[crscore]Marco Rubio[/crscore]’s new TV ad “Bartender” debuted this morning on Today. In the bio spot that highlights his father (an immigrant who worked late hours in order to make ends meet), Rubio repeats a line I’ve heard so many times: “That journey from behind that bar to behind this podium, that’s the essence of the American Dream.”
Rubio’s dad made sacrifices for his family, and today, his son is a U.S. Senator who is running for President of the United States. Yes, this is the essence of the American dream. But it’s not exclusive to immigrants. In fact, when he tells that story, it even resonates with me—a white guy from Maryland.
Here’s why: My dad was a prison guard who voluntarily “went to prison” for decades so his son could have a better life. He was a better man than I. He humbled himself and made sacrifices for his family. He went to “prison”; I went to college.
I’ll never be president, but I have gotten to achieve experiences that my father, who died in 2004, could only dream of. If you told him that his son would, for example, get to go on TV and talk about politics, he would have thought it as unlikely as the notion that I’d be starting shortstop for the Orioles.
And so, my story—as the son of a prison guard who is blessed to get to write about politics—isn’t all that different from Rubio’s. In fact, you might say: That journey from in front of those bars to behind this keyboard, that’s the essence of the American Dream.
So Rubio and I have something in common: We are standing on the shoulders of giants. And, the truth is, we were both privileged in the sense that a lot of people have it much worse. For example, we both had two parents who were married—and loved their children.
Still, the power of Rubio’s personal story might not matter much to, say, a Young Republican who comes from affluence. But if Rubio’s inspirational narrative resonates with me (a cynical contrarian who has seen too many politicians up close to be enamored with any), I suspect it has the potential to inspire a lot of Americans—many of whom aren’t people who have traditionally pulled the lever for Republicans.
This is one of the reasons Rubio has the potential to be a transformational political figure. It’s also why Democrats fear him.