"Every movement in human history that has been founded on that argument has been a dangerous and disastrous one."
Tim MurphyMar. 12, 2016 1:26 PM
On Friday night, Donald Trump's three remaining Republican opponents seemed to finally realize that they can't ignore the sometimes violent chaos of the front-runner's campaign rallies. On Saturday morning in Largo, Florida, Sen. Marco Rubio launched a new line of attack on that issue—while going after the protesters too.
On one of the final days of early voting*, and four days before polls close in the critical winner-take-all state, the Florida senator ripped into Trump as a "dangerous" "Twitter troll" who was promoting a culture of violence and potentially damaging the Republican party's reputation for a generation. It was the toughest critique of the campaign from Rubio—but he delivered it in a way that co-opted Trump's own attacks on those who disagree with him.
"Last night in Chicago we saw images that make America look like a third-world country," Rubio told the crowd, referring to the protests and scuffles that resulted in the cancellation of Trump's scheduled rally. "I am by no means telling you that the people that showed up at that rally to disrupt it are blameless—they are clearly professional agitators, most of them." The protesters, he argued, showed up with the intent "of disrupting an event for a speaker they don't agree with," as part of a "a developing trend among the American left that if we don't like what you're talking about, we're gonna disrupt your event, we're gonna blow up your event. And they've done it at college campuses all across America. So I am by no means saying that they are blameless. They were acting like thugs last night, too many of them."
Then he turned his fire on Trump. "The job of a true leader is not to say 'I know you are in pain so what I am going to do is I am going to use your pain you make you even more painful, more angry, so that you vote for me instead of someone else,' because when you do that there are consequences," he said. He continued:
There are consequences to [Trump's rhetoric] and they're playing out before our very eyes. What I saw last night but in the days before—put aside last night. We have a major presidential candidate that basically encourages people in the crowd to beat up on people that protest against him. We don't have to boo, I'm just telling you that's what happening. That's what's happening. And don't tell me that he's not, I don't want anyone to say that he's not, because he is. The other day a guy sucker-punched a guy at one of his events. Look, I have protesters, they are obnoxious. Some are paid to be there. Some are just people speaking their minds and they have the right to do it. But never in my wildest dreams have I ever thought that it would be a good idea for someone to punch the guy or gal in the face. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that I would say punch them in the face and I will pay your legal fees. And it's gotten worse than that. After he punched him in the face, the gentleman was arrested. I shouldn't say gentleman—the guy was arrested. And as soon as he was released, the guy said, next time we should kill him. And no condemnation. Guys, there are consequences to this.
A few minutes later, he offered an even more ominous warning about Trump, invoking past moments "in human history." It's easy to "see peoples' anger and frustration and to prey upon them," Rubio said.
It's very easy to go to people who are hurting and say 'I know you're hurting, I know you're angry, you should be angry, I want you to be angry, I'm angry too, let's be angry together because the bad things that are happening to you are their fault. It's their fault. It's someone else’s fault. And so give me power so we can go after the people who have made you angry. Give me power so we can go after the people who have made your life bad.' It's very easy to say that. Every movement in human history that has been founded on that argument has been a dangerous and disastrous one for the country.
Rubio didn't specify which historical leaders Trump reminded him of. But at one point in his riff, a supporter shouted out, "He reminds me of [Hugo] Chavez!"
The speech marked a major shift in Rubio's campaign, which at times has veered toward self-deprecating stand-up comedy, and in recent weeks, personal jabs at Trump's appearance. (In Largo, he again expressed regret at past comments about Trump.) It was serious, and it was focused. Many of the attendees told me they'd ruled out voting for Trump in November and would stay home if he were the nominee. John Proni, an accountant from Largo, told me a Hispanic girl in his daughters' grade-school class had been bullied by kids who told her she'll be deported when Trump is president. "He is everything I teach my kids not to be," Proni said. "I was aghast at what I saw," he said of the Chicago rally. "That's not making America great again, that's making America racist again." When I asked another supporter, Bob Davis, about Trump, he gave me a reading list. "Sinclair Lewis, It Can't Happen Here," about a fictional fascist presidential candidate. "It Can't Happen Here is almost Trump's campaign platform."
