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ICYMI: Rubio Talks Future of the GOP at National Conservatism Conference
Orlando, FL — U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) addressed the National Conservatism Conference in Orlando, Florida. See below for a lightly edited transcript of his remarks, titled, “We Need Corporate Patriotism to Defeat American Marxism.”
Rubio: Good morning, I am excited to be with you today. There are no shortages of conferences, but this is one I really wanted to be a part of, because this conference isn’t about preaching to the choir. The thing I really like about this conference is about thinking, listening, learning and ultimately defining what it means to be a conservative in the 21st century.
Yesterday is over, and it will never return.
Now our challenge is that we must take eternal principles and the lessons of the past and apply them to the challenges of the present to chart the right course for our country and future.
Later today, I will travel to Washington D.C., a city where Democrats hold power by literally the slimmest of margins, but they govern as if they have been given a broad mandate for radical change.
And I think it is telling that the agenda promoted by candidate Joe Biden is very different from the one being pushed by President Joe Biden.
Candidate Joe Biden, for example, promised a return of competency and professionalism.
But President Joe Biden has delivered chaos and incompetence.
A historic calamity on our southern border. A humiliating and deadly debacle in Afghanistan. Stranded cargo ships off the coast of California. And the skyrocketing price of literally everything.
Candidate Joe Biden promised to unify a bitterly divided country.
But President Joe Biden has been an enthusiastic agent of division and polarization. Pitting Americans against each other not just on race and partisanship. But now by vaccination status.
And candidate Joe Biden promised to “Build Back Better.” But President Joe Biden has staked his Presidency and his legacy on a plan to “Build Back Socialist.”
A federal takeover of child care, Pre-K. A cadre of government funded climate enforcers. And an army of new tax collectors to make sure no potential tax dollar is left behind.
Now, there is a reason candidate Joe Biden did not campaign on the agenda of President Joe Biden. The reason is that the overwhelming majority of Americans think that agenda is crazy.
These tactics and this agenda do not reflect the broad will of Americans. They reflect the long held fantasies of a small and radical, but powerful few.
According to a recent study, it is the agenda of about 8 percent of the country.
The 8 percent believe America is a systemically racist country, with a shameful history and an oppressive free-enterprise capitalist economy.
The problem is that they have power beyond their numbers because they happen to be the people who run our schools and universities, our tech companies and large corporations, our media, sports and the entertainment industry.
They are the most generous donors and enthusiastic activists in one of our two major political parties.
And while the tactics they use may be new to most Americans. They bring back really painful memories for the refugees and exiles that I was raised by and I still live around.
First, divide the people against each other. Good versus evil. Victim versus oppressor. Then promise to deliver “equity” and “justice.”
Second, making everything political. Sports, art, culture, everything becomes a tool to promote and impose their agenda.
And, finally, anyone who dares to oppose your agenda, is persecuted. Censored, and either punished into silence or driven out as an example to others.
For over a century these are the tactics used by Marxists to take over countless nations and societies all over the world. Now, these are the tactics being used to take over and destroy our country.
It is why our schools have been turned into indoctrination centers. We’re children not yet old enough to dress themselves are taught that the color of their skin automatically makes them either victims or oppressors.
It’s why sports, movies, and even a virus that came from China has been politicized.
And it’s why speakers are uninvited from college campuses. Why authors have had their books removed by Amazon. Comedians targeted for destruction.
And why the Attorney General of the United States recommended that parents who complain about our public schools be reported as domestic terrorists to the FBI.
There are two lessons we should remember about Marxism.
The first is that any time it appears there are always some who think they can protect themselves from its wrath by cooperating with Marxism. That is why right now big business is all in. With major American corporations boycotting states that pass laws which are not “woke” while sending our jobs to a China ruled by a genocidal government. It’s why tech companies who have become enforcers, censoring views they don’t like and silencing those who dare to speak out.
But eventually, they all learn that for the Marxist there can be no organization or institution independent of the movement. Everyone, all must serve “the revolution.”
