At CPAC, Rubio dwelt on the theme of exceptionalism. “I am privileged to be a citizen of the single greatest society in all of human history,” he said.
There’s never been a nation like the United States, ever. . . . It’s sometimes easy to forget how special America really is. . . . What makes America great is that there are dreams that are impossible everywhere else but are possible here. . . . This is the only place in the world where you can open up a business in the spare bedroom of your home.
Rubio often cites one of Ronald Reagan’s stories. A Cuban exile told Reagan, “Don’t feel sorry for us. We had somewhere to go. Where are Americans going to go if they lose this great country?” The idea is “you could lose what made us exceptional,” Rubio explains. “Reagan kind of represented this re-embrace of the notion that America could remain exceptional.” Now Rubio does, or will if he’s elected. “It’s certainly not inevitable” that America will become “just another important country. It’s a choice.”
America’s greatness “didn’t happen automatically, didn’t happen accidentally, and won’t continue automatically,” he says. Voters must choose the future they want. Here’s how Rubio described the choice to me:
There are those who believe the country is headed in the right direction, who believe that jobs are created by the president and the U.S. Senate and the Congress and government, and who believe the world is a safer place if America retreats from it and weakens itself. People who believe those things should not vote for me. There are two other candidates running they can support.
If, on the other hand, you believe it’s the private sector and only private sector growth that will create the kind of revenue that we need in our country and the positive economic influence that we need, if you believe the government should not spend more money than it takes in, and if you believe the world is a safer place when America is the strongest country in the world, I’m the only candidate with ideas to help accomplish that. And that’s what the choice is going to be in November.
That’s a pretty stark choice. But “people are looking for voices that offer them serious choices, policy choices,” Rubio insists.
I think what they’re tired of is a political process that’s full of people who will say or do anything to get elected, people who treat elections like a high-stakes beauty pageant where all you have to do is shake a few hands and memorize a few lines that test well.
The key point in Rubio’s speech, apart from his defense of American exceptionalism, is economic growth. “You can’t build your national defenses if your economy is not generating revenue that will pay for it, and you can’t pay down your debt,” he says.