Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Opinion

Column: Rubio's important speech

Mitch McConnell's decision to silence Elizabeth Warren on the Senate floor drew massive media attention — and outrage among partisans of all stripes. By contrast, few people paid much attention to the speech Florida Sen. Marco Rubio gave in the aftermath of the shushing of Warren. They should.

Rubio's speech was a plea for civility in the Senate, a warning that if civilized debate dies in the Senate, it will die in the broader society too. It's an important address — and one well worth spending eight minutes of your life listening to. (Watch it at http://tbtim.es/rubiowarren.)

A few lines that really stood out to me:

• "I don't know of a civilization in the history of the world that's been able to solve its problems when half the people in a country absolutely hate the other half of the people in that country."

• "We are becoming a society incapable of having debate anymore."

• "We are reaching a point in this republic where we are not going to be able to solve the simplest of issues because everyone is putting themselves in a corner where everyone hates everybody."

• "What's at stake here tonight … is not simply some rule but the ability of the most important nation on Earth to debate in a productive and respectful way the pressing issues before it."

It's easy, of course, to roll your eyes at Rubio. (After all, in the end, he himself voted with his fellow Republicans to silence Warren.) And, of course, Rubio is someone of considerable political ambition who clearly believes it is in his long-term best interests to establish himself as a voice for civility and reasoned debate during his time in the Senate.

But simply because Rubio is a politician doesn't mean that what he says should be dismissed out of hand. What he is reacting to is something I hear time and time again when I talk to people about politics. When did "reasonable people can disagree" stop being something we believed in? Why can't genuine debate not descend into name-calling? Why is confrontation the only way the two parties — and their leading politicians — seem to interact these days?

The answer is that confrontation is what energizes the bases of the two parties. And energizing those bases is what politicians spend most of their time focusing on these days. Unfortunately, the byproduct of all that confrontation is an increasing cynicism and disgust among the large swaths of people who aren't part of either base.

The election of President Donald Trump seems to have proven that those people don't matter all that much, that the way to win is to relentlessly vilify the other side so that your people are mad enough at the other side to turn out to vote.

Rubio is positioning himself as the counterweight to that strategy, betting big on the idea that the Trump era won't last forever. It's a noble effort although one with a very uncertain future.

© 2017 Washington Post

Comments
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Updated: 11 hours ago

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18
Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Forty years ago today, Nelson Poynter died. He was the last individual to own this newspaper, and to keep the Times connected to this community, he did something remarkable. He gave it away.In his last years, Mr. Poynter recognized that sooner or lat...
Published: 06/15/18

There was no FBI anti-Trump conspiracy

The Justice Department released Thursday the highly anticipated report on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe and other sensitive issues in the 2016 election. It is not the report President Donald Trump wanted. But there is enough i...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Voter purge may be legal, but it’s also suppression

The Supreme Court’s ruling last Monday to allow Ohio’s purging of its voter rolls is difficult to dispute legally. While federal law prohibits removing citizens from voter rolls simply because they haven’t voted, Ohio’s purge is slightly different. T...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Editorial: Free rides will serve as a test of whether the streetcar is serious transportation

Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to ride for free?This fall, the TECO Streetcar Line eliminates its $2.50-a-ride-fare, providing the best opportunity yet to see whether the system’s vintage streetcar replicas can serve as a legitimate transportation a...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

AT&T and the case for digital innovation

A good way to guarantee you’ll be wrong about something is to predict the future of technology. As in, "One day, we’ll all …" Experts can hazard guesses about artificial intelligence, driverless cars or the death of cable television, but technologica...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

The Florida Department of Children and Families has correctly set a quick deadline for Hillsborough County’s main child welfare provider to correct its foster care program. For too long the same story has played out, where troubled teens who need fos...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: Educate voters on Amendment 4 and restoring felons’ rights

Editorial: Educate voters on Amendment 4 and restoring felons’ rights

This fall voters will have 13 constitutional amendments to wade through on the ballot, but Amendment 4 should get special focus. It represents a rare opportunity to rectify a grievous provision in the Florida Constitution, which permanently revokes t...
Published: 06/13/18
Updated: 06/14/18