The questions started as soon as it was announced that Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) would deliver the Republican Address to the Nation – in both English and Spanish – after Tuesday’s State of the Union address. Is the fact that he will deliver the address in both languages to be perceived as pandering to Hispanics by Republicans? Was Rubio chosen as the Republican Party’s “token Hispanic”? Is this how the Republicans think they will “buy” the Hispanic vote?
As for the assertion that Republicans are pandering to Hispanics, consider the following. For many years, both the State of the Union address and the opposing party’s response have been broadcast on Spanish language television with Spanish translation. This is not a new concept.
The first Response actually given by a Spanish speaking public servant (not simply dubbed over the English speech) was in 2004 by Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM). A high ranking, Spanish speaking public servant has been chosen to record the speech each year since then, no matter which party the president belonged to or who the opposing party was. So this is not particular to the Republican Party.
Generally, the individual to record the Spanish language response has been someone other than the representative officially chosen to deliver the response. That’s because no Hispanic representative has been chosen as the primary messenger … until now.
So why is Rubio being especially criticized for delivering this speech in both languages? If both languages are completely natural to him, why shouldn’t he deliver both? Why is this occasion any different than any of the past nine years?
Maybe it’s not so much that the speech will be delivered in both languages as it is that, this time, the same individual will be delivering both. What does that mean? It means, for the first time, a Hispanic leader has become prominent enough to have been chosen not just to record the Spanish version, but to actually be the primary messenger.
The fact that Rubio is a Republican threatens Democrats because they consider themselves to, more or less, own the Hispanic community – for lack of a better word. And some on the far Right certainly feel threatened because he represents an upset to what they perceive as the status quo.
As for the assertion that Rubio is the “token Hispanic” being flaunted by the Republican Party just to win the Hispanic vote… Well, let’s take a look at Rubio himself.
While being chosen for this honor must surely bring pride as an example of Latino success, Rubio appears to consider this an opportunity to stand before the nation as an American patriot, more than anything else. It is likely that few in Washington feel a deeper understanding or respect for the promise and opportunity in America more than Rubio. Because of his recent immigrant heritage and family’s personal history? Yes. But while he surely feels his family’s history deeply, it is apparent that he feels respect and gratitude for the freedom and opportunity that America gave his family at least as deeply, if not more so.
He is well recognized by his contemporaries in the party as a dynamic and inspiring champion of limited government, free enterprise, fiscal responsibility, family values, religious freedom, the unborn, and human rights. And he has already proven to be a solid advocate for strengthening our currently weak foreign relations and national security.
Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said, “He was a natural choice to deliver the Republicans’ alternative to the administration’s reliance on government and debt.”
It’s clear that the party has many more reasons to put Marco Rubio up front than simply that he is Hispanic. He has already proven himself to be an articulate, well respected, principled leader with a deep understanding of the American Dream and deep respect for the Constitution, and it is anticipated he will demonstrate that on Tuesday night.