Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The hardliners' last hurrah

My beloved and estranged Republican Party has a problem with the Latino vote that is clear in the results of yesterday’s election.  The Latino share of the electorate is growing, the white vote is shrinking proportionately, and the GOP is relying on that shrinking white vote while its anti-immigrant message and policies alienate Latinos and many others.

Cuban Americans have long been the only reliably Republican segment of the Latino electorate.  When you add the fact that the hard-line Cuban vote is located mainly in the important state of Florida, and the fact that it generates considerable campaign donations for the Republican Party, it has earned a favored position in Republican politics.

But this is changing.  Look at Miami-Dade County, where the Cuban vote is concentrated, with a population that is 65 percent Latino: Al Gore won 53% of the Miami-Dade vote in 2000, John Kerry won 53% in 2004, President Obama won 58% in 2008 and 62% yesterday.

In yesterday’s Florida exit polls, the Cuban vote split evenly: Obama 49-Romney 47 (NBC News) and Romney 50-Obama 47 (Fox News).  The rest of Florida’s Latino vote went for Obama, 68-32.

So there are problems for Republicans.

First, the old reliable hard-line Cuban Americans are no longer capable of delivering a majority of their own community’s votes for the GOP.  The community is changing.  Half of Cuban Americans – Obama’s Cuban Americans – are either not single issue “anti-Castro” voters, or they support the President’s policies that give them the freedom to decide how often they can visit their families in Cuba and how much money they can send to support them.  Who would have imagined that President Obama could liberalize Cuba policies and increase his Miami-Dade margin by four points?  The Cuba policy that Governor Romney proposed – reverting to Bush policies that limit visits to once every three years and remittances to $100 per month – is incapable of making this situation better for the GOP, and can only make it worse over time.  Each year for the past four years, an average of 39,521 Cubans have become legal permanent residents of the United States.  These are not people who are 80 years old, who left Cuba in 1960, and have no connection or affection for those they left behind.

Second, the Republican hard-line approach on Cuba is irrelevant to the real Republican problem, which is to address Latinos not of Cuban descent.  These are people who live under the normal set of immigration rules, not the ones that apply to Cubans whose illegal immigrants are welcomed and given government benefits and a quick path to a green card as soon as they arrive.  In fact, when Republicans emphasize their affinity with Cuban immigrants, they underscore their distance from the life that all other Latino immigrants live every day.  This is why Senator Rubio is so overrated as a Republican emissary to Latinos nationwide – he supports the open-door policy with free government benefits for his own, and opposes it for everyone else.

With all respect to Governor Jeb Bush, the Republican problem with Latinos is not a problem of “tone,” it is one of policies that are harsh and convey disrespect, to put it mildly.

Republicans need to have a debate about immigration, and if they start one – or even if they do not – the hard-line segment of the Cuban American community will find that it no longer holds a favored position.  Calle Ocho is losing its ability to deliver votes.  It is less powerful in Miami-Dade and less important in Florida.  And in the issue that matters for Republicans, connecting to Latinos nationally, it has no role to play at all.


Antonio said...

Good analysis, Peter. There is also a change in the way Cubans who left the island recently perceive themselves relative to other Latinos. I have heard anti- Castro Cubans say "I am not Latino, I am Cubano."

I have a Cuban friend who left the island as an adult in the 1990s, and he sees himself as Latino as the next guy from Mexico.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Peters,
You are right in pointing out the fact that the political future of the Republican party depends on securing an adequate share of the Latino vote that is the fastest growing segment of the US electorate and that this requires a change in the Republican attitude towards immigration.
But is this feasible or are you asking for a political oxymoron or indulging in wishful thinking?
The United States obviously needs to find a way to efficiently regulate its immigration problems.
With a standard of living that is much higher than its southern neighbors it is a magnet that attracts the inhabitants of near by countries.
If unrestricted immigration were to be allowed there would be massive population flows into the US that would continue till the US standard of living would equalize with those of the neighboring countries.
So a system of immigration quotas and restrictions have been set up to avoid this and protect the US standard of living.
The problem is that this system is inefficient and incapable of allowing the US government to control the inflow of immigrants from its southern neighbors and must be reformed.
A way must be found to:
1. Stop illegal immigrants from working inside the US.
2. Make the US maritime and terrestrial borders less porous.
3. Regulate the problem of illegal immigrants already residing inside the US.
4. Simultaneously efficiently regulate immigration while at the same time facilitating an adequate supply of temporary low paid workers that the US economy requires.
Both the Democratic and Republican parties are interested in finding an adequate solution to immigration reform because it is essential to long run US national interests.
But there are significant differences between them as to how to go about implementing the reform.


Anonymous said...

