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Daniel Tilson: Back to the future with Marco Rubio

Marco Rubio is nothing if not…ambitious. Some would say, a “climber.”

Little more than midway through his first term as Florida’s junior U.S. senator, Rubio wants to move on up to the Oval Office. He made the official announcement this week at Miami’s Freedom Tower.

Watching it, I remembered the last time I was in the Freedom Tower. It was almost two years ago. I was getting video coverage of a press conference where a group of undocumented immigrant youth (Dreamers) and supporters were calling for congressional action on Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR).

That was back when Rubio looked like he might make a positive difference in fostering a compromise on the contentious issue. The Dreamers I talked to that day, they were full of urgent hope that the support of a Tea Party conservative such as Rubio would be a game-changer.

Their hopes and dreams, and those of millions more nationwide, were dashed when Sen. Rubio failed to effectively advance the CIR cause. Then he “bounced back” from that flop with renewed pandering to conservative anti-CIR extremists. This was a reminder that his ego and ambitions take precedence over his conscience and convictions.

Flash forward to this week’s announcement. His second short sentence (after “Thank you”) used “I” three times. Turns out at 43 years old – with a weak-kneed congressional presence, meager legislative accomplishments and a penchant for veering as far right as political calculations deem necessary – Rubio thinks he’s well-suited to be our next president.

You see…hmm, well, he’s the first to tell you his family story embodies the American Dream, the successful son of hard-working Cuban immigrants who makes good in America’s anti-Castro capitol of Miami.

And you see, he’s young too, part of Generation X (born 1960s-1990s), and their time has come, to, um…well as Rubio put it in Monday’s speech, “Now, the time has come for our generation to lead the way toward a new American Century.”

Plus, he’s taking aim at Hillary Clinton – and any notion of nonpartisan intergenerational camaraderie: “This election is not just about what laws we will pass. It is a generational choice about what kind of country we will be. Just yesterday, a leader from yesterday began a campaign for president by promising to take us back to yesterday.”

For anyone who finds appeal in Rubio’s rhetoric and extended use of folksy family stories, a note of caution. Remember to dig deeper.

On the lofty rhetorical surface, he’ll continue posing as wannabe conservative champion of “the single mother who works long hours for little pay,” “the student who takes two buses before dawn to attend a better school,” and “workers in our hotel kitchens, the landscaping crews in our neighborhoods the late-night janitorial staff…”

But look under the surface of all that speechifying, and you’ll find an enemy of the 99 percent. He opposes raising the minimum wage or requiring paid sick-leave days for the working poor, including single mothers. Instead of giving public schools the budgets and attention they need, he keeps pushing more and more students and funding to privately run, for-profit charter and religious schools.

There’s plenty more of that under-the-surface ugly truth to be found when you start digging into Rubio’s mercilessly hardcore conservative, anti-middle class record.

Bottom line? There’s unfortunate but instructive irony in Marco Rubio’s presidential bid. For it’s built on an unseen, unsustainable foundation of tried-and-failed “trickle down” economic policies that would indeed “take us back to yesterday” – back to a Great Recession, Part 2.

Daniel Tilson has a Boca Raton-based communications firm called Full Cup Media, specializing in online video and written content for non-profits, political candidates and organizations, and small businesses. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

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