Sen. Marco Rubio marked the end of the Donald Trump era with a speech welcoming President Joe Biden to office. But the Republican Senator stressed the social and economic anxieties that delivered Trump a single term did not vanish.
“President Trump was elected President and received 75 million votes in the last election because he was brutally honest about the grievances and fears that are now dividing our country. But he did not create them,” Rubio said. “And his exit today, alone, will not ‘Make America Normal Again.'”
In a nearly 10-minute floor speech, Rubio marked the start of a new administration, one where the GOP as of Wednesday is officially the minority party in the House and Senate.
He offered praise for Biden’s character and wished him success in the White House, even as rumors already swirl the Senator plans to run for President himself in 2024.
“At noon today Joe Biden became our new President. I never served with him here in the Senate, but I know from direct, firsthand experience that he is a man of great empathy,” Rubio said. “And I pray that God bless him with wisdom, strength and health to lead our nation. Because we live in troubled times.”
Rubio won his first Senate term in 2010, part of a Republican wave two years into Barack Obama’s first term. The Senator’s personal dealings with the new President came first while Biden served as Vice President.
In 2016, Rubio ran for President, but dropped out after losing the Florida GOP primary to Trump. Since then, the prominent Florida Republicans had an uneasy relationship, with Rubio taking a more hawkish view than Trump on many foreign policy issues with Russia but also successfully swaying the President on many matters related to Western Hemisphere international relations.
The Senator’s Wednesday evening speech focused largely on domestic policy and the economic anxiety felt by many Americans.
“People want a country where they have the opportunity to find a good job, get married, live in a safe neighborhood, not go into debt if they have a baby, send their kids to a good school, and one day retire with dignity,” he said. “But tens of millions of Americans are losing hope that will ever be possible for them. And they are deeply frustrated that those in government and both political parties aren’t doing enough about it.
“People need a sense of belonging and purpose. But the places that once provided this — our families, the local organizations we were involved in, the church or synagogue we belong to — these are all collapsing, leaving tens of millions of Americans feeling isolated and alienated. And some have turned to partisan politics and online conspiracy cults to fill the void that those institutions once filled.”
In his speech, Rubio said most Americans “were horrified about what happened here in the Capitol and want those people put in jail. But they wonder where the outrage was this summer when rioters set fire to police cars, occupied police stations, attacked courthouses, and looted private property.”
Biden stressed unity in his inaugural speech and in the theme of events through Wednesday. But Rubio suggested that will be harder than it sounds to achieve.
“Today, President Biden struck an important tone of national unity, and I believe that they were sincere. But pursuing a radical agenda in a divided country will not contribute to unity; it’s cynicism that destroys trust.
“Fanning the flames of grievances or pursuing vengeance disguised as accountability will not produce unity; it’s the politics of resentment and retribution, which leaves us a fractured nation of people who hate each other. Demanding that the other side agree to all of your demands isn’t unity; it’s the arrogance of believing only those who agree with us are good and anyone who disagrees is not just wrong — but actually are evil.”
Any hope of achieving national unity will involve evoking a sense of national pride, not from pushing through a partisan agenda.
“Real unity isn’t everyone having the same ideology, views, or ideas,” Rubio said. “The unity we need is the one that comes from remembering who we really are.”