Marco Rubio may not perceive the lack of historical awareness (and ironic comedy) in his speech to a conservative conference last week, but you might.
Last week, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) addressed the National Conservatism Conference in Orlando, Florida. According to the National Conservatism website, the gathering is dedicated to reviving the nationalism that binds us, so that we can flourish together. “We see the rich tradition of national conservative thought as an intellectually serious alternative to the excesses of purist libertarianism, and in stark opposition to political theories grounded in race,” they say, with a nod to the specter of CRT.
Since the conference brings together the best the modern American conservative movement has to offer and defines the future conservatives want, I thought it most profitable to really dig into Rubio’s speech. As the lightly edited transcript on his site says, “The thing I really like about this conference is about thinking, listening, learning and ultimately defining what it means to be a conservative in the 21st century.” When people in power offer this kind of insight, it’s best to listen up.
To get at the heart of what Marco Rubio is offering to us, I’m going to delve into (and quote heavily from) the more-polished, cleaned-up version that The American Conservative printed as a Rubio op-ed, titled We Need Corporate Patriotism To Defeat American Marxism.
“There was a time when, to paraphrase Charles Wilson, what was good for big American companies was good for America. But today, led by a generation of leaders who feel no obligation to our nation, corporate America is the instrument of anti-American ideologies.” This is a bold opening for Marco Rubio, who has taken a great deal of money in contributions from individuals and PACs associated with the likes of Raytheon, Goldman Sachs, and Bank of America. However, it is clear that the sort of nationless rich and companies that would hide their money overseas really don’t feel an obligation to our nation. Go on, Marco, tell us more.
“The collapse of corporate patriotism opened the door for these companies to fall for anti-American ideologies… The companies that control the vast majority of America’s economic resources and curate the information we see and hear on a daily basis now say that America is a racist or sexist country.” A country based upon stealing land by displacing or outright killing the original residents, built by enslaved people brought in chains because they were perceived as stupid and servile and because their darker skin would make them stand out, and which, even now, still reverberates with cries of “build the wall!” by people who cheered separating brown children from their parents, is racist? I wonder how anyone could get that impression.
“These oligarchs believe the very existence of America is fatally flawed, and they are devoting hundreds of billions of dollars to advance corporate propaganda that reflects these beliefs. They aim to remake our society, our culture, and our country. They aim to redefine what constitutes a good life in America.” Is Marco Rubio objecting to companies being able to spend money as a form of speech? I’m sure he’ll get to work right away to help pass a law overturning Citizens United, then. As far as what constitutes a good life in America, I have some suggestions. How about not poisoning Americans via decaying lead plumbing? Or earning a wage that lets you raise your kids above the poverty level? Or mitigating sea level rise in Florida? Rubio had the chance to support a package like this, but voted it down and called it “socialist.”
“For over a century these have been the tactics used by Marxists to take over countless nations and societies.” Marxists use corporate oligarchs to promote the struggle of the working class to seize the means of production? For real? “If we do not fight back, we will lose America.” No, Marco dear, you’re losing America by feeding the oligarchs. I didn’t start paying attention yesterday, you know. “This is not hyperbole. In fact, is it very familiar to the Americans I was raised by and those I still live among, who witnessed Marxist revolutions take over their homelands.” Is Marco Rubio asserting that corporations have taken over Cuba?
“But the battle against cultural Marxism will not be won by relying on an outdated ‘Wall Street Journal Conservatism’ that does not fully address the challenges faced by working Americans in our 21st century economy.” No, the “Chamber of Commerce” wing of the Republican party has no interest in addressing the problems of working Americans, except to hold them further underwater. That is why big businesses have funded both major American parties for so long.
“Defining conservatism as just cutting regulations and taxes works well for the nationless companies headquartered in America. However, those companies have no incentive to reinvest in America’s families, communities, or future.” If Rubio is firing a shot over the bow of Corporate America here, we’ll know in the coming months as his voting record begins to evidence his support for more regulations and higher taxes on these nationless companies, in order to invest in American families, communities, and future. If he doesn’t, this is so much hot air. Keep an eye on him.
“It is time we push companies to meet their obligations to America.” The GOP has long been a coalition party that brought together free market libertarians and social conservatives in order to enact policies that please both. In practice, this results in a worldview that grants corporations rights as if they were flesh-and-blood people, but without the moral obligations that real people feel. Is Rubio leaving behind the free market ideology that now defines his party? What would Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand say?
“What does that look like? Since these nationless companies got many of their corporate privileges from the policies of the United States government, we should use those policies to reward and incentivize corporate decisions that promote a strong and prosperous America.” This is edging very close to the “planned economy” that conservatives have long derided as failed Communism, but OK.
