Florida's Sen. Marco Rubio is generally regarded as one of the GOP presidential candidates faring the best at this stage in the primary process. Despite the fact that he currently sits in third place, more than 20 points off the front-runner's pace, and despite the fact that his current 8.5 percent showing is below his double-digit peak in May, Rubio is generally held in high regard. Why? Because it's widely suspected that the two outsider candidates who hold the top two spots -- Donald Trump and Ben Carson -- will eventually burn out or fade away, and Rubio will then rise to the top as the most successful of the "establishment" candidates.
None of that is necessarily something you'll agree with, but it does form the premise of why Rubio enjoys a bit of favor in the media at the end of a month in which he actually lost ground in the polls and gave a poor showing in terms of fundraising. Yes, this supposed Rubio boomlet is almost entirely synthetic, but you'll want to keep this in mind when I tell you that over the weekend, Rubio accomplished something that was deemed to be significant and, indeed, as they say, "game-changing."
Did his poll numbers shift, signifying a massive change in public favor toward him? Did he unveil an innovative policy idea that got all the wonks agog and impressed? Did he effectively counter one of his opponents in a convincing way? No. Rubio had a good weekend, but not for any of the traditional reasons you would associate with a successful campaign on the upswing. Rather, he is winning where it counts: in the ghastly, money-soaked grotesquerie that has replaced our democracy. The New York Times had the big story:
One of the wealthiest and most influential Republican donors in the country is throwing his support to Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, a decision that could swing millions of dollars in contributions behind Mr. Rubio at a critical point in the Republican nominating battle.
The decision by the donor, Paul Singer, a billionaire New York investor, is a signal victory for Mr. Rubio in his battle with his rival Jeb Bush for the affections of major Republican patrons and the party’s business wing.
Right, lest you had forgotten that America has fallen into a situation where now the basic matters of state and policy are wholly decided upon by a group of billionaire weirdos, at whose feet our contenders for ersatz "leader of the free world" must stoop, tongues moistened, the Grey Lady has a pretty timely reminder.
And whether the paper intended it or not, its rendering of this pseudo-event very pointedly depicts average American taxpaying voters in their current outcast state by reminding you over and over again that to Marco Rubio, you're nothing without a large amount of money to spare for campaign turd-polish. I am trying to imagine any of the effusive language used by the Times to describe Rubio's courtship of a billionaire being deployed to describe the winning over of actual voters.
Can you imagine, for instance, Rubio campaign spokesman Alex Conant saying this about successfully persuading any mere pensioner, or middle-class wage-earner: “We know we have a lot of work to do before Marco wins the nomination, but clearly this moves us in the right direction.” Surely not.
Can you imagine The New York Times thinking it worthy of a story to learn that a dedicated Rubio supporter had signed up a few dozen close friends to support the senator's presidential campaign? Of course not. But Singer, we learned, has sent a letter to "dozens of other donors," and the Times seems to see the obtaining of said letter a major journalistic coup.
At some point during the election cycle, the media will attempt to assay the larger sentiment of voters. They will note that normal people are a wash of passions and self-interests and odd angles and seeming contradictions. As is the quadrennial tradition, voters will be called stupid, or mercurial, or worse. It will be noted that voters often seem to vote against their own interests. The extent to which voters can often be judged to be misinformed will serve as a searing indictment against you, and not against the media, whose job it is/was to keep you informed.
Now, let's watch how The New York Times describes Singer:
Mr. Singer, who gave more money to Republican candidates and causes last year than any donor in the country, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, is courted by Republicans both for the depth of his own pockets and for his wide network of other conservative givers. He is known for his caution and careful vetting of candidates and, while passionately pro-Israel and a supporter of same-sex marriage, he is generally viewed as a donor who does not believe in litmus tests.
Singer is, in this regard, a lot like Sheldon Adelson -- he's an exclusively Republican donor who supports many things Republicans don't. If he were just an ordinary human who possessed these contradictions, he'd be called "stupid." As a billionaire, however, he's simply a great man who doesn't believe in litmus tests. (This despite having a very clear litmus test called "being pro-Israel!")
Why does Singer favor Rubio in particular? Well, aside from passing his "pro-Israel" litmus test, it's not really clear. Singer has a pocketful of vague praise for young Marco, including the following:
- Singer believes Rubio can "navigate the complex primary process."
- Also, Rubio can "be in a position to defeat Hillary Clinton."
- Singer is convinced that Rubio is "accustomed to thinking about American foreign policy as a responsible policy maker."
- Not to mention that he thinks Rubio "is ready to be an informed and assertive decision-maker.”
I'm not sure what most of those phrases even mean. But here's a word that never comes up: "immigration." You know, the key issue on which Rubio's spent the lion's share of his Senate career working. The thing he's best known for, in the knotty world of policy, where people not wealthy enough to spend their days and nights in the clouds live. If Singer's at all interested in the matter that animated Rubio's existence for many years, he gives no indication.
There's something about Singer's analysis of Rubio that reminds me of that kid in class who didn't read the book, but had to present an oral book report to the class. It's a welter of B.S. and vague 11-words-where-six-will-do bromides that loosely fit the mask of thoughtfulness upon the speaker. But if Singer's outpaced the average voter in terms of the amount of time and effort he's spent thinking about his decision, it never shows up in this Times article.
In fact, it's entirely possible that Singer doesn't know Rubio that well at all, if the best he can do is describe the Florida senator is to say that he's now "ready" to be a "decision-maker" who is "accustomed to thinking about American foreign policy as a responsible policy maker." (As opposed to what? A sea lion? A mop bucket? A pair of soiled gabardines?)
As a voter, you should know that, according to the Times, the "battle for Mr. Singer’s support -- which included months of behind-the-scenes lobbying by aides and appearances by candidates over the last year at dinners and breakfasts convened by Mr. Singer -- underscores the growing clout of big donors in presidential elections, particularly this year, when 'super PACs,' and the wealthy donors who finance them, have moved to the center of the race."
This is just another way of saying that there really is no "battle" for your vote. Billionaires get months of begging and pleading and the whole attention of candidates and campaigns. You will be the target of a P.R. campaign funded by their boodle.
The foundational defense of our current campaign finance system, from the shady grifters who support the Supreme Court's democracy-crippling Citizens United decision, is that money is free speech, and to interfere with the flow of money into our political system is unconstitutional in the purest sense of the word: a violation of the esteemed and beloved First Amendment. It was a pretty, if vacuous, idea. But the alarmists have proven to be correct: The system we have now sells off the space for political speech to the highest bidder, of which you are not one.
This is a very enlightening piece, then, by The New York Times, because it details at great length just how much esteem and clout and importance most of you have lost, and to whom you've lost it: a bunch of outlandish plutocrats whose vague political platitudes and airheaded grasp on the real world nevertheless doesn't count against them by those who write the great Summing-Up of our time. You'd probably be pilloried in some quarters for thinking that America is no longer a great nation because of this arrangement, but you'd be correct.
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