And the second lesson of Marxism is that the promise of “equity” and “justice,” or whatever catch phrases they come up with, they are all very popular, until people figure out what it really means.
Until you see it means giving up the right to decide what is best for your children.
Until you see it means celebrating rioting and looting, and releasing dangerous criminals from jail at the same time as they are going to defund the police.
Until you realize that eventually they start running out of systemic oppressors to go after, and then they come for you.
Then people turn against it. Then they realize the monster they have created and invited into their home.
But far too often, by then it’s too late.
Well, it’s still not too late for us. But we are running out of time.
We are confronted not by a transitory political movement. We’re confronted by a systematic effort to dismantle our culture, our society, our traditions, our economy and our way of life.
And the only way to defeat it is to speak clearly about what is true. And to protect what is good about and fix what’s broken in 21st Century America.
Now here is what I tell you, that those who believe the answer lies simply in traditional “Wall Street Journal Conservatism” are making a very dangerous mistake.
Rapid technological changes, globalization and market concentration has all led to a 21st century economy that has left millions of hardworking patriotic Americans feeling like they’re locked out from the promise of our country.
Promising to just cut more regulations and corporate taxes that’s going to get applause from campaign donors and get some glowing coverage in media outlets focused on the stock market. But it leaves millions of hard working Americans. People who do not want a woke socialist America, it leaves them with no voice in our politics and no answers to their problems.
Americans are looking for, and America needs, a conservative movement that defends our culture and values and promotes capitalism. But it must be a capitalism that creates jobs. American jobs that allow people to get married, own a home, raise a family in a safe neighborhood, retire with dignity and leave their children better off than themselves.
Our country does not need, and Americans are not interested, in a capitalism that means we are here to do what is best for the market.
What we need is a “Common Good Capitalism” in which the market is here to serve us, to serve our country, our national interests, and our people.
Now look, that doesn’t mean record days for Wall Street and great earnings reports are a bad thing. But if those record days on Wall Street and earnings are the result of sending jobs to and importing more from China, well that’s probably very good for those corporations, but that isn’t good for Americans.
For many decades, by the way, this wasn’t an issue. What was good for corporate America, and good for our country, was usually the same thing.
When Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan threatened us, our companies harnessed the power of industry to defeat them.
After the war, much of the world was rebuilding. And American companies used American workers to invent, make, and sell their products here and to the rest of the world.
For decades, as Charles Wilson once famously said “what was good for our country was good for General Motors, and vice versa.”
But the world changed. And so did the economy.
The economies of Europe and Asia recovered and became our competitors. Cheaper labor overseas led American companies to send jobs overseas because it lowered costs and helped increase profits.
And most dangerous of all, the Chinese Communist Party figured out a way to use our own corporations against us. Inviting them in as partners, stealing their know-how and secrets, turning them into lobbyists in Washington on behalf of their agenda, and ultimately standing up their own companies to replace ours.
But something else changed too. Today many of our most important corporations are run by people who consider themselves not citizens of America, but citizens of the world.
They are the product of decades of anti-American indoctrination at our elite universities and they feel no obligation to America or its national interest.
I’m not here to tell you big business is the enemy. But I’m here to tell you big business is not our ally in the fight against socialism.
They come running for help to conservatives when the left threatens to raise their taxes. They come running for help when some workers try to unionize.
But on most days they are eager culture warriors who have mastered the art of wrapping “wokeness” in the language of free market capitalism.
They try to pay their workers as little as possible and charge consumers as much as they can get away with. But when they invest in the latest gender fad or climate initiative they say it’s because that is what their workers and customers demand.
Allowing this new version of shareholder primacy to define capitalism would be to accept an elaborate justification for letting Wall Street and woke corporations run our economy and control our lives.
Reviving America’s Corporate Patriotism – That’s what we need to be focused on.
The left is using the tools of government to require companies to disclose their “progress” on racial quotas, on the Green New Deal. But the answer isn’t to use government to force companies to be patriotic.
The answer is to pass laws that incentivize corporate actions that are good for America and are good for Americans.
