The latest polls show Marco Rubio in 3rd place in Iowa, behind frontrunner Donald Trump and a second place Ted Cruz.
Many conservatives worry Trump will be the nominee. I share that fear. Many, who don’t like Cruz, hope Rubio emerges as the frontrunner.
But if absolutely forced to choose: I’d rather have Trump.
When I say this some conservatives seem baffled.
I’m baffled they’re baffled.
Have conservatives forgot?
Like most libertarians, conservatives, or other grassroots Republican-leaning voters, I want to toss out the establishment.
Since the tea party and liberty movements arose, the battle was no longer just about Republicans vs. Democrats. It’s wanting good Republicans to beat bad ones (to beat Democrats).
We would no longer settle for Republicans who are no better than Democrats.
But what does being anti-establishment mean now, in this Trump-dominated 2016 election?
National Review’s David Harsanyi observed last week, “Trump might lose the GOP nomination… Then, it’s likely that the Republican Party will go back to business as usual. Which is a disaster of whole different kind.”
Even with the awful prospect of Trump, Rubio becoming the Republican nominee would be a disastrous step backward.
Rubio is worse than just being establishment—he represents the worst of both parties.
50 percent of the president’s job is foreign policy.
At this point, Obama’s primary foreign policy legacy includes aiding regime change in Libya and Syria, both of which gave space and power to ISIS. Rubio supported those regime changes and still defends them.
Rubio only says he’d be more aggressive. Maybe a more aggressive policy that helps ISIS is a bad idea?
Aren’t we supposed to learn lessons from mistakes?
And there is where he truly represents the worst of the Republicans.
Republicans, particularly conservatives, were so invested in that war, understandably in many ways after 9-11, that standard concerns for personal liberty and smaller government fell by the wayside.
As war became the primary focus, George W. Bush ended up doubling the national debt, and, before Obama, became the most big government president in our history.
The neoconservatives, who loved Bush’s foreign policy (and still do) heralded this as a new “big government conservatism” to replace the older missions of protecting constitutional liberties, fiscal responsibility and shrinking government. Foreign policy affected domestic policy.
By the end of Bush’s second term he was pushing bank bailouts and grassroots conservatives began forming the tea party movement.
Part of what has made Obama’s foreign policy so tragic is that he too subscribes to the regime change ideology that animated the Bush administration. When Rand Paul says Rubio is a “neocon” just like Hillary, he’s more than right.
Rubio is actually one of them. A true believer.
Many conservatives who say Trump would embarrass the country internationally forget just how unpopular Bush was around the world by the end of his second term.
Neither man would likely be good for America’s global image.
Neoconservative ideology also spills into every other policy, not just general government spending and growth—but maximizing state power—where the trend is always away from liberty and toward more authoritarian measures.
Rubio wants to expand NSA surveillance of U.S. citizens and to make this controversial practice permanent. He says he’d use federal power to crack down on marijuana. If the authoritarian Trump says he’d close down mosques, Rubio goes even further saying we should shut down anywhere Muslim radicals are “inspired.”
Rubio supporters are right that a young, fresh-faced Republican would be a great new face for the party.
He would be a fresh face for the same old Republican (and Democratic) policies.
Trump has no discernible ideology. Rubio is committed to an ideology with an abysmal track record.
Even Trump supporters brag that their candidate will simply surround himself with “smart people,” whatever that means. But it’s hard to imagine it meaning something worse than what Rubio’s advisers guarantee.
Most conservatives want to dislodge the establishment. But what we replace them with is just as important.
With Trump—who has flip-flopped so many times you can’t keep up—that’s more of an open question. With Rubio, it’s not.
If given this nightmare choice, the devil I don’t know is still preferable.
Disclosure: I co-authored Senator Rand Paul’s 2011 book The Tea Party Goes to Washington.