Rubio on opportunity, immigration and prosperity

On Friday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) took to the Senate floor to give a rousing speech rejecting the president’s infatuation with class warfare.It’s worth less than 15 minutes of your time to watch the entire speech:

His point, one that Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has addressed as well, is critical for conservatives to make over and over again. As Rubio put it, the natural inclination of Americans is not to indulge in envy and zero-sum politics. (“And that is that we have never been: a nation of haves and have-nots. We are a nation of haves and soon-to-haves, of people who have made it and people who will make it. And that’s who we need to remain.”) If Republicans neglect to talk about this and fail to talk about an opportunity society (“A prosperous and growing America, where all things are possible”), the left will run away with the “income inequality” meme.

His other theme, reiterating the immigrant experience, is also critical for conservatives to keep in the forefront of political discourse. As Right Turn readers know, I’ve been chagrined that Republican presidential candidates advocating a more lenient immigration policy have either been rhetorically deficient (Gov. Rick Perry) or have muddied the issue with silly implementation proposals (Newt Gingrich’s local boards). But while the GOP can’t abandon its role as the law-and-order party, the conversation has become unbalanced. Rubio provides a useful course correction, explaining from an immigrant’s perspective how intertwined are the issues of immigration and upward mobility:

My parents were working-class folks. My dad was a bartender for most of his life. My mom was a maid, and a cashier, and a stock clerk at Kmart. We were not people of financial means. … I always had what I needed. I didn’t always have what I wanted, but I always had what I needed. My parents always provided that. I don’t ever remember them telling us or teaching us that the only way we could be more successful is if other people were less successful. They never inculcated the belief that somehow, in order for us to climb the ladder, other people have to come down from the ladder. On the contrary, what they would do is hold up these examples of success and inspire in us the hope that one day we could be there as well financially, in our career, what have you. We are a people that have always celebrated other people’s success so long as we always had the opportunity to meet that success ourselves.

That is the American nature. That is the American character. That is one of the things that makes us different from the rest of the world. And I’m afraid we could lose that or are on the verge of losing that. And I’m really concerned that there are those in America’s political leadership that are advocating that we abandon that in favor something else. And I think it’s wrong because it doesn’t work. That thought process that somehow other people have to be worse off in order for you to be better off does not work. People get on boats, people jump fences to get away from that kind of thought process. People flee countries that do that because it doesn’t work. It never has. And it will not work here.

Republicans too often forget that free markets, low taxes, modest regulation and limited government are means to an end — a free society in which individuals can fulfill their potential. When the means (tax rates, Dodd-Frank, balanced-budget amendments, etc.) become the center of attention, conservatives lose many voters who want to know how those policies affect them. And when conservatives ignore the immigrant experience and talk only about border patrols, they miss out on a lot of rhetorical uplift and ignore a core conservative belief — that we are bound by common aspirations, not by ethnic or class identity.

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.

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