The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion One hit, one miss for Rubio

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio talks about his Christian faith in an ad released Jan. 7. (Video: Marco Rubio)

In baseball — where batting .500 is unheard of — Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) would be a star. Out on the campaign trail, however, his very bad idea on a constitutional convention might overshadow his very good ad on faith.

Starting with the ad, Rubio understands that true religiosity is more than a set of positions on discrete issues. More than any other top-tier contender, Rubio speaks from the heart about his personal theology, without mentioning any hot-button issue. In his latest ad, Rubio looks directly into the camera and says:

Our goal is eternity, the ability to live alongside our Creator for all time. To accept the free gift of salvation offered to us by Jesus Christ.
The struggle on a daily basis as a Christian is to remind ourselves of this. The purpose of our life is to cooperate with God’s plan.
To those who much have been given, much is expected. And we will be asked to account for that. Were your treasures stored up on earth or in heaven? And to me, I try to allow that to influence me in everything that I do.

He has talked about faith before, showing an impressive ability to cogently and calmly explain the intersection of faith and public service.

As a non-Christian, am I offended by his reference to Jesus? No, it’s his faith, and he is sharing a very personal perspective on it. Sincerity of this sort might not be sufficient to endear him to evangelical voters, but it does strike a contrast with Donald Trump’s arrogant, mean-spirited demeanor and fake religiosity. (Is he still carrying that Bible?) Rubio’s expression of faith also sets up a contrast with the abrasive, hard-edged tone you get with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and his penchant for empty stunts to prove his evangelical credentials.

Rubio, however, swings and misses on another front. In an op-ed in USA Today, he writes: “[T]oday, that government has been hijacked by politicians and bureaucrats who disregard the will of the people, rack up trillions in debt and expand the federal bureaucracy into more and more aspects of our lives. As president, I will promote a convention of states to amend the Constitution and restore limited government.” A million times, no.

Follow Jennifer Rubin's opinionsFollow

Many popular ideas run afoul of fundamental constitutional protections. In a blink of an eye, modern pols, following the mob, would whisk away the First Amendment by limiting political speech (54 percent of Americans don’t consider political spending to be speech, and 78 percent would limit third-party spending) or crimping the rights of gun owners (85 percent favor expanded background checks). Gay marriage, which Rubio opposes, is now supported by most Americans. At a convention it would be concretized in the Constitution. Liberals would be delighted with all these moves, but conservatives would not.

I sincerely doubt that a convention would limit the power of government. In theory, for example, people favor a balanced budget, but in reality, they soon would learn about all the cuts in store for them. Then they’d turn to expanding government to cater to passing fancies. Even if I am wrong, the risk alone is too great to encourage a massive constitutional rewrite. Once passed, a constitutional amendment is so difficult to repeal that it has been done only once.

Rubio correctly states: “The framers of our Constitution allowed for a constitutional convention because they knew our citizens were the ultimate defense against an overbearing federal government. They gave the American people, through their state representatives, the power to call a convention made up of at least 34 states, where delegates could then propose amendments that would require the support of 38 states to become law.” (They also thought that voters were limited to white, property-owning males, by the way.) However, the electorate of 2016 isn’t anything like the 1787 electorate and should not be encouraged to rewrite the Framers’ work.

Many of the constitutional protections we hold dear were set up to protect the rights of the minority (political minorities). We should not underestimate the willingness of Americans in a mass gathering to toss aside reason and restraint. Hasn’t the Trump campaign taught us that?