Rubio's Breakdown Says A Lot About The GOP

by Katherine Speller

Now that the GOP has given a proper viking funeral to Ted Cruz and John Kasich's presidential dreams and accepted Donald Trump into its heart as the presumptive candidate it deserves, things have gotten sort of quiet on the home front. It's not the safe morning has broken kind of quiet, but a more painful, uncanny something wicked this way comes kind of quiet — a silence born of a total loss of faith in the not-so-grand old party. But is the GOP really resigned to their Trump fate?

With Kasich nixing rumors of a third-party run, Cruz gearing up to protect his Senate seat (and also probably not make a third-party run), and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus pretending everything is just totally dandy while he is probably curled up in the fetal position when alone, the GOP establishment's attacks on Trump, which once inundated our news feeds, have all but faded.

It seems strange that the ghosts of GOP past — the ones who so valiantly challenged Trump (and, you know, failed) at every turn during the early days of the primaries — seem to have floated away from the harsh rhetoric and passion that kept them in the game. More and more, it feels like they're backing away slowly, refusing to stick to the big talk and morals that would've supposedly saved their party, and are instead bowing out before the horror show really begins.

Remember, these are the candidates who lambasted Trump (no matter how fruitless the efforts were) for his divisiveness, his less-than-presidential behavior, his tiny, tiny hands, and his penchant for self-aggrandizing. These are the candidates who invoked Godwin's Law multiple times to attack their opponent. These are the people who vehemently refused to stoop to Trump's level, and then proceeded to do so over and over. Thus, watching them drop away from the public conversation so quickly, whether it's to lick their wounds or wait out the inevitable destruction, seems odd and sad (and, okay, morbidly vindicating to me).

However, no fall from political grace has been equal parts delightful and worrying as that of Marco Rubio — who, as he's said "10,000 times," will be reentering the world of aw-shucks regular guy-hood in the new year after he flees — I mean, leaves — the U.S. Senate. Rubio's worked hard to sell himself as a young, almost-hip, and almost-dignified face in the cast of GOP: The Next Generation (not an actual reality show ... yet). However, he made a major break from his #brand to lash out on Twitter at those claiming to "know" his life.

Rubio's bro-tacular breakdown appeared to be tied to a Washington Post article which characterized him as floundering since suspending his campaign. He condemned the unnamed "sources close to" public figures. "Word of advice," Rubio wrote on Twitter, "people often claim to know more than they really do because they enjoy status of being perceived as 'in the know'." [sic on that period outside the quotes, for you grammar nerds.]

He proceeded to make some crunchy jokes about his workout regimen (chest, legs, and cardio, oh my!) that didn't quite land — though they still reminded me of the Rubio-like guys who give unsolicited advice on form and hold uncomfortable eye contact through the mirrors at the gym. (Also, that I hate the gym.)

Whether this says that Rubio is hoping to avoid looking like a Super Mario Bros. goomba by remembering to #NeverSkipLegDay or launch a lackluster career in Twitter comedy (no thanks, we're good), it still ranks as one of the Florida senator's most vocal moments since he sadly suspended his campaign in March. More importantly, it's decidedly detached from the major political conversations at hand.

I totally understand the idea that sometimes you need to make jokes (no matter how bland) and laugh in the face of true horror and defeat. But this moment for Rubio, fascinating and uncomfortable as it is, represents, in a small way, the general indifference to the party's future that's apparent in prominent leaders. Some folks may still be worrying about Trump and the future of the White House, but there's a real chance that Rubio will be busy curating a Fitspo Instagram account (complete with Friday Night Lights quotes) come November.

Images: Bustle/Allison Gore;