THE BLOG
29/02/2016 06:13 GMT | Updated 01/03/2017 05:12 GMT

If I Had a Vote in the US Race I'd Vote for Marco Rubio, and for Hope Over Anger

America's politics today is depressing - and scary. I say that as a true friend of the United States, someone who believes passionately in the 'special relationship' between our two countries, has lived in Washington, DC, travels across the Atlantic regularly, has many American friends, and as an admirer of the world's superpower. I want the United States to remain a positive influence in the world. In the balance between world powers, the world is better off with a strong United States that can be a force for good. But we are seriously in danger of losing this.

The line-up of presidential contenders is woeful. I cannot recall a presidential race as worrying as this one.

On the Democrat side, Hillary Clinton at least has experience and would be solid. I don't like her, I would prefer not to have another Clinton in the White House. She carries more baggage than Air Force One. But if we must have a Democrat, she would be a safe choice.

Bernie Sanders is interesting, but for me as a Conservative, he is unelectable. As with Jeremy Corbyn, I can see the appeal - something different, someone who speaks to the needs of ordinary people, someone who breaks the mould of polish and spin that dominates Washington. But, in American politics, he is too far to the left to make him anything other than a risky choice.

On the Republican side, we seem to be watching a horror movie in slow motion. The perpetual rise of Donald Trump is terrifying. As Robert Kagan has written, he is a Frankenstein monster ready to destroy the Republican Party. As Michael Gerson argues, his nationalism is "corrosive and dangerous".

One of the worst mornings I have had in recent months was waking up at 7am, turning on the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme, half-awake, to be confronted with a seriously unhinged Sarah Palin screeching manically at me through the airwaves, trumpeting Trump. That was reason enough to be opposed to a Trump candidacy, never mind all the obscene, obnoxious and outrageous things he himself has said.

It is, as the Washington Post and the Economist have put it, time to unite against Trump. But Ted Cruz is no better. His far right intolerant, hate-filled brand of conservatism is as much an anathema to me as Bernie Sanders' and Jeremy Corbyn's naïve socialism.

So who would I vote for, if I were an American citizen?

For many months, there has only been one candidate that remotely appeals to me. That is Marco Rubio. Why?

Firstly, he speaks about conservatism in a sensible, rational, appealing and engaging way - a manner that Americans would call 'winsome'. He speaks of hope rather than anger. He speaks of a conservatism that isn't filled with hatred, or tied to protecting the rich, but is about empowering the ordinary person to fulfil their potential, and liberating what he calls "the little guy" to be whom he is meant to be. He has echoes of Ronald Reagan about him, a manner and a philosophy that makes conservatism what it should be: an appealing set of ideas and ideals that are clearly positioned on the side of freedom and human dignity. As the son of Cuban refugees, he is well-positioned to talk about diversity, immigration and international human rights, and he does so in a compelling way.

On that last point, and most importantly for me, Marco Rubio is the only candidate of either side who consistently and persistently has championed human rights in foreign policy. I have had the privilege of working with him and his staff on Burma, North Korea and Indonesia, where he has been a faithful friend to dissidents, religious minorities and democracy campaigners. If you want to know more about his values, I recommend watching this speech to the Senate on Cuba and Venezuela, which is one of his best, most electrifying and compelling addresses, as well as this speech on human rights around the world and in particular Tibet, and this speech on foreign policy in general.

I don't agree with Marco Rubio on everything. In fact, although the British Conservative Party and the US Republicans are supposedly sister parties, we have many differences. I completely oppose the death penalty. I cannot fathom the lunacy of America's gun laws and the frothy-mouthed opposition to any concept of gun control. While I share some of the sentiments in regard to defending Israel as the only stable democracy in the Middle East, I wince and recoil when I hear uncritical, unthinking, blanket support for Israel and an unwillingness to speak up for the Palestinians suffering gross injustice.

Nevertheless, Marco Rubio - for me - is the only contender worth considering. While Trump and Sanders make for an exciting roller-coaster of a race, for the sake of America - and the world - I hope it will be a Rubio-Clinton battle in the end. And if I had a vote, it would go to Rubio, for hope over anger.