The worst part about Marco Rubio’s new anti-gay ad

Marco Rubio released an ad yesterday that calls himself a bigot. And that’s one of the less-bigoted things about it:

Here’s the script:

This election is about the essence of America. About all of us who feel out of place in our own country. A government incredibly out of touch and millions with traditional values branded bigots and haters.

This is about wages growing slower than the cost of living. A generation drowning in debt, and a president humiliated by Putin, Iran and Islamic jihadists.

I’m Marco Rubio. I approve this message because this is about the greatest country in the world…and acting like it.

Lots of folks have taken issue with the first line of the script, and they aren’t wrong. Alvin McEwen wrote yesterday that Rubio’s complaint that those who oppose marriage equality are labeled bigots is a cheap persecution complex. David Badash pointed out that Rubio’s script effectively describes those bigots as “the essence of America,” which I’d add puts him dangerously close to Sarah Palin “real America” territory. They’re both right.

Marco Rubio, via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Marco Rubio, via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

For me, though, the most chalkboard-scratchingly infuriating part of the ad is the last line. The “and acting like it” bit.

If you pressed Rubio as to what that line meant, he’d probably say it was a reference to the middle of his script. To the part about how Obama is a weak-kneed pansy who has “led from behind” during his time at the helm of the American war machine. America under Obama has, as Rubio would say, acted like a mere member in the community of nations, instead of acting like the boss.

But that’s not what Rubio’s target audience heard. And it isn’t what I heard.

Like most people with a brain, I matched Rubio’s conclusion sentence to his introductory sentence, which means that I matched “and acting like it” with “the essence of America” and “traditional values.” Put another way, I heard Rubio say that America is acting like a perverted slut. God-fearing traditionalists, like Rubio and his millions of fellow don’t-call-us-bigots, have looked on in horror as society has openly embraced sin. And by sin, of course, Rubio means marriage rights and anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people. Not only are those affirmations of identity in direct conflict with the “essence of America,” they also put those who disagree in the position of being the real victims. Because being called a bigot for refusing to affirm the identity of those different from you is worse than, you know, refusing to affirm the identity of those different from you.

Rubio’s ad suggests that the real way to Make American Great Again is for its citizens to stop being so gay all the time, and to make life easier for those who aren’t afraid to stand up and say so. It isn’t enough for conservative Christians to sit at the top of the cultural hierarchy; LGBT people have to stop being L, G, B and T.

If that sounds familiar coming from Rubio, it’s because it is. Marco Rubio is, in no uncertain terms, running on the idea of transforming American culture to make it openly hostile toward anyone who doesn’t share his particular version of Christianity. In fact, that’s how he interprets the very concept of “religious liberty,” writing on his website that it is not simply a guarantee of “the right to believe anything you want.” Instead, he argues, religious liberty entails the responsibility of good Christians like him to “be Christians in every aspect of our lives…we are called to influence the culture around us.”

Put another way, one might say that Rubio has been called to act like a bigot.

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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