Marco Rubio may still be a wide step behind 2016 GOP poll leaders Donald Trump and Ben Carson, but he’s also certainly come under the radar of his Democratic rivals: Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.
Because of that, questions pitting Marco against his possible 2016 presidential competition have started to come up at his public appearances. While at a New Hampshire Institute of Politics “Life of the Party” event, Rubio was asked how he felt about Bernie’s proud democratic socialist affiliation. The audience member was especially curious about how Marco felt about Sanders’ label given the fact that his parents had left Cuba in 1956 just before Fidel Castro’s Communist regime came to power.
Yet instead of attacking Bernie for his leftwing views, Rubio took the moment to clarify that the Marxist-Leninist communism that rose in a Castro’s Cuba was a distant relative to the type of socialism promoted by Sanders. His parents, said Marco, were up against a much different political situation, reported CNN.
“In fairness, they fled communism. There is social democracy, right, like you see in Europe, where government provides for every aspect of your life, but there’s consequence to that. They fled communism, which is beyond socialism, obviously where government controls society, but also government controls politics, life, the banning of religion, people were being executed.”
In a 2016 race that promises to be filled with mudslinging, Rubio positioned himself as respectful if critical of the views that Bernie espouses. Upon further pressing from the supporter who posed the question, Marco expressed his openness to discussing these ideas with Sanders should they face off in next year’s elections.
“What I appreciate about Bernie is he’s not trying to shirk from it. It’s what he believes in. He’s honest about it… I don’t personally have a problem with [Sanders] because he’s being honest about what he believes in. I’d love to have that debate.”
Rubio’s position contrasts sharply with the responses many of his 2016 Republican competitors have offered when it comes to discussing Bernie’s proposals. A few weeks ago, Donald Trump referred to Sanders as both a “maniac” and a “socialist-slash-communist,” reported Mediaite. A far cry from the way Marco handled the situation.
“Nobody wants to say it. He’s gonna tax you people at 90 percent; he’s gonna take everything! And nobody’s heard the term ‘communist.’ I call him a socialist-slash-communist because that’s what he is.”
Differentiation between brands of leftwing political ideologies has been a source of frustration for many candidates who lean toward more European models of government like Bernie. Communism, socialism, and fascism often become interchangeable concepts when employed by those who are not aware of their complexities, nor the degree with which their basic principles have been implemented across the world. Still, Rubio’s willingness to properly qualify Sanders’ views doesn’t mean that he’s a fan of them.
“I don’t think [what Bernie offers] works for America. My argument is, you want to live in a country like that — there’s like dozens of countries around the world that are socialist — move there. We should continue to be America.”
Marco Rubio’s defense of Bernie Sanders’ democratic socialism might stir up controversy in 2016 for another reason. The senator has often invoked the tale of his parents fleeing Communist Cuba during his political career, but it hasn’t always been well-received. In 2011, the Washington Post obtained documents that showed inconsistencies in the immigration narrative that Marco had published to his official site — namely that his family had actually left Cuba several years before Castro took power.
[Image via Scott Olson and Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]