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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  • Butch1

    His is going down, though Cruz’ is unfortunately slowly rising. His brand of hate is much worse, I fear. He, not Rubio has been the one introducing the anti-gay bills in the senate and showing up to those prayer meetings were the anti-gay hate groups meet. He’s the one who belongs to the Dominion religion that believes in the bible literally and is radically anti-homosexual. That religion wants this country to become a Theocratic one.

    Why haven’t any of our moderators at the republican debates asked that question of him yet? He mentions religion all of the time and it should be fair game. It’s too important to let him get away with it.

  • hidflect

    That’s it. He’s grateful to the elite that they let him in and in return he’s happy to become the doorman and block out any others following behind…

  • hidflect

    Age is no barrier to bigotry. Anyway, he wouldn’t look so young without that weave on his head.

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  • This is about Marco Rubio making a desperate bid to enlist the bigots and haters to shore up a failing campaign — too little, too late: Trump and Cruz already have them sewed up. It’s also a terrible script — straight from the Sarah Palin Writer’s Workshop.

    Since JEB! can’t get any traction at all — people still remember the last Bush presidency, and Jeb’s pretty much a buffoon anyway — Rubio’s in line to be the establishment candidate, but the back-room boys are going to have a hard time giving him the nomination if he doesn’t have at least some support from the base.

    The Republican convention is going to be a scream.

  • johnbales

    Disappointed that a young man like Rubio has managed swallow the evangelical/far right. I’m sure that there were LGBTQ people in his school, college, and otherwise around him in life, as well as friends and family that are LGBTQ. It’s a sorry day he won’t stand up to the base and say “your bigotry and hate are not right and are unacceptable in modern society were people have the same needs, loves, desires, etc., as anyone else,

  • That really is a dreadful ad, and yet another sign that Rubio’s candidacy isn’t going to go anywhere but down. There are basically three hard types of political ads: Fluffing puffery ads which try to make the candidate seem like a demigod. Flat out attack ads against the opponents. And neutral ‘issues’ ads, which tend not to do much of anything.

    Rubio’s ad here isn’t about anything other than attacking anybody who isn’t a conservative Republican. He’s basically trying to shame people into voting for him by claiming there’s something wrong and indecent about voting Democrat or supporting civil rights for minorities.

    And the rest? Wages stagnant…which can’t be pinned on the Dems, not fully, because although they haven’t done anything to address growing income inequality, the disparity really didn’t take hold until Reagan and accelerated massively every time Republicans have been running the government. Every time they’ve been in charge, they have had no solution other than “more tax cuts for the rich.”

    Which leads directly to the “drowning in debt” claim. Only people whose main source of information if wingnut TV and radio don’t know the usual pattern — again since Reagan — has been “Republicans explode the debt, Democrats clean it up, then GOPers explode it again the next chance they get.” With both Clinton and Obama, the gov’t deficits shrank massively, with the GOP slavering at the chance to explode it again ASAP.

    But yes, the biggest blunder is that ‘branded bigots and haters’ line. I also agree the “and acting like it” line is a terrible closing line, because if indeed America is ‘the greatest country in the world,’ why is the Republican party adamantly opposed to the minimum wage (never mind raising it)? Or universal access to health care? Or affordable (or free) higher education? Why are they in favor of deeply shameful positions like being pro-torture? That’s not a ‘greatest country’ value — that’s just sadism.

    Anyway, in a 30 second ad like that, you don’t waste precious seconds repeating a criticism against you and your supporters. By bringing up the ‘bigots and haters’ line, you’re only reminding the fence-sitters, “Oh yeah, if I support the Republicans, other people–including people I like–will think I’m a ‘bigot and hater’, too.”

    Shaming people into being intolerant doesn’t win votes.

  • Hue-Man

    “… to make [American culture] openly hostile toward anyone who doesn’t share his particular version of Christianity.”

    If so, it will be a scary time for Americans, having to guess which gay-hating christianist strain Rubio is going to choose to believe in this week. After Henry VIII imposed his form of protestantism, England suffered under religious pogroms as power shifted back and forth between catholics and protestants. Imagine adding a third cult to that deadly mix!

    “He has direct, personal affiliations with all three major pillars of the Religious Right — Catholicism, Mormonism, and evangelical Protestantism.” http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2015/10/09/3710527/marco-rubio-religious-syncretism/

  • Given Rubio’s apparently abysmal inability to manage his own personal finances, the poverty part sounds about right.

    Thing is, there probably are Republican voters right now who refuse to support him precisely because he’s “ethnic.” Because that’s what his party has become.

  • Ol’ Hippy

    America, land of the free and home of the intolerant bigoted GOP candidates. We either have a big blustery blowhard,Trump, or a bunch of theocratic makeover assholes, the others. What frightens me is the possibility of anyone of these candidates winning the office. I certainly hope not this time of ever.

  • 2karmanot

    ” he’ll argle-bargle through some crapulous bromides, and he’ll get a pass from the chucktodds.” Fabulous!

  • gratuitous

    I’m confident that the text of Rubio’s voiceover was very carefully concocted so that any listener to this anti-matter language could draw their own conclusions one way or the other, and make a pretty good case for it. Rubio won’t be asked about it, but if he is, he’ll argle-bargle through some crapulous bromides, and he’ll get a pass from the chucktodds.

    The best thing, of course, is that Rubio still won’t break out of single digits in the polls.

  • Don Chandler

    Rubio is losing millennial and gen x voters. Same-sex marriage has like 70+% support among millennials and 59+% support among gen x voters. Clearly, he wants the religious vote in Iowa and in southern states. He desperately wants a share of the Carson vote…but those voters are probably going to go to Cruz and Trump. Here’s the link:

    http://www.pewforum.org/2015/07/29/graphics-slideshow-changing-attitudes-on-gay-marriage/

    Anti-gay positions aren’t going to win the general election.

  • The_Fixer

    Be careful what you wish for, Marco.

    I don’t think he really wants to turn back the clock to a time like, say, the 1950s. He would have been slurred as a “spic” and denied equal employment opportunity, equal housing and any other of a host of things that he now takes for granted. He likely would have lived in poverty.

    Rubio got lucky, and now he’s basically ready to say “I got mine, screw you” to others who are struggling for equality. This man can go away any time…

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