Although not entirely, these differences center fundamentally, not in the measures necessary to restrict the illegal immigrants access to work or to stop them from entering US territory but rather on:
1. What proportion of the illegal immigrants are to be allowed to stay within US territory, become legal residents and eventual US citizens.
2. The severity with which the deportation of illegal immigrants will be undertaken.

Since all recent immigrants have a lower standard of living and fundamentally belong to the working or lower working class they naturally favor the Democratic party and allowing a larger number of them to eventually become US citizens and vote would threaten the political interests of the Republican party.
For the same reason the Republican party sees the presence of a large number of illegal immigrants within US territory as a potential threat to its interests and favors a more muscular approach to illegal immigrant detection and deportation.
This approach makes the US citizens of Latino origin feel threatened and defensive and makes them hostile to the Republican party.
So there is a fundamental conflict of interests between the Latino US citizens and the Republican party which is not going to go away.
Asking the Republican party to change its hostile attitude towards an increased Latino US electorate which they feel goes against their political interests is oxymoronic wishful thinking.
Furthermore, if immigration reform is attempted these Republican contradictions with the increased Latino presence in US society are going to become more evident and the problem is going to be aggravated instead of attenuating.
In short, It just ain’t going to happen Mr. Peters.
All of which makes me believe that in the future we are reversing the trend, the political pendulum is heading in the other direction, and we face a period of increasing Democratic party hegemony in US politics.


Anonymous said...

on the mark on much of those comments. particularly truthful is the marco rubio insight. i am sick and tired of the experts touting rubio as the next big republican thing, either a vp or even presidential nominee in 2016. he has absolutely little cred in the latino community for the reasons you stated. and he doesn't have much cred in the cubano community because of his twisting of his family's history. picking him to connect with the latino vote would be as effective as picking sarah palin was for the women's vote. but that's typical republican thinking. regarding the changing dynamics in the cuban american voting community, im surprised you didn't at least in passing mention joe garcia's victory over riviera. certainly had something to do with the corruption charges, but i think it also is a good indication of where the cuban american voting will go in the future, and if more moderates like garcia are elected, then maybe finally the siege against cuba will end. it is such good news to see the republican control of the cuban american vote is ending -- due mostly to the demographics. the ending of the first generation of exiles in miami and the first generation of revolutionaries in havana will signal real change, and we took one step closer to that this week

Anonymous said...

I agree with the previous analyst that both the changing demographics in Miami and the end of the fistr generation of revolutionarie in Havana bring us one step closer to a democratic transition in Cuba because it makes it easier for internal protests to grow in Cuba and to accelerate reforms and for the US government to follow a more intelligent policy towards the island based on the conditional lifting of the embargo in exchange for democratic reforms.

However, I believe that the existing privileged elite in Havana will attempt to pass the torch to its next generation and to preserve the totalitarian system and its privileges as long as possible.

I believe that the Cuban ruling class will try by hookand crook to hang on to power for as long as its Mexican predecessors which lasted from 1910 to 2000.

The developments my fellow analyst mentions are, talking in mathematical terms, just a (preliminary) necessary condition but not the (final) sufficient one.

The sufficient one is providing the Cuban people with free access to information so that they become aware that their totalitarian system is the cause of their plight and make determined efforts to change it.

And in providing them free access to information, the United States has an important role to play by:

1- Providing Cuban Americans all possible opportunities to travel to the island and to aid their relatives there so that the population of the island becomes more aware of the difference between life in their island and abroad.
2- Creating mesh networks on the island that will provide a part of its population with direct, unsupervised and uncensored satelite access to the internet.
3- Helping to create internal channels of distribution that will use lower level technology such as cds, dvds and flash drives to help the informed minority to distribute the information it has obtained throughout the island.

The US government must also make optimal use of its leverage by not to lifting the embargo unconditionally without requesting some democratic reforms in return for each concession it makes.

Such policies will foster Cuban democratic reforms without requiring excessive US intervention in the island's politics and minimizing the necessity for an eventual US military intervention in its affairs.

They will also avoid a significant backlash against the US Cuba policy among the Latino population in the US and throughout Latin America and the underdeveloped world.

In short the US policy has to play an active role in to expedite the thriumph of democracy in Cuba but US policy must be implemented in an intelligent and moderate way in order to accomplish its goals without an excessive backlash.


