In March 2016, Marco Rubio stood before the conservative movement’s largest annual gathering — and implored his audience to remember what it believed.
“Being a conservative can never be about simply an attitude,” the Florida senator explained. “Being a conservative cannot simply be about how long you’re willing to scream, how angry you’re willing to be, or how many names you’re willing to call people.” Instead, Rubio insisted, that being a conservative was about remaining faithful to “a set of ideas and principles” — including free enterprise, traditional values, and the inviolability of Constitutional rights.
Within weeks, Rubio’s audience would prove him wrong.
To win the Republican nomination, Donald Trump did not need to demonstrate a commitment to free-market principles, traditional sexual morality, reverence for the Constitution, or even respect for American prisoners of war. He just needed to be better at mocking the size of Little Marco’s torso than Rubio was at mocking the size of his hands — while speaking to the GOP base’s anxieties about immigration and demographic change in terms more lurid, and with proposals more draconian, than his rivals could countenance.
We’re about to find out which of these two elements of Trump’s appeal was more fundamental to his success. Did Rubio err in presuming that conservatism was about more than just an attitude — or in failing to include a single word about immigration in his paean to conservative principles?
On Wednesday night, the president reached a tentative agreement with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi to trade some form of legal status for the 800,000 “Dreamers” — undocumented immigrants who were brought to this country as children (and grew up to be gainfully employed and bereft of a criminal record) — for unspecified border-security…