Friday, November 9, 2012

Calle Ocho failed to deliver for the GOP

As recently as 2000, the Cuban-American community broke 3:1 for Republican presidential candidates.  Today it’s an even split, as three exit polls from this week’s election show:

  Fox News: Romney 50-Obama 47
  Bendixen & Amandi: Romney 52-Obama 48
  Edison Research: Obama 49-Romney 47

This is a new political reality that takes away Calle Ocho's special attraction to Republicans; it is no longer the center of a large, reliable bloc of single-issue voters in a tight swing state who vote for the most pro-embargo candidate.

This is such a harsh reality that some are pretending it’s not there.  Our friend Mauricio attacks Bendixen, ignoring the fact that his results line up with those of other pollsters.  At Babalu they are accepting the polls at face value, citing their own observations of their changing community and of course insulting those who think and vote differently; see here and here.  Ana Navarro, a sharp Miami-based analyst, tweets that the Miami-Dade math just can’t add up if Cubans were split 50-50. 

Unless there’s a new math.

The Republican Party is embarking on a big after-action report on Tuesday’s election results, including examination of the Romney debacle with Latino voters, the Washington Post reports.  There will be separate focus groups of Cuban American voters, which would be lots of fun to watch.

I wonder what the pro-Obama Cuban Americans will say.

Some may identify with other Latinos, opposing Republican immigration policies and repulsed by the Republican discussion of immigration issues and immigrants.

I doubt they will complain about immigration policies that affect them.  Cubans alone have the closest thing to an open door that exists in our immigration policy.  They get 20,000 immigrant visas a year at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana.  They are admitted to the United States when they come here without a visa, whether arriving on a beach or appearing at the Mexican border.  If they have been living comfortably outside Cuba for years, they are admitted anyway.  And they are given government benefits when they arrive.  Since the Bush Administration, we even admit people who are born outside Cuba to Cuban parents, i.e. people who have no Cuban nationality at all.

Some may speak up for their right to travel to Cuba and to help their relatives, a right that the United States would not dream of restricting for any other immigrant group.  Except that Mitt Romney would have done precisely that.  In Cuba’s new context, that would mean cutting off a line of support that is capitalizing lots of new private businesses on the island. 

I also wonder what lessons the Republicans will draw.  It seems pretty plain that the old Bush/Romney line gets Republicans about half the Cuban-American vote, and the Obama line gets about half for the Democrats.  And by the way, Obama’s half is growing.

In May 2010, now-U.S. Senator Marco Rubio said he opposed President Obama’s Cuba policies because they bring too much hard currency to Cuba.  He gave another reason that has nothing to do with U.S. interests; that a policy of unrestricted family visits “threatens the exile status of the Cuban community.”  “How do you argue that you’re an exile,” he asked, “when exile is supposed to be people that can’t return for political purposes?”

Well, many Cuban Americans call themselves exiles and many consider themselves immigrants.  One difference is that the immigrants seem to mind their own business while the exiles want to regulate everyone’s contacts with the island.  To date, the Republicans, the party of personal freedom, family values, and free enterprise, are siding with the exiles.

Senator Rubio, our friend Mauricio, and others claim that Cubans are refugees, which is nonsense.  In 2011, the United States admitted 2,920 refugees from Cuba and 34 asylees – that is, people who were admitted based on stating a well founded fear of persecution if they were to return to Cuba.  Refugees account for about 10-15 percent of Cuban immigration.  This is not to say that other Cuban immigrants had no problems in Cuba, or that they like the system there.  But they are not refugees.

Going back to the math, and why we may be seeing a new electoral math, here are the numbers of Cubans who obtained legal permanent residency in the past ten years, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

2002                28,182
2003                9,262
2004                20,488
2005                36,261
2006                45,614
2007                29,104
2008                49,500
2009                38,954
2010                33,372
2011                36,261

More on all this from Fabiola Santiago in the Herald; in the Wall Street Journal, “Cuban-Americans Move Left;” and in the Financial Times, “Cuban-Americans Stun Republicans.”


Anonymous said...

