As the rest of Rubio’s interview with Jake Tapper hits the airwaves today, Rubio fans are met with the news that Rubio apparently apologized backstage to Trump before the last debate about his “small hands” crack. More broadly, Rubio supporters have been probably the most visibly agitated people on the conservative side that Rubio has endorsed Trump.
We’ll see how Cruz supporters react if and when he backs Trump, but at this point the Rubio fans are winning the Trump Outrage sweepstakes hands down.
After watching significant portions of the Tapper interview, I find that Rubio, as always, has thoughtful and introspective reasons for his decisions, and for every choice he made during the campaign, including those he now says he wishes he had not made. Many of his conclusions are, I think, wrong – and the conclusion to endorse Trump is the most disastrously wrong, but Rubio’s clearly thought through his decision on a level that is deeper than “Republican good, Democrat bad,” which places him ahead of many who have made this difficult choice. The interview is Rubio at his best, and it shows why so many were attracted to him as a candidate.
That having been said, there’s a reason that it’s setting off Rubio’s most dedicated supporters, who aren’t wrong about their outrage. Some bloggers who clearly only emerge from their MMORPG stupor long enough to occasionally write ill-informed and barely coherent blog posts about subjects they don’t understand (e.g., normal people) have suggested that the Rubio supporters’ outrage over Rubio’s endorsement of Trump just confirms that they are frivolous people who do not understand adult choices. I’m sure this is an easy explanation for those whose favorite pastime is indulgence in masturbatory and delusional feelings of self-superiority, but it ignores the fact that exit polls consistently showed that Rubio easily won more educated and higher income voters than any of his Republican rivals.
For whatever you have to say about Rubio voters (and the way some of them have behaved online), they clearly understand how to be adults. And in fact, that’s the exact reason they are angry now, because they always perceived Rubio to be the “adult” choice as between Rubio, Trump, and Cruz. Rubio was the guy who stood for decency and a positive message. Rubio was the guy who thought about things on a deeper level than repetitive talking points and called upon voters to reject easy jingoism and divisiveness.
That’s why Rubio’s support tanked when he began his scorched earth campaign against Trump. His first debate performance was probably a boon, but his subsequent mockery of Trump on the trail made him immediately lose the mantle of the adult on stage. Suddenly, he became just another one of the squabblers in a primary contest that everyone had grown to hate by that point.
Still, for those who stuck with Rubio to the very end, there is a special sense of betrayal in Rubio’s endorsement of Trump, who embodies the exact opposite of everything Rubio stood for. Rubio’s supporters are probably the least susceptible among any in the party to accept the idea that Trump must be supported simply because he is Not Hillary (or, even more so, because he is the guy wearing the Republican jersey) – because they perceive of themselves as being critical thinkers who are above the lazy peer pressure that is now being exerted on everyone in the #NeverTrump movement.
Trump as a person is equally disgusting to them as Hillary, if not moreso. They have already considered the argument that Trump must be supported because he is better than Hillary and have rejected it as either worthless, disastrously wrong, or both. To them, this is an argument that is made by the intellectually lazy and the unserious. To hear it coming out of Rubio’s mouth is a bit much to take.
I will say in defense of Rubio that he did leave it all on the campaign trail, and he is right that he did more than most of his critics to prevent the current choice that is before voters in November. And at least, for him, it was clearly a difficult choice. Personally, I don’t wish Rubio any ill will for his choice, even if I think it was clearly the wrong one. But Rubio’s supporters are as entitled to their anger and betrayal as Rubio is to his right to make a choice in the first place.