Nov 11, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Rubio says the GOP needs to reset after 2020

Illustration of a hand washing an elephant with soap and water
Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

After the 2020 election, Republicans need to rebrand their party as the champions of working-class voters and steer away from its traditional embrace of big business, Sen. Marco Rubio said in an interview with Axios.

Why it matters: Rubio told me he is leaving the door open for a 2024 presidential run — so his comments are some of the earliest signals of how the GOP contenders may try to acknowledge President Trump's successes while finding their own path.

  • "The future of the party is based on a multiethnic, multiracial working class coalition," said Rubio.

The big picture: The election wasn't the full-scale repudiation of Trump that many people expected. He got 70 million votes — the second most of all time — and the party made gains in the House.

  • And Trump's 2016 win wasn't just a rejection of Hillary Clinton. It was also a vote of no confidence in the Republican establishment and traditional party orthodoxy.

Rubio said Republicans have long believed in and supported the free market, "but the free market exists to serve our people. Our people don't exist to serve the free market."

  • He added that working class Americans are now largely against big businesses “that only care about how their shares are performing, even if it's based on moving production overseas for cheaper labor."
  • "They're very suspicious, quite frankly, dismissive of elites at every level. And obviously that's a powerful sentiment."

Democrats, who are beginning to analyze their failure to connect with Hispanic and Latino voters, have also begun dissecting this new schism.

  • Andrew Yang, speaking on CNN Thursday, said working class Americans would "flinch" on the trail when he told them he was a Democrat. "There is something deeply wrong when working class Americans have that response to a major party that theoretically is supposed to be fighting for them," he said.
  • "In their minds, the Democratic Party unfortunately has taken on this role of the coastal urban elites who are more concerned about policing various cultural issues than improving their way of life ... This to me is a fundamental problem for the party."

The bottom line: "We still have a very strong base in the party of donors and think tanks and intelligentsia from the right who are market fundamentalists, who accuse anyone who's not a market fundamentalist of being a socialist to some degree," Rubio said.

  • "If the takeaway from all of them is now is the time to go back to sort of the traditional party of of unfettered free trade, I think we're gonna lose the [Trump] base as quickly as we got it. ... We can't just go back to being that," he added.
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