Rubio’s membership in the Republican Party does not obviously represent a bold step forward. Cuban immigration and attachment to the Republican Party predated the 1965 immigration act that is transforming the country. Cuban-American loyalty to the GOP was a function of the Republican Party’s stout anti-Communism. Rubio constantly invokes America’s last Cold War president, Ronald Reagan, as his lodestar. But in his hawkish and assertive foreign policy, his constant leaning on America’s values, his support for expanded legal immigration and comprehensive reform of the immigration system, he is a kind of re-tread of George W. Bush.
Donald Trump is the candidate of the future disguised as the candidate of the past. His social base and his campaign themes recall Pat Buchanan. His Archie Bunker-like way of talking about minorities and the poorly educated seems like a throwback to a more racist and xenophobic yesterday. But Trump is really the new wave. He is the celebrity that jumps into politics. He is running a campaign on earned media and social media. He invokes no historical antecedents, most likely because he is innocent of history. He is the Republican who has ditched all but the most symbolic and meaningless connection to the Moral Majority. “We’re going to be saying, ‘Merry Christmas’ during a Trump presidency,” he said.
Yes, Trump is the nationalist backlash candidate, and therefore that makes him seems like a fresh import from Europe. In the past I’ve predicted that political antagonism between a party dominated by white voters and a party that represents America’s demographic future would increase racial antagonism generally. And now here it is. Trump is the candidate speaking obsessively about what may be the next century’s major issue: how the cheap mass migration of people upsets the existing political order. Allow yourselves to contemplate that history doesn’t move in one direction: racialist politics, nationalism, and xenophobia may be the future, not the past.