dreaming that a political reincarnation of Ronald Reagan would lead them to an electoral promised land. I never put my faith in such a possibility, because the past is a dangerous place in which to live. Reagan never lived in the past, though he learned from it.
Yet among the contemporary political figures that closely represent the substance and style that made Ronald Reagan who he was is Senator Marco Rubio, Florida Republican.
At a fundraising event for Iowa Governor Terry Branstad last Saturday, Rubio touched all the Reagan bases and focused on solutions, not just a recitation of well-known problems. Probably his best line of the evening was, "The way to turn our economy around is not by making rich people poorer. It's by making poor people richer." In this, he resembled Reagan's favorite president, Calvin Coolidge, who said, "Don't expect to build up the weak by pulling down the strong."
Rubio also seemed to suggest that conservatism is larger than the Republican brand, which has become tainted in some minds. He said, "This is not about the Republican Party. This is about limited government conservatism." While he said the Republican Party "is the home of that movement," he seemed to suggest that it is not necessarily its permanent residence.
Rubio also displayed the self-deprecating humor that was a hallmark of Reagan when he said the reason he went to college in nearby Northwest Missouri is because no other college would allow him to play football. Were it not for his "lack of size, speed and talent," he said, he might have played in the National Football League.
Rubio spoke of the middle class, which President Obama constantly referred to during the campaign. He said a major reason why the poor are having difficulty moving into the middle class is because the economy has stagnated. That, he said, is due to the record debt, uncertainty that has kept businesses from hiring and a lack of skills needed in a global economy.
Some Republicans are again suggesting the party would perform better if it divorced itself from social conservatives and their issues. Rubio addressed that directly and rejected it: "The breakdown of the American family has a direct impact on our economic well-being. The social and moral well-being of (our) people is directly linked to their economic well-being. You can't separate the two."
While praising "heroic" single mothers, Rubio said, "They would be the first to tell you how difficult it is." He added, "A two-parent home gives kids advantages," and he said "the great gift my parents gave me" was staying together and loving him and his siblings.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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