RICHMOND

It's kind of a sad thing to watch as Republicans go through the motions of trying to convince minority groups, especially Hispanics, to come over to their side of the playground. They know they have to do something after the bitter defeat of Mitt Romney in the recent presidential election. They know they have to do something to ingratiate themselves with people they do not know or understand, but this is all new to them and their distaste for the task is so easily discernible that they might end up stuck with the one word that has served them so ignobly for the past several years : NO.

It is a miracle to me that the Republican Party has been able to get so many "undesirables" to vote their way. This, plus awesome gerrymandering, has given them control of the House of Representatives for the past few years, and it is a weapon they have used with the deadly effect of an assault rifle. The present GOP is so different from the one that people, regardless of party, respected for so many years that they can make you catch your breath every time they make a political point.

The difference was very marked in the rebuttal speech by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio to President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech. First, to prove his status as a new Republican (he's only 41 years old) whose eyes have been blinded by tempting thoughts of 2016, he started off by saying he grew up in a working-class neighborhood and that's where he still lives. (He didn't mention that his 4-bedroom house with swimming pool is for sale at an asking price of $475,000.) His mother utilizes Medicare "and anyone who is in favor of leaving Medicare exactly the way it is right now, is in favor of bankrupting it."

Which means that Rubio was so busy prepping for his own speech that he didn't get to listen to the president's speech where he said, "Those of us who care deeply about programs like Medicare must embrace the need for modest reforms."

What Rubio would like is to change Medicare to a voucher system a la Paul Ryan where people would make their own choices, such as whether they can afford to take out their tonsils but not their appendix. Your voucher money can disappear into the haze if your health takes a tour to the east when the west wind is blowing.

The thing about Republicans is they are good at pejorative slogans. No new taxes. Government is too big; death panels (courtesy of Sarah Palin); too many federal regulations; don't cut military spending because it has made us the No. 1 country in the world. They keep pounding these out over and over, no matter what the issue or what is needed. And they have convinced a lot of people who don't think deeply and who couldn't care less about the poor, the sick and the elderly. Everything must pertain to their own biases and needs and to hell with everybody else.

The reason Republicans have been able to make an impression with their theses is because in their ranks are millionaires and billionaires who are willing to spend their gotten gains on political donations, TV and radio ads and print medium. They are willing to do this because their income is continual while their goal is to make more and more and more money in the foreseeable future. Thus, while the middle class is struggling and the poor are suffering, the one percent is netting more than the 99 percent that are so far below them.

So Rubio wants to close down the deficit by cutting spending. And the spending the Republicans are talking about has to do with Medicare, Social Security and all the programs that are concerned with easing the pain or improving the lot of left-behinds.

The one obvious weakness Rubio has is obviously thirst. The major notice his segment drew was his lurch to the side for a glass of bottled water. I do not wish to give free publicity to the bottler of the water, but it has to do with a nation that likes to eat galumpkis.

Rubio's other major accomplishment was that he also delivered his speech in Spanish. Since I am not conversant in that language, for all I know he could have been putting in a good word for Fidel Castro.

Milton Bass is a regular Eagle contributor.