Rubio the Remainderman
Donald Trump won more votes in the Iowa caucuses than any Republican candidate in history.
Impressive, except Ted Cruz set the new all-time record.
And Marco Rubio exceeded all expectations by taking 23 percent.
Cruz won Tea Party types, Evangelicals, and the hard right.
Trump won the populists and nationalists who want the borders secure, no amnesty, and no more trade deals that enable rival powers like China to disembowel American industries.
And Rubio? He is what columnist Mark Shields called Jimmy Carter, 35 years ago, “the remainderman of national politics. He gets what’s left over after his opponents have taken theirs by being the least unacceptable alternative to the greatest number of voters.”
Marco is the fallback position of a reeling establishment that is appalled by Trump, loathes Cruz, and believes Rubio—charismatic, young, personable—can beat Hillary Clinton.
But there is a problem here for the establishment.
While Rubio has his catechism down cold—”I’ll tear up that Iran deal my first day in office!”—his victory would mean a rejection of the populist revolt that arose with Trump’s entry and has grown to be embraced by a majority of Republicans.
Cruz, Trump, Carson—the outsiders—won over 60 percent of all caucus votes. Their anti-Washington messages, Trump and Cruz’s especially, grew the GOP turnout to its largest in history, 186,000, half again as many as participated in the record turnout of 2012.
Most significant, 15,000 more Iowans voted in GOP caucuses than the Democratic caucuses, where participation plummeted 30 percent from 2008.
What does this portend?
While Iowa has gone Democratic in 6 of the last 7 presidential elections, it is now winnable by Republicans—on two conditions.
The party must be united. And it cannot lose the fire and energy that produced this turnout and brought out those astonishing crowds of tens of thousands.
The remainderman, however, cannot reproduce that energy or those crowds. For Rubio is not a barn burner; he is a malleable man of maneuver.
Arriving in Washington to the cheers of populists reveling in his rout of Charlie Crist, Rubio went native and signed on to the Schumer-McCain amnesty.
He voted for “fast track,” the GOP’s pre-emptive surrender of Congress’s constitutional power to amend trade treaties. He hailed the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade treaty President Obama brought home.
Now he is moving crabwise away from TPP. Shiftiness, however, does not bother the establishment, it reassures the establishment.
Rubio is “The Hustler,” the “Fast Eddie” Felson of 2016. And the Beltway is all in behind him.
He is now the candidate of the Washington crowd that a majority of Republicans voted to reject in Iowa, the darling of the donor class, and the last hope of a Beltway punditocracy that recoils whenever the pitchforks appear.
Which brings us to the antithesis of Rubio—Bernie Sanders.
Given where he started a year ago, a sparring partner for the heavyweight Clinton, and where he ended, a split decision and a coin toss, the Brooklyn-born Socialist was the big winner of Iowa.
In the Democratic race, it is Sanders who has been getting the Trump-sized crowds, while Hillary and Bill Clinton have been playing to what look like audiences at art films in the 1950s.
Sanders will likely have the best night of his campaign Tuesday—if Hillary Clinton’s surge does not overtake him—when he wins New Hampshire.
After that, however, absent celestial intervention, such as a federal prosecutor being inspired to indict Clinton, he begins a long series of painful defeats until his shining moment at the convention.
But just as a stifling of the Trump-Cruz-Carson rebellion, with another establishment favorite like Rubio, would bank all the fires of enthusiasm in the GOP, Clinton’s rout of Sanders would cause millions of progressives and young people who rallied to Bernie to give up on 2016.
And if both the Sanders’ revolution that captured half his party in Iowa, and the Trump-Cruz revolt that captured half of their party are squelched, and we get an establishment Republican vs. an establishment Democrat in the fall, America will be sundered.
For there is not one America today, nor two. Politically, there are at least four.
Were this Britain or France, the GOP would have long ago split between its open-borders, globalist, war party wing, and its populist, patriotic, social conservative wing.
The latter would be demanding a timeout on immigration, secure borders, no amnesty, no more needless wars, and a trade policy dictated by what was best for America, not Davos or Dubai.
Democrats would break apart along the lines of the Clinton-Sanders divide, with the neo-socialists becoming a raucous and robust anti-big bank, anti-Wall Street, soak-the-rich and share-the-wealth party.
These splits may be postponed again in 2016, but these rebellions are going to reappear until they succeed in overthrowing our failed establishments.
For the causes that produced such revolutions—Third World invasions, income inequality, economic torpor, culture wars, the real and relative decline of the West—have become permanent conditions.
Patrick J. Buchanan is a founding editor of TAC and the author of The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority