It doesn't get much sadder than this: Marco Rubio's pathetic — but predictable — about-face on Donald Trump

Whatever credibility Rubio had is gone by going from #NeverTrump to BackingTrump

Published May 27, 2016 4:28PM (EDT)

Marco Rubio (AP/John Locher)
Marco Rubio (AP/John Locher)

Marco Rubio was the momentary savior of the Republican Party. He's young, exuberant, and parrots talking points with unusual aplomb. He was a fresh face the establishment could sell to Middle America. Curiously, he was also considered a moderate, the kind of mainstream candidate who could help rebrand the GOP.

But his ideas were as unoriginal as they were extreme. He was a rabid neoconservative who wanted to double down on the Bush Doctrine and the torture program. He wanted to reduce federal revenue and give the top 1 percent a massive tax cut. He wanted to repeal ObamaCare without offering a viable alternative to the millions of Americans who now have coverage. He supported a ban on all abortions, including cases of rape and incest. And he wanted to undo Obama's executive orders protecting LGBT citizens from marriage discrimination.

If Rubio was a moderate, we need a new term for “extremist.”

At any rate, despite the fanatical positions he took during the campaign, Rubio did exit the race with grace. After Florida, when it was clear he couldn't win, he promptly walked away. More importantly, on the night he suspended his campaign, Rubio had some parting words for his party and the country. They were wise words, a genuinely moderate plea for sanity. Here's the full quote:

“I think we have to look at the rhetoric coming from the frontrunner [Donald Trump] in the presidential campaign. This is a man who in rallies has told his supporters to basically beat up the people in the crowd and he'll pay their legal fees. Someone who's encouraged people in the audience to rough up anybody who says something he doesn't like...This is what a culture and society looks like when everybody says whatever the heck they want. When everybody goes around saying I'm just gonna speak my mind. If I'm angry, it gives me the right to say or do anything I want. Well, there are other people who are angry too, and if they speak out and say whatever they want, the result is it all breaks down. It's called chaos. It's called anarchy. And that's what we're careening towards in our political process...And you wonder whether we're headed in a different direction today, where we're no longer capable of having differences of opinion but in fact now protests become a license to take violence, to take on your opponents physically. Forget about the election for a moment, there's a broader issue in our political culture in this country, and this is what happens when a leading presidential candidate goes around feeding into a narrative of anger and bitterness and frustration, and I think we all need to take a step back and ask ourselves: Are we contributing to this?”

This is Rubio condemning Trump in the clearest of terms, and he deserves credit for that. Yesterday, however, Rubio performed an about-face, saying publicly that he will attend the GOP convention and is willing to speak on Trump's behalf. “I want to be helpful,” Rubio said. “I don't want to be harmful, because I don't want Hillary Clinton to be president.” Acknowledging his policy differences with Trump, Rubio insisted stopping Clinton was the more urgent threat.

So the man who helped popularize the #NeverTrump hashtag has now volunteered to cheerlead on his behalf. Rubio would have us believe a former First Lady, New York Senator, and Secretary of State is more dangerous than a TV hustler, a man with zero political experience who has, among other things, proposed killing the families of terrorists and banning Muslims from entering the country. No serious person believes that.

Whatever credibility Rubio had is now gone. His political morality is either irrevocably blinkered or nonexistent to begin with. He was either disingenuous the night he made the above statement or he's being disingenuous today. Like Sen. Lindsey Graham and every other Republican who took a principled stand against Trump only to surrender later, Rubio is a party loyalist, not a patriot.

By Sean Illing

Sean Illing is a USAF veteran who previously taught philosophy and politics at Loyola and LSU. He is currently Salon's politics writer. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter. Read his blog here. Email at

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