The man seated next to me on my flight from Washington, D.C. to Columbia, South Carolina was quiet and unassuming. He was polite to the stewardess. I didn’t give him a second thought. But during Saturday’s Kemp Forum on Expanding Opportunity I recognized him as one of the half dozen protestors who interrupted Marco Rubio’s appearance by yelling and screaming that he was “undocumented and unafraid” — a considerable change in demeanor from our Friday morning flight.
The protestors identified as members of the pro-illegal immigration group United We Dream. The group has led similar protests against other Republican candidates including Donald Trump, and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) for their opposition to illegal immigration. While the group claims to be nonpartisan on its website, they have yet to stage any protests against Democratic candidates or elected officials. These are not spontaneous, “grassroots” organizers. They are well-funded “astroturf” protestors who are hired and paid to drive media coverage such as this.
What to conclude from this information? For one, these protestors — at least the one who sat next to me — are not local citizens of South Carolina. They were flown in from Washington, D.C. Given that they flew in a full day before, I’d also suspect travel costs were paid for by United We Dream and thus their donors, not by the individuals themselves.
So rather than a group of locals who disagree with Rubio’s policies, these protestors seem to be employees of a national liberal organization seeking to undermine a Republican candidate.
Also of note: this is the first time the group has publicly protested Rubio, showing just how threatened the Left — which bases its campaigns around identity politics — is made to feel by a Hispanic Republican who could win the party’s nomination.
The irony is that while United We Dream wants to undermine Rubio’s standing with Hispanics, they’re only bolstering his credentials among a Republican primary electorate that wants tough action on illegal immigration. Rubio’s biggest weakness with some conservatives has been his past positions on immigration, but these protestors help solidify his argument that he will be tough on illegal immigration, assuaging conservative concerns.
Gillum Ferguson is the Deputy Editor at Opportunity Lives. You can follow him on Twitter @GillumFerguson.