Don’t let the calendar fool you. It’s already 2016.
Like it or not, the Elections Industrial Complex has unofficially declared it so.
We are in a state of constant campaigns brought to you by the political-consultant class, polarizing bloggers, cable TV personalities, political reporters and the ubiquitous partisan trolls who patrol Twitter in search of the latest outrage.
And they’re eying and arguing nonstop over people like Marco Rubio, Florida’s junior senator.
In the week leading up to and including Election Day, Rubio garnered about 304 media mentions, according to a news-clip search in the Nexis database. In the week after: 780 mentions – a 160 percent increase.
It won’t let up. Rubio will be a key surrogate in the mid-term elections in 2014 and he’ll play a major role in the next presidential election.
The first wave of post-election Rubio-related stories was fairly predictable, premised on the whither-the-GOP storyline after President Barack Obama won a second term. As the most high-profile Hispanic Republican, Rubio was indispensible to a narrative about attracting minority support. His name was repeatedly mentioned as a 2016 presidential hopeful.
It didn’t hurt that Rubio, 11 days after the election, attended a birthday fundraiser for the governor of Iowa, site of the first GOP presidential caucuses four years hence.
Rubio actually accepted the invitation months before, during the Republican National Convention in Tampa. He expected Mitt Romney would actually have won the presidential contest Nov. 6, so Rubio’s attendance in Iowa wouldn’t have looked like a premature bid for national office.
This context got nary a mention in the Elections Industrial Complex. It didn’t fit the narrative. So it was discarded or never pondered by some. The Elections Industrial Complex thrives off conflict, contradictions and gaffes. It minimizes similarity and nuance in the cracked looking glass of our politics.
And Rubio has happily obliged.
On Nov. 19, GQ Magazine published an interview with Rubio in which he gave a rambling answer to an out-of-the-blue question about the age of the Earth:
“I’m not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that’s a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States. I think the age of the universe has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow. I’m not a scientist. I don’t think I’m qualified to answer a question like that. At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all. I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says. Whether the Earth was created in 7 days, or 7 actual eras, I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to answer that. It’s one of the great mysteries.”
The comment exploded like a Rorschach ink-blot. Partisans saw what they wanted.
To the left, it was evidence that Rubio’s a knuckle-dragging fundamentalist or a panderer to them. To the right, the ensuing controversy was evidence of the Godlessness of the left.