Walter Russell Mead’s analysis of the current state of the GOP leaves something to be desired:
That Marco Rubio, a young, Hispanic senator whose message is pitched to middle-class and aspiring middle-class voters, has emerged as a prominent force in the party shows that the process of rebranding and renewal is still at work in the GOP.
It’s true that the Republican Party isn’t “dead,” but we shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that Rubio’s talk of an “opportunity gap” represents reform or renewal in the party. It represents some awareness on Rubio’s part of worsening social mobility in the U.S., to which he seemed to be oblivious in the past, but acknowledging a problem is different from addressing it. Reviewing what Rubio proposed in his speech at the Jack Kemp Foundation, one will not find very much that is new or different in the policy ideas that Rubio has in mind.
A politician can sing the praises of the middle class while supporting policies that neglect its most pressing concerns. As we go through the list of Rubio’s proposals, we find that he is opposed to increasing taxes, wants to limit regulation, supports increased domestic energy production, favors making price stability the only mandate of the Federal Reserve, endorses health savings accounts, and backs charter schools and school choice. These may or may not be advisable positions, but almost none of them is directly relevant to the problems he identifies. Some of these ideas are no different from what Romney proposed during the election campaign, and some are old GOP standbys that have been knocking around for fifteen or twenty years. That doesn’t necessarily make them wrong, but they don’t represent renewal, and they have little or nothing to offer large numbers of middle-class Americans. Republicans have been running on some combination of these policies for a long time, and most Americans have evidently been underwhelmed by the message and by the results for most of the last two decades.