By Brieanah Gouveia
Feb. 28 marked a historic moment in Roanoke College history, then republican presidential hopeful, Marco Rubio, was greeted by bellows and cheers as he spoke in Roanoke College’s Bast Center before more than 2,000 people. The audience was comprised of old and young, some members of the college, others neighboring Virginians. Scheduled to begin at 8:30 pm, the candidate arrived to his last campaign venue for the day exceptionally late.
With word having spread that the college would not be hosting the infamous Donald Trump, students and community members were pleased to find that RC would be visited by the more friendly Rubio. Crowd response paralleled this pent up excitement. Screams from the audience could have fooled some into thinking a major celebrity was taking the stage, not simply a campaigning politician who at the time hadn’t ranked above third place in any of the primaries.
The atmosphere of this night exposed the bizarre spin American politics is witnessing this presidential election season. It seems that addressing policy concerns has become a second priority to personally criticizing one’s opponents. Rubio was not immune to this trend as he spent the beginning 15 minutes of his speech delivering comedic jabs to Trump, a man justifiably labeled the bully of the century.
The most quoted part of Rubio’s speech was when he delivered a blow to Trump’s machismo: “You know what they say about men with small hands…You can’t trust ‘em.” Some viewers believed Rubio deserved a pat on the back for being the first to finally retaliate against the fire this uncensored aggressor has been spewing since the beginning of the campaign season; others identified this as a poorly thought out attempt by Rubio to relate to the sentiments of college students in the crowd.
When Rubio finally addressed his policy agenda, he stressed the urgency that American politics must be reclaimed by “common sense, conservative leadership.” However, as dozens of students gathered outside of the rally to protest against his policy plans, it is fair to question just how “common sense” conservative leadership really is nowadays. It is blatantly obvious that America grows increasingly more progressive with each new generation, especially concerning social issues.
Rubio’s main points hit on taxes, energy, healthcare and foreign relations. He claimed that for the economy to get better, these steps must be adopted: a simpler tax system instituted; Obamacare repealed (though he did not say what he would replace it with); and the existing natural energy sources of oil and coal continue to be utilized.
The latter point he argued will also create more jobs, despite the hazardous history attributed to jobs in this field. Rubio also argued how his policies are far better alternatives than those offered by the opposing party. He criticized Hillary Clinton’s platform, even stating that because of her email scandal she is disqualified from being president. The audience hollered in support of these remarks, yet when Rubio tried to discredit Bernie Sander’s agenda, much less clamor was incited.
Rubio spent the last half of his address commenting on America’s international status. He decried President Barack Obama as being “a weak commander-in-chief,” and that to make up for Obama’s losses he would institute a “Reagan-style rebuilding of the United States Military.”
Additionally, he noted numerous threats the U.S. faces on all sides, from terrifying leadership in North Korea, growing economic and scientific competitiveness in China, unhinged actions of Russia, and shady relations with Jihadist Islamic leaders in the Middle East. Many of these outlooks mirror the opinions of other GOP candidates.
Given Rubio’s Cuban heritage – his parents immigrated to America in the 1950’s – one might have envisioned more relaxed immigration policies concerning the U.S. and Latin America. Ironically, Rubio is comparatively as harsh on this concern as the rest of the Republican Party. Though he did not specifically mention his plans, such as deporting illegal aliens and completing the 700-mile stretch of walls on the Southern Border, he did make explicitly clear that the American Dream is being undermined by illegals and cheap labor. He said, “If we ever lose the American Dream, we won’t be a special country anymore.”
Rubio concluded by expressing his perception of what the American Dream means to today’s deteriorating middle class. He suggested that “Americans today want humble jobs; they don’t want to get rich. They just want to live comfortably and leave their kids better off than they were.” Thundering applause flooded the gymnasium after Rubio’s closing remarks. Before departing, as the scoreboard lit up touting “Virginia is Marco Rubio Country,” he made sure to sign cards and take selfies with star-struck prospective voters.
Unfortunately, Rubio was unable to make the necessary gains in the following primaries. Lagging often in 3rd place, behind Trump and Cruz, Rubio confirmed his decision to drop out of the presidential campaign on Tuesday, March 15.