“The future ain’t what it used to be.”
The future once belonged to Bill Clinton. America was looking for a change, and the young governor from Hope, Arkansas was young, charming, and reform-minded. He seemed a different sort of Democrat, one who virtually embodied the march of progress. He may well have been an “American Caligula,” as Peggy Noonan once penned, but many Americans shrugged at his misbehaving because during his eight-year presidency the country enjoyed a rare term of peacetime economic expansion.
Twenty-four years later, Hillary is trying to assume that same mantle of change. She talks an awful lot like her husband once did but, but doesn’t seem to have that same spring in her campaign step that either Bill or Barack Obama always had. She reminds many Americans, as Noonan also wrote, “of the landlady yelling up the stairs that your kids left their bikes in the hall again.”
Poor Hillary. Like Yogi said, the future ain’t quite the same for her as it was for young Bill. If Hillary’s brand seems old and tarnished, should we be surprised? She is well past the 25-year shelf life of a once-fresh packaged product. Her stale rhetoric does not offer most young voters (Democrats included) the kind of 21st century political nourishment they need. Her pant suits and campaign bus may be new, but her ideas are not.
Some may say, “But we already tried ‘young’ in the Oval Office, in the person of the junior senator from Illinois, and it solved little.” The bright light of the young statesman of mixed racial heritage, once poised to be a transformational figure who would lead the country to a place it had never been before, transcending both race and partisanship, seems to have dimmed in the shadow of economic malaise. More Americans now compare President Obama to Jimmy Carter than to JFK.
So where do we go from here? As oldsters, 74-year old Bernie Sanders, 68-year old Hillary Clinton, and 69-year Donald Trump vie for the honor of navigating America toward a future with prescriptions from the past, including but not limited to Sander’s soaring socialist dreams, Hillary’s quest to re-strengthen unions and raise the minimum wage while remaining hawkish enough to satisfy the center right, and Trump’s chest-puffing assurances that he is the only man who can Make America Great Again.
Enter Marco Rubio. He looks much like the new America. He is the son of working class immigrants who became Americans by choice, not by chance. He was educated at the University of Florida and University of Miami, not in the Ivy League. His multicultural children look like many middle class families I see shopping at Meadowood Mall on the weekends.
Following his surprising surge in South Carolina, Rubio proffered the proposition that he is the one Republican presidential candidate who can “unite the Republican Party and win the November election.” The polls seem to bear him out. The most recent Fox News Poll shows 39% of Republicans would refuse to vote for Trump in a general election, and in the latest Real Clear Politics polling averages, Rubio beats Hillary by 4%, while Trump loses to Hillary by 4%.
As the undeniably likable Cuban-American candidate from Florida stood smiling on stage in that bastion of the Old South – Columbia, South Carolina – along with Indian-American Governor Nikki Haley and African-American Senator Tim Scott, I felt proud of our country. When he proclaimed the three of them “children of the Reagan Revolution, ready…to do for the next generation what Ronald Reagan did for ours,” I felt hopeful.
Donald Trump has done well in three crowded Republican contests. The Nevada GOP caucus is the next stop. It’s time for sensible Republicans to do a gut-check and make sure their anger and frustration with government doesn’t result in anti-establishment electoral suicide. Trump may look viable in the general election now but as the country seriously contemplates its choices for the best possible leader in the post-Obama era, his outrageous say-anything campaign will begin to pale.
If Trump becomes the nominee, I believe Republicans will live to regret spitefully helping him cut the nose off the party’s face and ignoring the worthy campaigns of more viable contenders for the White House.
Trump and Sanders are living proof, from the far-right and far-left respectfully, that Americans are angry and want a serious change in the government, the economy, and in their lives. Sanders won’t make it happen because no one in Congress really wants to remake America in the image of a European socialist economy. Trump won’t make it happen because all his life he’s been all talk with very little actual success, and because he doesn’t have the temperament of a true leader.
I know some Republicans believe “The Donald” can run Washington D.C. like he ran his one successful venture, the reality game show, The Apprentice. Nothing is further from the truth. We must stop dreaming of this “reality television” worldview. Trump cannot fire members of Congress or the Supreme Court. He cannot run the country with a scripted set of incentives and threats. He cannot gain needed cooperation from fellow elected officials and world leaders by bullying and insulting them.
Let’s get real. The Obama era is leaving the door of the White House wide open for a Republican president, one who will do some needed housecleaning and get to work on a 21st century plan for the future. The GOP has a chance to install their man in the Oval Office, but it is not guaranteed to us. We must choose our nominee wisely.
Yogi Berra was right. The future is not what it used to be. Irishman Edmund Burke was right, as well, when he acknowledged the dreams of those “in search of America” and said, “You can never plan the future by the past.”
Marco Rubio sure looks like the future to me.