Are Cuban American Voters Really a ‘Special’ Case? (The Nation)
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Their rightward lean of this group often mystifies and frustrates Democrats, but how unique are they really?
By Andrés S. Pertierra
A common question this election cycle, especially from non-Cuban Americans, was “How could Cubans immigrants possibly support Trump?” The question of Republican support among the Cuban diaspora in Florida has bedeviled Democrats for decades, including many in the community itself.
It is easy and often comforting to fall into the trap of marshaling broader historical processes to rationalize disappointments. In this case, it usually starts off by pointing to the Cuban Revolution as an event that primed the diaspora for the red scare tactics that the GOP loves to deploy. Added to it is the problem of Cuban exceptionalism, buoyed but not born of special migratory rules for Cubans, which undermines their sense of solidarity with other Latin American immigrants. Then you might get into discussions of the long shadow of racism in Cuba’s history, with the island’s transformation during the Spanish colonial period into a plantation society giving it more commonality with the antebellum American South than, say, many parts of Central America.
But in telling the story of Cuban voting patterns this way, we often lose sight of the ways that the community’s politics often reflect internal US trends, including old and familiar political strategies. It isn’t that these problems specific to Cuba aren’t real, but that by focusing on them we are buying into a premise that inevitably leads to the assumption that Cubans are “natural Republicans,” about which we can do little. If we stop assuming that Cubans are a “special” case, we may not only start to see them as part of something more familiar; we may also start to see actual solutions.
A good place to start looking for answers is Florida International University’s Cuba Poll, run by sociologists Guillermo Grenier and Qing Lai, which Grenier has been periodically conducting for almost 30 years. The poll takes samples of Cuban immigrants and Cubans born outside of Cuba who live in South Florida, and varies from 800 to 1,000 people. It focuses on a series of questions about US policy toward Cuba and their political affiliations here in the United States. While attempts at explanations of Cuban voting patterns often put US policy toward Cuba at their center, Grenier says the data have never borne this out. “Cubans,” he tells me, “are often treated like perpetual exiles,” but in terms of what is most important to them in US politics, Cuba policy regularly rates last, behind issues like health care and the economy. While the diaspora may be more open to manipulation through Red Scare tactics than other communities, even in this respect Cubans merely reproduce a rhetoric that has become a standard part of GOP campaigns across the country. “It’s not just a Cuban thing. They’re [seen as] weird because they’re in a critical state…. but as far as Republicans go, Cubans aren’t far off from moderate [Republicans].”
First, the Democrats in Florida are a bad joke. For the most you can put many of them in the Republican Party, and they will fit right in.
Next, the do nothing Democrats will have to pander to the will of the people instead of their corporate masters. That is not going to happen.
Right now, the Democrats seem content to campaign on the slogan of, “we are not as bad as the Republicans!” Great slogan…
If you cannot dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit WC Fields
November 26, 2020 at 11:25 PM #381578snotParticipant
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wondering about a class-based analysis, which seems to be the part the media never wonders about. Whatever other issues may be involved, it seems to me that most people end up voting for what they believe most likely to benefit their pocketbooks; so if Cuban populations in FL comprise or are descended from Cuban plutocrats, I’d expect them to lean Republican.
I have no idea if my speculation holds water w.r.t. Cubans, but until I see this aspect addressed, it’s hard to get on board with other explanations.
Destruction is easy; creation is hard, but more interesting.
November 27, 2020 at 12:09 AM #381590soryangParticipant
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Construction contractors, small business people, medical professionals, rentiers with small real estate holdings (mostly slumlords who don’t maintain their properties) hoping to become the next donald trump, etc. No one is too poor or too highly educated to belong to this group. I find FIU to be ideologically attuned to this community. True many of these South Florida communities are tied to the Cuban migration, some are from other Latin American states, with a similar ideological outlook. It actually doesn’t matter what country they or their parents came from; as immigrants or the descendants of immigrants, as small business people they have no use for regulations, taxes, medicare, and the like. I’ve met Palestinian, Pakistani and Korean immigrants in Florida with the exact same perspective. People who aren’t entrepreneurs like them, are bums, pikers looking for a handout, or worse. If they can’t eat, get medical care, or don’t have a place to live it’s because they are lazy and want to be that way. “Why should I pay for it?” They have zero use for government social safety nets. FIU is attuned to these influences and is very ideological. Someone told me Rubio taught at FIU, in the poly sci dept, which initially I just found incredible. To me he is a cynical right wing ideological extremist but the more I learned about the community there the more I realized how it defined the school. These are just my impressions of South Florida.
November 27, 2020 at 4:14 AM #381613HassleCatParticipant
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All of them are fiercely anti-Castro. There is no middle ground when it comes to Castro. It’s a visceral thing. The Cubans who hate Castro prefer Republicans because the GOP imposes sanctions on Cuba. They don’t mind the sanctions because they are not subject to any of them. So, they like to see Cuba suffer, but they don’t suffer. They travel back and forth several times a year. They take American consumer goods to their relatives on the island, and they bring back Cuban cigars and rum. Democrats prefer to ease sanctions and normalize relations, which would actually hurt the anti-Castro Cubans because they wouldn’t be ale to buy cheap cigars and rum without sanctions. If we normalized things, the Cuban economy would be better, but that would actually be a bad thing for the Cuban families of the Miami Cubans. With a free flow of American money, appliances, etc. they are pretty well off and they can hire ordinary Cubans for casual labor. So some Cubans enjoy pretty much the same life they lived under Bautista because of those Republican sanctions.
November 27, 2020 at 5:52 AM #381617jerry611Participant
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Combination of things. As mentioned, a lot of these are exiles or descendants of exiles that fled during or after the revolution. And some of them were the more affluent and higher class. There is a heavy hate for Castro and communist government. There is also general distrust with Democrats that go back to JFK and the Bay of Pigs.
Many tend to lean more conservative on social issues too, more so than other Hispanic populations.
Same exact thing is happening to an increasing number of immigrants from Venezuela. They are fleeing Maduro for the same reason the Cubans were fleeing Castro. And they HATE anything or anyone that is associated with communism or socialism. So when Republicans paint the Democrats as “socialists,” they lock down these voters pretty quickly. In this election, the GOP did a really good job of scaring these voters that the Democrats are a radical socialist group looking to court pack and destroy capitalism. That message resonated extremely well. And the Biden campaign never countered it. And that’s why Biden performed historically bad for a Democrat in Miami-Dade county. He had no chance of winning the state. And this cost the Dems 2 House seats as well.
These voters also respond much better to a personal touch. They like it when a candidate goes to their community and interacts with people and not just do spanish TV ads. I don’t believe Biden ever went down there. He was far too afraid of COVID. The drive-in campaign rallies and basement addresses were a total turn off. Kamala Harris did go down there once, and it didn’t go over well at all. They hate her. Don’t relate to her at all. Obama went down down in late October…but that was too late.
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