First, that means getting wokeness out of the boardroom.
At a minimum, we should require that companies be subject to strict scrutiny and to legal liability when they abuse their corporate privilege by pushing wasteful, anti-American nonsense.
Right now, the burden is on the shareholder to prove that those woke stances – like boycotting a state for having the audacity to pass an election law – the shareholder has to prove that those are bad for shareholders. The burden is on them. Instead, the burden should be on the company to prove it is acting in the best interest of shareholders.
Second, that means we need a stock market that holds companies accountable for pro-American goals, rather than left-wing social engineering, or globalist profiteering.
We should require that companies disclose to investors and be held to account.
Instead of requirements that companies’ board of directors be sufficiently “diverse,” like what the Biden Administration is demanding, we should have requirements that companies’ board of directors be free of any conflicts of interest. Conflicts of interest involving for example, adversaries like China.
Similarly, instead of disclosing how compliant they are with a radical left environmental agenda, let’s have companies tell the public how much they are investing in hiring and training American workers, how many factories or facilities they are opening in America and disclosing when they decide to send American jobs or American factories to another country.
To better align what the stock market rewards with what is good for America we also need to break institutional finance’s control over corporate America.
We should stop using American retirement dollars to help fund China’s ambitions. Today, the retirement fund for federal employees, that includes members of our military, is investing in Chinese companies, that includes companies developing weapons to kill our men and women in uniform. I have a proposal that bans our federal retirement program from continuing to do this. We should pass it immediately.
But the biggest challenge is how to address the big institutional shareholders who use the billions of dollars of American worker investments they control to push corporations to adopt woke and anti-American policies.
I think the time has come to require that these institutional shareholders get the votes of their clients, rather than vote on their behalf. There would be a lot less craziness in American corporations if the people voting their shares were actually firefighters and police officers instead of union bosses or Wall Street financiers.
Let me conclude by saying this. Not long ago, our politics were defined by a choice between conservatives and liberals, or between more government and less government, or higher taxes or less taxes. That used to define our politics.
The dividing line in our politics now is between insanity and normal. Between lunacy and common sense.
Americans who don’t identify as the gender they were born with deserve courtesy, and respect, and equality under the law. But it is insanity to force the overwhelming majority of Americans to adopt changes to the English language or accept the disruption in our schools to accommodate the demands of a minuscule minority.
Our nation’s past isn’t perfect and our present is not without challenges. But our history is better than anyone else’s. And despite our problems, tens of millions of people would come here in a heartbeat if given the chance.
It is crazy that our children are being taught that their country’s history is one to be ashamed of, and that their country today remains a systemically racist one.
And the rapid transformation has left many locked out of achieving the American Dream. And that has to be addressed, because that dream is at the core of our national identity.
But it is absolute lunacy to turn to socialism, the economic model of countries people risk their lives to flee on makeshift rafts.
When politics was between two sides that agreed that ours is an exceptional nation, the stakes were different.
But now our politics is between those who believe America is a great country but with problems that need to be fixed, and those who believe America is a terrible country that needs to be demolished and rebuilt as something different.
So the real fight isn’t about the tax rate on billionaires, because you can always come back and lower tax rates if they’re too high.
The real fight isn’t even about the plan to spend $3.5 trillion or $1.75 trillion. Because two year of socialist policies may cost less upfront, but it’s still socialism.
Here’s the real fight.
The real fight is about a small, radical, but incredibly powerful minority that wants to force everyone else to abandon a common sense that was built on 5,000 years of human history, to erase our culture and traditions, throw away our values, and walk away from a free enterprise economy that is still the envy of the world.
That’s the real fight. And the stakes couldn’t be higher.
Because if they succeed, the damage and the destruction it will cause will be nearly impossible to fix.
And our country will be irreversibly transformed.
And we are going to take our place in history as the generation that saw America become a once great nation in decline. And that will leave the world more dangerous and less free.
Those are the stakes.
That’s why I’m so happy I’m able to address you, even though not in person. Because it’s that important.
And I thank you for giving me the chance to address you today.