But Rubio never went as far as his supporters in pledging to stay home—even as he told reporters before he took the stage that "it's getting harder every day" to think of supporting Trump in November. That, in a nutshell, was what he left his audience with in his speech. Trump was a demagogue and a con man—but the "left" might still be worse.
*Correction: Early voting ends Sunday in parts of South Florida.
There's a pattern to the way Hillary Clinton's campaign has discussed Bernie Sanders' leftist politics: long periods of silence punctured by the occasional drive-by when Sanders creeps too close in the polls. Clinton backer Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) first mused in June that Sanders was getting a pass on his socialism from the media, after her Senate colleague's stadium-filling megarallies offered the first hint that he posed a serious threat. Then there was peace again, until January. With the Clinton campaign slipping in Iowa and New Hampshire, McCaskill told the New York Times that Republicans "can't wait to run an ad with a hammer and sickle." Clinton surrogate David Brock warned ominously that Sanders' comments on the capitalist system in the 1980s would doom him in November.
At Wednesday night's Democratic presidential debate in Miami, coming off a stunning loss to Sanders in Michigan, Clinton opened up the research drawer her surrogates had riffled through before. It started when Univision anchor María Elena Salinas asked Sanders to explain how his brand of democratic socialism differed from that practiced in places like Nicaragua and Cuba. Then she played a clip of a press conference Sanders held in 1985, in which he praised Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and suggested the United States had misjudged Fidel Castro. Did he regret it?
Sanders didn't quite answer, but Clinton ran with it. "I think in that same interview, he praised what he called the 'revolution of values' in Cuba and talked about how people were working for the common good, not for themselves," she said. "I just couldn't disagree more. You know, if the values are that you oppress people, you disappear people, you imprison people or even kill people for expressing their opinions, for expressing freedom of speech, that is not the kind of revolution of values that I ever want to see anywhere."
It was one of Clinton's most direct attacks yet on Sanders' embrace of leftist politics (although, in Sanders' defense, Castro had himself replaced an American-backed regime that oppressed, imprisoned, and tortured people). By the next day, however, she'd dropped the issue. Clinton held her first post-debate rally in Ybor City, Tampa's historic Cuban neighborhood, which would have been an obvious setting to continue this line of criticism. The Cuban independence leader José Martí organized cigar workers there, and the Cuban government still owns a small park celebrating Martí down the street from the venue where Clinton spoke. But Clinton made no mention of Castro or Ortega or socialism or Cuba. She hardly mentioned her opponent at all.
There's a good reason why Clinton's reprisals of Cold War politics don't stick around for long: Voters don't really seem to care about Cold War politics. Castro is not a popular figure, but it's harder to turn him into a bogeyman in a Democratic primary when it was the popular Democratic president who normalized relations with the Castro government (and a president for whom Clinton served as secretary of state). The fights over the Sandinistas in Nicaragua that once tore the left apart are recent history only in the context of geologic time—the young voters Clinton says she's hoping to win over weren't even alive for it, and the median age at a Sanders event in Florida this week hovers around 20. When I asked one young attendee at Clinton's Ybor City event about Sanders and Ortega, she told me she didn't know anything about Ortega and would have to look him up.
The clearest sign of the demise of Cold War politics in Florida, though, came from the party that's historically been most enthusiastic about reprising it. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) didn't bring up Castro either at his speech to the largely Cuban American audience in Miami on Wednesday, at a college across the street from a piece of the actual Berlin Wall. And although he and Rubio both trashed President Barack Obama's new diplomatic relationship with Cuba at the final Republican debate before the Florida primary, one candidate held firm in defense of ending the trade embargo: the odds-on favorite to win the state, Donald Trump. "After 50 years, it's enough time, folks," he said, before promising to "make a good deal" with the Cubans. Even the king of bluster thinks the bluster about Castro has run its course. Florida voters appear to agree.
Ted Cruz isn't waiting until next week for the demise of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio's presidential campaign. The morning after finishing second to GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump in three states (Mississippi, Michigan, and Hawaii) and winning a fourth (Idaho), Cruz kicked off the next stretch of the campaign with a rally in Rubio's backyard—Miami—and he did not come in peace.
