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Meyer ’17: Why liberals should vote for Rubio

By
Staff Columnist
Thursday, March 3, 2016

Donald Trump may have won the most delegates on Super Tuesday, but he hasn’t put the race away yet. He failed to win a majority in any state. As in earlier primaries, he continued to benefit from the deadlocked race for second place. While Ted Cruz, R-TX, and Marco Rubio, R-FL continue to duke it out, the Trump coalition that accounts for about a third of the Republican electorate will keep winning. As of March 15, many primaries are winner-take-all, meaning that Trump’s slim margins will be enough to pull away.

The parity that allows Trump to keep winning has launched a slow-motion crisis. For those who detest Trump’s demagoguery, his success feels surreal. For most of the race, pundits have predicted that his momentum will die out even as he has continued to grow stronger. Because his success is so bizarre and unprecedented, it creates an instinctual feeling that it cannot last. This feeling, I suspect, is why many terrified by the prospect of a Trump presidency haven’t done enough to oppose him.

Now, as the campaign threatens to turn into a Trump coronation, it is time to do anything possible to stop him. Right now, that means voting for Marco Rubio. I am a registered Democrat falling somewhere between Clinton and Sanders on the liberal spectrum. But I plan to switch my party affiliation in order to vote against Trump in my home primary. I don’t find Rubio to be an appealing candidate in any way, except that he isn’t Trump. But right now that’s enough.

I’m sure that many Brown students find Rubio’s opposition to legal abortion and gay marriage deeply unpalatable, not to mention his denial that climate change is caused by humans. But those are now mainstream Republican views that nearly any nominee is likely to hold. A vote for Rubio does support the GOP status quo that many have condemned. But liberals should hold their noses and support Rubio lest the party devolve into something even worse.

Admittedly, the timeframe for a Rubio comeback is short. The New York Times’ politics and policy blog, “The Upshot,” predicts that he needs to win or, at worst, split the two major primaries on March 15, Florida and Ohio, to stay in contention. From then on, he needs to string together win after win. A vote for Rubio may just be ammunition for a brokered convention. Still, it’s worth taking any opportunity to slow Trump’s path to the nomination, even if it’s a long-shot. 

Some may feel confident Trump would lose in the general election anyway. Polling averages have him three points behind Clinton and eight behind Sanders in head-to-head matchups. But if he makes it that far, he will already have done irrevocable damage to the party system. More accurately, he will do even more damage than he already has. A Trump nomination would push the Republican Party much further in the direction of angry, white populism. Every time a GOP politician follows Chris Christie’s deplorable lead and endorses Trump, the party’s center shifts just a little further toward his ugly style and substance. Each success increases the likelihood of copycat candidates.

Clinton, Trump’s most likely opponent, could be vulnerable to the sort of attacks he loves to sling. As a female candidate, she is unfortunately open to attacks using coded language about strong leadership. She has struggled with likability, whereas Trump campaigns mainly on his persona. A Trump-Clinton election would be unpredictable. A crisis could emerge from the chaos.

Hillary supporters don’t give up much by switching their primary participation. At this point, she is a strong favorite. For Bernie supporters, the costs of voting in the Republican primary are higher. But the damage that a Trump presidency would do to liberal causes exceeds the potential benefits of Sanders over Clinton. Besides, Sanders is now dwelling in long-shot territory. A vote against Trump could be more impactful.

After Super Tuesday, Cruz leads Rubio in the delegate count. Some might argue that he has the best shot of stopping Trump. That might be true, but he is nearly as bad. Cruz has shown a flair for obstruction and extremism that makes his presidency another nightmare scenario. Highlights include attempting to shut down the government to defund Planned Parenthood. One of his biggest talking points is that most of his colleagues hate him. Besides, his party is less likely to back him in a brokered convention than it is Rubio.

Liberals and independents entering the fray for Rubio might not be enough to stop Trump. It could be too late. But at this point, I’m scared enough to try almost anything. Trump is a unique threat in our nation’s political history that demands unprecedented opposition.

Daniel Meyer ’17 can be reached at daniel_meyer@brown.edu. Please send responses to this opinion to letters@browndailyherald.com and other op-eds to opinions@browndailyherald.com.