On Wednesday night, Senator Marco Rubio appeared at a CNN town hall about gun violence, where he was heavily booed and fiercely questioned by his constituents who survived the recent massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
For this, Rubio is being treated like a brave hero who survived a war zone.
During the town hall, Rubio’s fellow senator, Democrat Bill Nelson, praised him for the “guts” it took to come to the town hall. The Washington Post described Rubio as having “aimed for nuance” to a crowd that had “little room” for it. Axios’ Mike Allen even said he’d been “bullied” by the audience. Bullied! By kids who were almost killed with a weapon Marco Rubio has refused to help regulate for years! The mind reels.
Just after the town hall ended, CNN’s Don Lemon spoke to Alfonso Calderon, a survivor of the shooting. “I do have to say...a lot of people didn’t agree with much of what Marco Rubio was saying. But at least he had the courage to show up and do his job and answer questions from his constituents,” Lemon said.
Let’s unpack that last sentence: According to Lemon, it was courageous of Rubio “to show up and do his job.” Can you spot the problem? Rubio is not a firefighter or a soldier. He does not risk being killed when he comes to work. There is no courage in what he does every day. If you are a politician, it is not an act of bravery to answer questions from the people you supposedly represent; it is your literal job. But the level of real accountability placed on American politicians is so low that, on the rare occasion they are put in a tough spot, it feels like an historic occasion.
In other countries, politicians are put through the wringer constantly. For instance, British prime ministers have to show up every single week for the express purpose of being heckled and jeered by their opponents. They are subjected to awkward and uncomfortable interviews even on cozy morning talk shows. They accept that brutal interrogations from members of the public are part of the job. Nobody tells them they are brave for doing it.
But when Marco Rubio has to listen to parents of dead children tell him he’s full of shit for five minutes—or when a bunch of kids shame our most powerful journalists by questioning him with more integrity and ferocity than they’ve ever been able to muster—he was “bullied.” And then America’s media elite tell him what fortitude he displayed while his fellow politicians pat him on the back for going into the lion’s den. This is pathetic nonsense, but it’s also indicative about how little we expect of the people who govern us. What Marco Rubio went through last night should not be some rare exception. It should be the rule.