Martinez used McCollum’s support of hate crimes legislation as a US House member to accuse the conservative lawmaker of being pro-LGBT a winner in the polarized atmosphere of 2004 when conservative groups had also placed a marriage discrimination plank on the Florida ballot and then in November when Democratic nominee Betty Castor was attacked based on Sami Al-Arian’s employment at the University of South Florida.
The Al-Arian issue which was first raised in the primary by allies of Peter Deutsch one of the losing Democratic candidates was hung on Castor, the President of USF even though clear protocols had to be followed for the potential termination of a staff professor.
This year the allies of Marco Rubio, who find the man they support in a similarly tough race to what Martinez faced are pushing similar buttons. This past week many conversations in Florida have revolved around the efforts of some Republicans to make Ibrahim Al-Rashid, a school buddy of Patrick Murphy’s into a live political issue. Al-Rashid does appear to be a seedy character but the idea of continuously repeating his name and emphasizing his ties to Murphy seem quite cynical. Were Murphy pals with a gentleman named “John Smith” who had a similar profile to Al-Rashid it’s doubtful we’d hear his name being repeated time and again as this week wore on.
Let’s not forget before Donald Trump took race-baiting to a new level this campaign season, Marco Rubio was exposing this playbook to him during the GOP primaries. Rubio’s coded racial appeals are among the elements that allowed him to surge in the polls in early GOP Presidential primary/caucus states and remain relevant in the race longer than his mentor Jeb Bush, who refused to engage in such incendiary rhetoric. Rubio recorded a surprisingly strong 3rd placed finish in the Iowa Caucus after baiting the local electorate with a tone that was alarming.
While Rand Paul was determined to serve as the ideological heir to the likes of Barry Goldwater and Jeb Bush adopted a more William F. Buckley/George F. Will tone, Rubio played “dog-whistle” politics in Iowa to great success. He was eventually overtaken by Trump but now with the tycoon faltering, Rubio will seek to coalesce the right wing elements and racially-motivated voters that Trump corralled into his camp for a future run.
The race-baiting from Rubio has also included coded shots at President Obama:
“I’m tired of being divided against each other for political reasons like this president’s done. Always pitting people against each other. Always. Look at today—he gave a speech at a mosque. ”
“We already have a president now that has no class. I mean we have a president now that does selfie stick videos, that invites YouTube stars there, people that you know, eat cereal out of a bathtub that accuses his. You just saw the interview he did right now where he goes on comedy shows to talk about something as serious as Iran. The list goes on and on.”
Of course Rubio is projecting as it is his rhetoric more than that of the President that divides Americans. More over the reference to giving a speech at a mosque was a CLEAR racial appeal.
It’s difficult to know what Rubio really believes, but his rhetoric and willingness to use colorful and coded language to describe the matters of importance to this nation and the world no along with his anti-intellectualism doubt must classify him as an heir to both the Nixon and Wallace legacies of dividing voters along racial lines.
Let’s not forget Rubio’s history in the State House. Rubio’s ally fellow State Representative Ralph Arza (R-Hialeah) was the chief water-carrier in the legislature for the private school industry and school voucher proponents. He also echoed Rubio’s talking points on “freedom” and taxes. Representing a lower-income urban district Arza’s voting record was much further to the right of his Republican colleagues (including Rivera) who represented Hialeah and Northwest Miami-Dade at the same time. He was a perfect compliment legislatively and temperamentally for an intellectual lightweight like Rubio who tried to give off a demeanor of a thoughtful legislator – Arza was a bully who could serve as an enforcer as Rubio climbed the leadership ranks.
Arza is of course best known for being found guilty of witness tampering and leaving racially insensitive messages using the N-word in reference to the then Miami-Dade Schools boss Dr. Rudy Crew on the voicemail of then colleague Rep. Gus Barreiro (R-Miami Beach).Barreiro went to the media and filed an ethics complaint that led to Arza’s downfall and an embarrassing episode for incoming House Speaker Rubio. Arza was forced to resign from the House partly to preserve Rubio’s political career. This was in 2006 – just days before Marco Rubio was the assume the Speakership in the Florida House with this embarrassment hanging over his head.
Protecting Rubio from political exposure was the reason for Arza’s swift downfall. The Florida GOP as early as 2001 saw Rubio as a potential national superstar and went out of its way to protect him. They quickly threw Arza under the bus in order to save Rubio’s career. But perhaps Rubio’s personal loyalty to Arza or could it be his approval of his use of the N-word is why the two remain political allies to this day.
The pattern through the years is consistent. Rubio will empower those using racial epitaphs or subtle race-baiting in order to advance politically, but shift directions and throw allies under the bus when it becomes problematic. A charlatan of immense deceitful talent, Rubio continues to pull the wool over the eyes of many voters and some in the media.
Floridians do not need to have the regret nor the weight on their conscience that many Germans did after the Nazi era. Charisma and fluffy programmed rhetoric do not equal empathy and leadership, but in fact in the case Marco Rubio they equate to danger and potential destruction. Rubio’s track record is clear and Floridians that support his candidacy or oppose that of his Democratic rival, Patrick Murphy might very well have massive regrets down the road.