“First, that means getting wokeness out of the boardroom. At a minimum, we should require that the leadership of large companies be subject to strict scrutiny and legal liability when they abuse their corporate privilege by pushing wasteful, anti-American nonsense.” It’s interesting that Marco Rubio suddenly wants to police corporations this closely. If companies are “getting woke” (that is, supporting human rights, alleviating poverty, caring about the environment, and other similar goals), it’s because they’ve decided that these actions are profitable and serve the interests of the shareholders. Henry Ford, capitalist icon, knew that his workers needed to be able to afford his products. Maybe Ford was too “woke” for Rubio’s taste.
“For example, we can use the current ‘shareholder primacy’ argument against these companies. Right now, the burden is on the shareholder to prove these woke, anti-American stances—like boycotting a state for governing its own election laws—are bad for shareholders. Instead, we should place the burden on the company to prove it is acting in the best interest of shareholders.” If companies like Coca-Cola, Major League Baseball, and Delta Airlines are bowing to public pressure and leaving Georgia, perhaps keeping their customer base is more in line with shareholder interests than is supporting voter disenfranchisement. If their politically active customers (and Georgia’s voters) are Americans, it’s hard to consider these positions to be anti-American.
“Second, that means a stock market that holds companies accountable for pro-American goals…” hahahahahaha – gasp – pardon me – “rather than left-wing social engineering or globalist profiteering. We should require that companies disclose to investors and be held to account for their investment in America—facilities, workforce training, number of Americans hired—as opposed to off-shoring jobs overseas, or showing how diverse their workplaces are.” Oh, Marco Rubio, your memory is so short that you’re failing to remember how proud your fellow conservatives were of St. Ronald Reagan’s stance regarding globalization. Free and open markets, not a komissar in every boardroom. In 2018, the Republicans passed the “Tax Cuts and Jobs” Act, signed into law by President Trump and which Marco Rubio himself voted for, which incentivized offshoring of American jobs. It passed the Senate with only Republican support. Who’s “woke” now?
“[W]e should have requirements that companies’ boards of directors be free of any conflicts of interest with foreign adversaries such as China.” Suddenly conflicts of interest bother Marco Rubio.
“When regular workers save for retirement, they shouldn’t have to give over the control of their investments to investment funds that will command the company to act against those workers’ own interests…” 401(k) retirement accounts exploded during the Reagan administration. Reagan ran on the idea of privatized retirement savings (like IRAs), and changed the law to expand adoption of the 401(k). As a result, employers started offering them as a benefit, instead of actual pensions, while the resulting increase in stock market investment made the investor class even richer. Conservatives have long favored dismantling, even privatizing, Social Security, forcing those who want to save for retirement to turn to investment funds instead of employers and the Government. Rubio’s commentary here is comedy gold.
“For example, the retirement fund for America’s service members, the TSP, should be banned from investing in Chinese military companies, or using service members’ savings to push American companies off-shore to China. That is something Congress can fix right now and on which there is bipartisan agreement…” OK, do it, Mr. Rubio. See if your fellow conservatives will bite.
“One solution would be to mandate that these institutional shareholders merely send in the votes of the ultimate beneficiaries of these funds, rather than vote on their behalf. There would be a lot less craziness in America’s corporations if the people voting their shares were firefighters and teachers rather than their union bosses or Wall Street.” I wonder if he would soon find just how many “woke” firefighters and teachers we have.
“The ultimate way to stop the current Marxist cultural revolution among our corporate elite is to replace them with a new generation of business leaders who consider themselves Americans, not citizens of the world.” I simply can’t get over just how badly Marco Rubio wants to stop “Marxism” via state control of corporations.
“That is how we defeat this toxic cultural Marxism and rebuild an economy where America’s largest companies were accountable for what matters to America: new factories built in America, good jobs for American families, and investments in American neighborhoods and communities.” It sounds like Marco wants what actual Socialists have pushed for while his conservative pals have been shoveling jobs out the door and failing to invest in our communities or our future, to better enrich the already-rich. Welcome to the dark side, Comrade, here’s your commemorative hammer-and-sickle lapel pin.
“It is not too late to get it right, but we have no time to waste in restoring what has made this nation great for so many generations.” What made this nation great is mostly the practices and policies that Marco Rubio and his party have opposed since at least the time of Nixon, if not the Gilded Age. I’ll be interested to see if his voting starts to match his rhetoric, or if this pretty patriotic speech is simply opening the door to something much uglier. If this is the best, most intellectually serious discourse that the conservative movement has to offer, though, we should all be a little worried over what’s become of the American political scene.