No, Marco Rubio saying he will vote for Trump does not make him a Trumpkin. Most former candidates go on to endorse the primary winner after losing. That is standard practice given that we have a two-party system.
This is even the case when candidates represent opposite ends of the party’s ideological spectrum. Henry “Scoop” Jackson publically endorsed George McGovern after being nominated in a failed “anybody but McGovern” coup attempt at the 1972 Democratic Convention. No one today mistakes the neoconservative Jackson for a New Left McGovernite.
Nor, on the Republican side, are there a lot of George H.W. Bush biographies claiming he was a Reaganite—although he not only endorsed Reagan, but served as his vice president and effectively ran for Reagan’s third term in 1988. You can vote for someone, endorse him, and even serve under him without buying into his ideology.
Rubio Has Always Been #NeverHillary
It is absurd to suggest Rubio’s decision to back Trump in the general election reflects a lack of principles. It does not even reflect a change of heart. Rubio has always been #NeverHillary first and foremost. From literally the first question of the first debate to the last question of the eleventh debate, Rubio’s position on supporting the party’s nominee has not budged one iota. Yes, he called Trump a dangerous con man, but he also called Hillary Clinton “disqualified.”
Efforts to portray Rubio as some sort of careerist sellout are disingenuous. Rubio has not tempered his criticism of Trump and has made clear that his concerns about Trump’s character and policy proposals remain. He is not Chris Christie, who enthusiastically endorsed Trump while viable conservatives remained in the race. So there is no reason to believe his support is a self-interested ploy to get a plum appointment. In fact, he has shot down the prospect of serving under Trump on the grounds that if Trump wins, he deserves to have people serving under him who believe in his ideas.
What is the sense in claiming, as Jennifer Rubin and others have, that “Rubio has ceded a potential role in the rebuilding of the GOP post-Trump.” The idea that Rubio and all those who’ve opted for #NeverHillary rather than #NeverTrump will be banished from the party after the GOP wakes from its Trump nightmare is a fantasy. There is no list of those who capitulated to Trump that the righteous will appeal to when the time comes to rebuild. Reducing every Republican who opts for Trump over Clinton to a “Trumpkin” is counterproductive in the extreme. The vast majority of Republicans are siding with Trump over Clinton, and they are not going to rally around “Schadenfreude 2020!” #NeverTrump does not need to start a war with #NeverHillary. It is hard to see how that would be constructive in the long run.
It’s Not that We Don’t Think Trump Is Frightening
Like many of Rubio’s supporters, I would never consider voting for Trump no matter who endorses him. A Trump administration would almost certainly be a disaster for America and the world.
Trump has the character of a strongman dictator at a moment when our nation seems disturbingly open to one. He is dangerously underprepared to lead the nation, and doesn’t seem to care. He has no discernable principles, at least none that are any good. He is petty, vindictive, and bullying. I have little doubt he will use the massive power of his office against his critics in unprecedented ways if and when his policies do not work out as his followers hope. I do not think introducing destabilizing third-world political practices is the way to make America great again.
Trump’s “policies” are only slightly less worrisome than the man himself. He advocates an enlarged welfare state at home and despotic arrogance abroad. He traffics in fantasies, such as rounding up millions of illegal immigrants and throwing them out of the country, which would be logistically impossible even assuming he got two terms. He has proposed killing the family members of suicide bombers, i.e. innocent women and children. We can shoot some of them, he thinks, with pigs’ blood so the word gets out not to mess with us.
Many Rubio supporters assume Rubio too must have reassessed his commitment to defeating Clinton at all costs after seeing how frightening Trump is. After all, Rubio was always the candidate looking forward to a new century, as opposed to dwelling on the past. Continuing to see a Clinton presidency as the worst possible outcome certainly makes it look like Rubio is fixated on past assumptions and not responding to new evidence.
Don’t Project Yourself Onto Rubio
But while many #NeverTrumpers hoped Rubio would change his mind about supporting the party’s nominee given his heartfelt criticisms of Trump, the fact remains that he never actually did. The closest he came was stating that it is “getting harder every day” to maintain his commitment to supporting the party’s nominee after Trump seemingly promoted violence at one of his rallies back in March. Those who claim Rubio has changed heart are referring to a Rubio they have only imagined.
I admit that I would like to see Rubio back further away from endorsing Trump. I hope it continues to get harder for him every day. But I can’t pretend that Rubio is dead to me if he doesn’t change his mind and effectively endorse Hillary Clinton. It doesn’t work that way. It never has.
So, no, Rubio is not a Trumpkin, nor has he done anything to betray his supporters. His positions and priorities have remained consistent over time. He thinks Hillary Clinton will do more damage to America than Trump will. I disagree with him about that, but disagreement is not betrayal.