Don’t call bigot Marco Rubio a bigot, you bigot

Marco Rubio, the dictionary definition of a bigot, went on Face the Nation yesterday to complain that it isn’t fair to call him a bigot for his bigotry.

At issue was Rubio’s recent ad describing the need to start “acting like” the greatest country in the world again by restoring the “essence of America,” by which he means “traditional values.” Most Americans would consider it fair to call someone a bigot if they told a gay person to stop acting gay, which is basically what Rubio’s ad did. But Rubio is very much offended by the charge, telling interviewer John Dickerson that he was unfairly called a bigot both before and after the ad’s release.

For Rubio, calling on America to reject equal rights for LGBT people — from marriage rights to anti-discrimination protections — doesn’t make him a bigot; it makes him “traditional.” Hiring a director of faith outreach who openly advocates for turning gay people straight doesn’t make him a bigot; it makes him the opposite: a “religious liberty” advocate. And insisting that same-sex couples shouldn’t be allowed to marry while granting that being gay isn’t a choice doesn’t make him a bigot; it makes him…what, exactly? Cold? Callous? Calculated?

Marco Rubio, via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Marco Rubio, via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Please. He can call his denial of LGBT people’s identity and rights whatever he wants. His refusal to accept them makes him a bigot in the clearest sense of the word.

Rubio’s whining over the semantics of being called an intolerant bigot over his intolerant, bigoted policy proposals and rhetoric is especially odd given that it undermines his chief claim to the Republican nomination: that he’s the serious, electable alternative to the thin-skinned Donald Trump and litigious Ted Cruz, who are both widely hated and increasingly feared by the GOP establishment. It also comes off as a desperate pitch to Evangelical voters that falls flat when one considers that Cruz has already boxed out Rubio in the fight for the theocratic soul of the Republican Party — a fight Cruz seemed prepared to win even without the widespread support of the conservative movement’s Evangelical establishment, which he now has.

Rubio was likely doomed in that fight from the get-go precisely because he framed his candidacy as the GOP’s best chance to peel votes away from the Democratic Party’s coalition of young and minority voters. Regardless of the positions Rubio took, which turned out to be just as if not more bigoted than his opponents’, that framing at least implied the moderation on social issues that younger and non-white voters are demanding from their candidates. That moderation never came, exposing a glaring contradiction in his campaign: It simply isn’t possible to be the candidate for the New American Century™ while also opposing abortion in the cases of rape and incest and promising to roll back a decade of LGBT progress ranging from marriage equality to workplace non-discrimination. If you’re running as an old conservative’s idea of what a young conservative sounds like, you’re still fighting for old conservatives’ votes.

So now Rubio’s stuck insisting to the GOP base that he’s just as reactionary as Ted Cruz while pleading with the rest of the electorate to believe him when he says he isn’t an intolerant scold. Good luck keeping that house of cards intact for another eleven months.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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