Presidential candidate Marco Rubio’s message at his Feb. 29 campaign rally at UCA emphasized that this election will determine America’s position and character in the 21st century.
At a time when the Republican Party is more divided than ever, Rubio appealed to those who wish to return to a more traditional conservative party by offering solutions that would give more power to the states and focus on empowering the private sector.
“I offer real ideas and solutions on the problems before our country, because while that may not get a lot of media coverage, you deserve to know that,” Rubio said. “You’re being asked to elect someone to be President of the United States of America, which is the most powerful political office on the planet.”
One of Rubio’s policy plans is to rebuild the military, which he says has fallen to numbers not seen since World War II. Rubio promised what he called a “Reagan-style rebuilding of the military” in order to combat global terrorism.
Rubio also ensured his audience that he would uphold the Constitution as president, with an emphasis on the Second Amendment. He pointed to the necessity of allowing states and local governments to control issues such as education, and held the conservative stance that taxes should be cut across the board to improve the economy.
Rubio pulled no punches when calling out those in his party that seek to prey on fear and anger instead of focus on the issues at hand. Many of Rubio’s criticisms centered around Donald Trump, whose campaign has been carried by rhetoric that divides rather than unites.
“There are two ways to campaign. One is to speak to your fears, to your anxieties, to your anger. And I’m not saying you shouldn’t be afraid or angry or upset,” Rubio said. “But I don’t want to appeal to that, I want to do something about that.”
Rubio also denounced the controversial Trump University, which he called a scam that swindled people out of their money for a worthless product. Then he went a step further and said that Donald Trump was doing the same thing now to the American people as a whole.
“What he told those students is the same thing he’s saying to America now- that he is the most successful businessman, that he’s going to be tough on this and hard on that, and it’s all the same rhetoric,” Rubio said. “But this time, he’s not after your money, he’s after your vote. He’s asking for the presidency of the United States.”
Other criticisms lobbied at Trump were that he was inconsistent in what he said and what he has done in the past, such as his tendency to hire illegal immigrants while railing against them on his platform.
Governor Asa Hutchinson’s opening words at the rally captured Rubio’s sentiment that the party has been hijacked by those who do not represent traditional conservative values.
“We have the opportunity to change the direction of the party. We have to reject silly leadership and go for the serious leadership of Marco Rubio,” Hutchinson said.
Rubio also said that if Republicans allow Donald Trump to take control of the party, they will most certainly lose to Hillary Clinton in the fall. This, according to Rubio, would “set the conservative movement back by a decade.”
Speaking on the matter of a possible Hillary Clinton presidency, Rubio said that Clinton would “leave in place all of the damage done by the Obama administration.” On this note, Rubio promised to repeal every executive order given by President Obama, as well as Obamacare and the United States’ nuclear deal with Iran.
Speaking to a mostly college-age crowd, Rubio reminded attendees that this election was about them in particular, because the decisions made now will determine what kind of environment they will raise their children and enter careers in. Indeed, he called this year’s election “the most important election of a decade.”
“Most elections are a choice between political parties, or even two ideologies – this election goes much deeper than that,” Rubio said. “This election is a choice about what kind of country America will be in the 21st century.”
Many attendees at the rally were already Rubio supporters, or were at least conservative. Allison Smith, 23, was one of those who generally supports Rubio’s message.
“I haven’t been very pleased with any candidate from either party and wanted to see things for myself and make an informed decision based off of that,” Smith said. “I’m definitely interested in financial reform. Rubio seems to have more of a liberal stance for immigration issues and I think that reflects more of what I’m hoping to see.”
Others who attended were more interested in the positions that Rubio takes so that they could form more rounded arguments, such as UCA junior and Democrat Emily Roberts.
“I’ve been trying to watch the Democratic and Republican debates to see all the sides so I can actually say why I disagree with them,” Roberts said. “I’m here to see what he has to say to see if I disagree with it or not.”
Greg Roberts, who has not decided who he will support in this year’s election, came to the rally to hear what Rubio had to say.
“I thought I’d see what Senator Rubio has to say. I’m conservative by nature and I’m just checking him out,” he said.
This article originally appeared in the March 2, 2016 print edition of The Echo.