Anonymous said...

no cantaclaro, the single most effective step to change the regime in havana has been, is and always will be to let US citizens travel there freely:
the totalitarian state cannot survive 5 mio Yankees p.a. -
which is why the regime is using every opportunity, starting with the downing of the avionetas in 94 and now with the incarceration of Gross, to give the US reasons NOT to change its current policy of denial of elementary freedom to travel to Americans.
this argument is not even considering the highly contradictory US policy of allowing their citizens to travel to and trade with EVERY other undemocratic country on the planet, incl. North Korea, Myanmar, Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Anonymous said...

the downing of the planes was complete and total provocation on the american side, they could have stopped the bttr illegal overflights at any time, but refused to despite repeated warnings from the cuban govt. the jailing of gross was again completely the fault of us policy usaid knew what was going to happen to gross. the cuban government reacted as any other govt would. it is just one of the ridiculous myths that the cuban side does not want normal relations, and tries to sabotage any american overture. the americans have never had to had any reasons to put siege on cuba in fact the reasons keep changing based on us needs, not cuban. and the proof that the us does not want to end siege, simply look at the conditions they have imposed in the past, met by the cubans, then changed. they constantly change the goalposts. us policy has never been to engage cuba, only to destroy the revolution. so if the theory is that free travel by us citizens would destroy the revolution, why hasn't it been done?

Anonymous said...

In international politics every move you make has its costs and benefits and they must be weighed before deciding what to do,

I am in favor of allowing Cuban Americans free access and expenditures in the island but not allowing the rest of the American citizens and residents to do so because I believe in the first case the benefits outweigh the costs and in the second case the reverse is true.

On what do I base my apparently contradictory position?

First of all Cuban Americans speak the language and have friends and family among the population of the island. This allows them to speak to members of their families and friends in a more open way with less fear of being denounced to the security police.

They are also able to clearly communicate to them the differences existing between life in Cuba and in other countries.

They are also living proof of these differences through the expenditures they make while in the island and the standard of living they exhibit.

All of which has a highly subversive long run effect on people who knew them but remained in the island when they left.

Finally a great part of the Cuban American dollar expenditures in the island and remmitances sent from abroad is dedicated to aiding their families and friends.

True all the money they send as remmitances and spend in the island in the final analysis is spent in the dollar stores and winds up in the government's hands and this allows the totalitarian government to hang on to power.

However I believe that the subversive effects of their presence and the benefits they provide to the survival of the island's population outweigh these disadvantages.

Normal Americans however, do not speak the language, are less able to communicate with the local population and the Cuban population does not identify itself with them and does not view them as role models.

Thus their presence does not have the same long run subversive effect as the Cuban American.

Nor are the expenditures they make in the island directed towards providing aid for the survival of the local population.

A much larger proportion of these expenditures goes into the government coffers without passing through the population's hands and are thus available to squander by the ruling elite.

Since their presence does not have the same long run subversive effect and since it benefits the population less and the survival of the totalitarian government more, I believe that the costs of American tourism to the island outweigh its benefits and thus do not favor it.


Anonymous said...

I am not in favor of keeping the embargo in place until the Cuban government is overthrown nor of lifting it unconditionally.

I believe in the middle of the road policy of ending it gradually step by step in exchange for Cuban government reforms that favor a demcoratic transition and a return to a market economy.

Furthermore, I believe that tourism of the non cuban segment of the American public should be used as the principal US carrot to encourage the Cuban government to carry out the needed reforms.

I am in favor of the US government setting up yearly quotas for American tourists that would be allowed to visit the island.

I also believe that these quotas should be varied in accordance with the results of the program of political and economic reforms that will be carried out in the future by the Cuban government.

If there is a steady pace of reform measures that favor a democratic transition and free market reforms these quotas should be raised as a reward for such performance.

If the reforms are blocked or if they are pushed back, the quotas should be lowered.

IMHO it would be extremely candid to give away the principal means of leverage that the US has to influence the Cuban democratic transition without getting any reforms back in return.

I believe that a policy of conditionally lifting the embargo in exchange for reforms will be a more efficient way to return Cuba to democracy and an productive economy than one based on unconditional lifting of the embargo without requiring reforms in return.

I also believe that people who favor and unconditional lifting of the embargo and allowing all american tourist who wish to do so to travel to Cuba, do not have as a their principal objective the long run interests of the Cuban people.

What they are after is to increase the dollar revenue fo the island believing that this will result in increased purchases of American agricultural products, medicines and industrial goods and in profitable opportunities for investment in the Cuban tourist industry.

However, they do not seem to be aware that a good chunk of these additional dollar incomes will simply be transferred to secret bank accounts abroad by the priviledged elite and will not be used to increase the standard of living of the Cuban population nor to buy American goods.

They also overestimate their possibilities for profitable investmentes in the Cuban tourist sector.

It will be difficult for Americans to be allowed to carry out unrestricted investment in the principal foreign exchange earning sector of the Cuban economy.

If they are allowed at all, it will be as junior partners of the Cuban elite that will reserve its more profitable portions for itself.

For all these reasons I favor the conditional lifting of the embargo instead of doing so unconditionally.

Also using American tourism intelligently as an the main incentive for such reforms.