Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) joined his colleague Rand Paul (R-KY) on the Senate floor in support of the filibuster of John Brennan’s nomination for Director of the CIA. Marco Rubio is considered a rising star within the Republican Party and main contender for the party’s 2016 Presidential nomination. By participating in this filibuster and speaking out against the Obama administration’s vague drone policy, Marco Rubio demonstrated a willingness to move the Republican Party back to its traditional, constitutional conservative roots, from which the party has often deviated in past years.
Although the filibuster itself represented an effort to bring conservative movement back to the libertarian values that defined its early existence, Marco Rubio also used this opportunity to modernize the image of the Grand Old Party for the future.
Marco Rubio began by acknowledging his colleague, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), saying, “First of all, let me congratulate the junior Senator from Texas on a fantastic question. In that question he used Shakespeare references, he used a reference to the movie, Patton.” However, Senator Rubio then proceeded to use more current cultural references to frame his own points. Admitting that he did not “bring [his] Shakespeare book,” Rubio opted to “quote a modern day poet, name is Wiz Khalifa.”
Wiz Khalifa is a modern American rapper, whose name is easily recognized by any teenager or young professional but less so by older adults or even members of Rubio’s own generation. Senator Rubio invoked the artist by referencing the title of his recently released single, “Work Hard, Play Hard.”
The Senator’s remarks continued, “He has a song called ‘Work Hard, Play Hard.’ If you look at the time, I think it’s a time when many of our colleagues expected to be home, maybe in their home state playing hard. But I’m happy that we’re here still working hard on this issue.”
Later in his remarks, Rubio also quoted from rapper Jay-Z’s singe “A Week Ago.” He used the line “Funny what seven days can change/ It was all good just a week ago” to outline the hypocrisy of liberals who criticized President Bush for lesser infractions but refuse to condemn the Obama’s administration’s killing of American citizens without due process.
Wiz Khalifa’s and Jay-Z’s appeal is strongest among the youth and African American demographics, groups that do not traditionally vote Republican. Although not the focus of his remarks, Rubio’s quick allusions to these artists represents a desire to open the Republican brand up to more groups and show that conservative legislators can also relate to their lifestyle. This subtle strategy could be an extremely effective way to re-brand a party that has struggled with young and minority voters in the past.
It should also be noted that Wiz Khalifa and Jay-Z have both received love from other high-profile conservative figures in the past. In an interview with POLITICO, Majority Leader Eric Cantor cited Wiz Khalifa and Jay-Z as being in heavy rotation on his iPad.
Throughout the rest of his remarks, Senator Rubio also referenced The Godfather two times, at one point employing the famous line, “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse.” Rubio contended that the compromise being offered by his colleague, Rand Paul, was such an offer. Senator Paul during his own remarks offered to proceed to the vote on Brennan’s confirmation if Senate Democrats allowed a resolution against unwarranted drone strikes to be voted on as well. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) took to the floor to oppose such a compromise, promising instead to bring the issue up in committee.
This filibuster represents a major soul-searching moment for the Grand Old Party. In addition to helping to move the Republican Party back towards its constitutional conservative roots by supporting the filibuster, Senator Rubio also outlined a strategy to move the party into the 21st century. Rubio's strategy aims to broaden the party's appeal with traditionally non-Republican voters by appealing to their lifestyles as well as their concerns. Hopefully he can get other Republicans to “Wake Up” to the wisdom of this approach.