This may come as a shock to some political analysts, but Senator Marco Rubio is not the solution for the GOP's Hispanic problems. To be sure he is charismatic, smart, young and to the Republican Party most importantly, Hispanic. However he is a single man, in a party badly out of step with Hispanic voters. Yet to many pundits he has become the future of the Republican Party, an olive branch to Hispanic voters. Sadly, one man alone cannot fix the ills which bedevil the GOP's relationship with Hispanic voters.
At this point Rubio is more of a shrinking violet then a pied piper leading the GOP caucus to the promised land of Hispanic voters. Discounting Rubio's tortured roll out of a GOP version of the DREAM Act nowhere is this more apparent than in the mess he has created with the appointment of Mari Carmen Aponte to an Ambassadorship to El Salvador.
Rubio is where the rubber meets the road for Aponte's confirmation. He is on Foreign Relations, the committee of jurisdiction for her appointment, and he is the sole Hispanic in the Republican caucus. He is the GOP leader on the Aponte appointment. Rubio has voted against her appointment twice already. With a fresh vote in the Senate on Mari Carmen Aponte's Ambassadorship we will find out just how far along Rubio can bring his party.
Aponte's appointment may not be a big deal to most, but to Puerto Rican voters in an important swing state like Florida, this is a significant litmus test for the Republican Party. Today's confirmation vote is especially significant as many in the Spanish language media already largely blame the GOP and Marco Rubio for stopping the vote. Spanish language news agency EFE notes that in addition to Rubio's antics South Carolina Republican Senator Jim DeMint is also largely to blame for stopping Mari Carmen's appointment. Why? Senator DeMint says that Aponte is "strongly promoting the homosexual lifestyle" and attempting "to impose a pro-gay agenda" on El Salvador.
The Obama Administration has been a strong advocate of Aponte, which lends another political dimension to this saga. President Obama nominated Aponte to serve as U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador way back in 2009. She was eventually recess appointed and by all accounts has been an effective Ambassador. According to the Hispanic National Bar Association: Ambassador Aponte has been an effective advocate for a safer El Salvador, promoting programs and policies designed to combat the epidemic of gang violence in the country while simultaneously weakening transnational crime links to the United States and strengthening our own national security.
Rubio knows how important this vote is to his standing in Florida. His cache with Puerto Rican voters in Florida took a huge hit the last time Aponte's vote came up. So much so that he ventured back to Orlando to meet with a large number of angry Puerto Rican activists to personally promise them that he will deliver the votes for Aponte's confirmation. Senator Rubio also knows how much this vote matters to his reputation within the GOP. Navigating the nativist elements of the Senate GOP caucus would be a huge win for him. The big question is can he bring enough Republicans along to get this vote. In a way it almost does not matter.
It is entirely likely that this time Aponte will move forward in the Appointment process. While this vote is a huge test for Rubio the damage has already been done. The very fact that this has taken so long indicates how little power the young Florida Senator actually has in the Republican Caucus. If he cannot move this appointment how will he ever be able to move the GOP on issues like the DREAM Act and Immigration reform? The truth is there may be no one who can stop Senator Jim DeMint from making anti-homosexual comments or Senator Rand Paul advocating the revocation of the 14th Amendment for children of undocumented immigrants. One thing is for sure by the end of all of this, the sheer length of time that it has taken Rubio to come around to this appointment all but ensures that his clout within the Hispanic community will diminish. Who knows what that will mean for his meteoric rise within the GOP.