My 2016 presidential odyssey starts at Ellis Island. My father experienced a vintage Jewish journey, escaping the persecution of the Holocaust and starting anew on these shores. Yet that quintessential American Jewish journey, beginning with Lower East Side pushcart poverty, to the socio-economic mobility and success that American Jewry enjoys today, faces headwinds. From Iranian expansionism & Palestinian rejectionism, to the financial costs of education and marginalization of religious values, there is a communal unease that cries out for a renewal of identity. The looming presidential election offers an opportunity for that very renewal, with a candidate whose narrative also travelled the a similar path as American Jewry, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.
Marco Rubio’s story is a symbol of our American nation’s identity as a land of opportunity. The son of Cuban exiles in Miami, Marco Rubio understands the value of hard work and aspiration. His father was a bartender and his mother a maid, and just like so many of our forebears, Senator Rubio’s parents took pride in their child’s success in becoming an attorney, that surpassed their own. In fact, Marco Rubio launched his campaign at the Freedom Tower in Miami, the Cuban American equivalent to what Ellis Island is to Jews. Senator Rubio’s modest background and earlier financial struggles also speak to that story, granting him insight into the lives of everyday Americans. Having a president that both embodies and understands what it means to escape persecution, rebuild family & community, and climb the aspirational ladder, is a key part of why Senator Rubio has my support.
But a shared biography only goes so far. On the issues, American Jewry has two sets of questions, universal and particular, that we must ask of those candidates seeking its support. As Americans, we ask, whose policies will best bring about widespread economic prosperity? Who is ablest to defend American interests abroad and deal with Russia, China and the Middle East? Who is best equipped to engage with the myriad internal social issues that we currently face?
In each area, Marco Rubio has a plan that speaks not only to his background, but to his core beliefs. Senator Rubio has presented a bold tax plan that rewards entrepreneurship through slashing levies on business and investment income, while simplifying the personal income tax brackets, to either 15% or 35%. Most innovatively, the plan also creates a new child tax credit of $2,500 and eliminates the death tax. Imagine the difference that makes to a family of four, from Long Island or Columbus, who send their children to private schools. Or to a retiree, who having worked hard his whole life, hopes to bequeath a legacy to his loved ones and not the government. Senator Rubio is also an expert on foreign affairs and a leading voice for conservative foreign policy. A member of both the Senate Foreign Affairs & Intelligence Committees, Rubio has a sophisticated and nuanced grasp of the issues. He was prescient about Putin’s campaign in Syria, having predicted it at the last debate, and is ready to be Commander-in-Chief on day one. Socially, Senator Rubio’s background shines through, as he believes education and family are the cornerstones of cohesion and success. His broad aim is to reform government, empowering families to thrive and for education to be accessible, affordable and leading to well-paid jobs.
The Former Speaker of the Florida House, speaks with moral clarity on the issues that are particular to American Jewry (though not exclusively so) as well. On Israel, Senator Rubio’s record is second to none, he opposes the flawed Iran Deal, and promises to always support Israel, forge substantive relationships with her leaders, and defend her in the global arena. Senator Rubio’s eloquent speeches on Israel (which can be found on YouTube), are both informative and inspiring. On religious liberty, Senator Rubio supports balancing the rule of law with targeted carve-outs, to protect the 1st Amendment’s protections for freedom of religion. As mentioned before, when it comes to the unique financial challenges that face American Jewish communities, the cost of Jewish family life will be eased, with a per child tax credit for families, and more affordable educational options.
There are other fine Republicans in this race, including Carly Fiorina, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz and Chris Christie, who each add to the conversation. Yet, we must nominate an electable conservative who is ready to govern and lead on day one. As Governor Walker memorably said, “We don’t need another apprentice in the White House, we already have an apprentice in the White House”. Senator Rubio’s compelling biography that Jews can instinctively relate to, coupled with his pro-growth economic polices, foreign policy chops and his positive vision for the future, make Senator Rubio the best choice for American Jewry, in leading the way to, as he puts it, a new American century.