As many political observers have noted, the Texas senator's pivot toward the Sunshine State is apparently motivated by one impulse: to finish off Rubio. Florida is a winner-take-all state, and Cruz is not seen as a strong bet to beat Trump there. Under conventional calculations, there would not be much reason for Cruz to spend time and resources in the state. But Cruz apparently has another goal in mind: to take away votes from Rubio and crush the Florida senator's last-ditch hopes to win his home state and remain a player in the presidential race.
At the rally, Cruz let his opening act handle most of the knife-work. "Floridians are abandoning Marco Rubio," declared Miami-Dade GOP vice chair Manny Roman, a Cuban American who was censured by his local party committee last year for breaking ranks and endorsing Cruz. He rattled off the results of Tuesday's elections and said, "I'm calling on Marco Rubio, especially after last night, to suspend his campaign and endorse Ted Cruz." The crowd roared with delight.
Then it was Cruz's turn. He boasted of his victory in Idaho, and he told the gathering—which included Rubio's base voters (conservative, Hispanic Miami-Dade County Republicans)—that the man whom they had elected senator six years ago was toast. "There are only two candidates this race that have any plausible path of getting to 1,237 [delegates]," Cruz proclaimed. It was a "clear two-man race," he noted, making his now-familiar case that it's time for the party to unify between the one candidate left who can beat Trump. That is, himself: "It's easy to talk about the party coming together, but talk without action, words without action, are empty."
Cruz announced the presence of a special guest: a former Republican presidential candidate with business experience and a long record of talking about foreign policy. No, it wasn't Mitt Romney, but onetime Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina. Before dropping out of the race, Fiorina once observed that Cruz was someone who "says whatever he needs to say to get elected." But that has since been forgotten. She was greeted warmly by the Cruz supporters. Talking about last week's Virginia primary, Fiorina said, "I saw my own name on the ballot—it was kind of a thrill. But then I checked the box for Ted Cruz."
Miami-Dade Republicans were likely not waiting for Fiorina to endorse a candidate before deciding how to vote. But with Rubio desperately seeking a miracle win in Florida, Cruz, who lags in third in the polls here, seems determined to make certain Rubio loses—even if that means Trump bags all the state's delegates.
To use a historical analogy, Rubio is Mufasa, desperately clinging to the edge of a cliff to escape the unexpected stampede of wildebeests. And Cruz flew all the way down to Florida…to push him off.
On the campaign trail, Sen. Bernie Sanders often mentions his work as a civil rights activist in the early 1960s, when he was a campus organizer for the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). As a leader of the University of Chicago chapter, he led sit-ins to protest racial discrimination at university-owned properties and picketed a Howard Johnson's restaurant.
Now we know a little bit more. L.E.J. Rachell, a researcher with the CORE Project, which is dedicated to collecting and preserving the records of CORE, recently uploaded four documents offering more details about Sanders' involvement with the group. During this period in 1961, UChicago's CORE chapter was sending white and black volunteers to university-owned housing facilities in the neighborhood to determine if the school was honoring its anti-discrimination policy.
The most interesting of the CORE Project documents is a testimonial written by Sanders himself. In it, he details a "test" he conducted of a hotel just off campus. He visited to see if it would rent a room to his older brother, Larry, and the clerk assured him that they would. When UChicago CORE finished its testing, the results were clear—rooms that were available to white students were not available to black students. The next year they launched a series of sit-ins to force the university's hand.
Take a look:
The CORE Project
Here's a testimonial from Wallace Murphy, an African American man who visited the university realty offices to inquire about an apartment rental one week before Sanders' drop-in:
Tim Murphy and Jeremy SchulmanMar. 3, 2016 2:25 PM
On Thursday, former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney trashed his party's 2016 front-runner, Donald Trump, as a phony and con artist who is leading the GOP to electoral disaster. And sure, there's some truth to that. But the two formerly pro-choice Northeast Republican businessmen have more in common than they'd like to acknowledge—from their records on immigration to their favorite sport(s) stars to their choice of profanity. Okay, maybe not the last one.
See if you can tell them apart:
Photo credits: Trump: Allen Eyestone/Zuma; Romney: Eric Draper/Zuma