Mr. Peters,

The change in political realignment of the Cuban community has been predicted for a long time based on the points of view of the Cuban emigration that arrived in the United States after 1980.

Cuban emmigration to the US has shifted to the left as poorer and blacker portions of the islands population began to migrate in greater numbers.

These groups had received an education under the Castro regime and were influenced by some of the Castro regime's social programs and by the fact that they had left family and friends back in the island that they wanted to aid.

This made them opponents of the previous generation right wing measures that sought to place restrictions on their trips, aid, remmitances and expenditures in the island and more prone to favor the Democratic party's social policies that favored lower income groups.

Also an increasing number of the older generation were dying off and thus the proponents of extreme right wing Republican points of view were becoming less numerous and losing influence.

There was, however, a lag that retarded the newer immigrant's possibility of voting for the Democratic party in greater numbers.

This was due to the fact that, before being able to vote, they not only had to become US citizens, but that they also had to be willing to register, to take an interest in US politics and to turn out on election day.

Unfortunately the new immigrants arrived from the island very uninterested in politics due to a backlash against the intense indoctrination they had suffered in the island from which they needed some time to recover.

Also what little interest they took in politics was also concentrated in the country they left behind with which they were more familiarized.

Moreover they prioritized dedicating their time and efforts to earning a living so that they could acquire some of the material comforts they had been denied in Cuba.

They also wanted to acquire wealth to be able to aid their relatives in the island and to eventually bring them into the US.

All this meant that they had less propensity engage in US politics and to vote than the earlier immigrants.


Anonymous said...

This permitted the earlier group to continue supplying a higher proportion of the Cuban American vote in southern Florida than was warranted by their numbers.

However, the lag appears to have been finally begin to be overcome.

Time has allowed a greater number of these recent immigrants to become naturalized US citizens.

Also, in the recent presidential election, the campaign plank of the most prominent south Florida Republican Cuban American politicians intensified the participation of the recent immigrants in the US election.

The political program of these politicians centered on repealing the Obama administration's measures that allowed the recent immigrants to visit Cuba as often as they wished and in prohibiting them from providing unlimited aid and remmitances for their family members in the island as well as establishing limits to their expenditures when they visited the island.

The Cuban American Republican politicians also favored repealing Obamacare and lowering entitlements.

All this obviously went against the interests of these recent Cuban immigrants and seems to have provided a greater motivation for many more of them to acquire citizenship, to register, to turn out for the election and to vote Democratic.

In this sense the Republican Cuban American's right wing policies were obviously counterproductive to their intended purpose of being able to continue providing the decisive swing vote in Florida during the presidential elections like they did in 2000 and 3004 and to thus deliver 29 crucial electoral votes to the Republican presidential candidate.

The Cuban American vote in Florida is now evenly split between both political parties and in the future the trend will probably be for the proportion of the Democratic vote to continue increasing in the future as the immigration from the island continues and more of the new immigrants become US citizens and politically active.

This obviously means that the Right wing Cuban political machinery will gradually lose their control of the Cuban American vote in southern Florida and that as a result of this they will become less and less influential inside the Republican party.

As a result of this in the future the right wing Cuban Republican politicians will not be re-elected and will be unable to continue blocking or slowing down the trend towards the gradual improvement of relations between the governments of Cuba and the US.

As a result of this, the US government will also be able to someday adopt a foreign policy with relation to Cuba in line with its own national interests to increase trade with the island and increase US employment.

It would also be able to establish policies that would more effectively influence the island's progress towards a successful democratic transition than by continuing the embargo that has been in place for more than 50 years without achieving success.

The continuation of the embargo could then be replaced by the new policy that the Obama administration has announced.

This consists of promoting the gradual lifting the embargo through negotiations in which US sanctions would be lifted step by step in exchange for concrete Cuban government measures that would favor the democratic transition.

The results of the Cuban American vote in this presidential election are another step in the direction of promoting a peaceful Cuban democratic transition.


Anonymous said...

We talk about the hard liners here but Cuba always seems to have them when the United States begins to wake up to one of its odd foreign policies. Just consider Mariel with Carter, Brothers to the Rescue with Clinton and Alan Gross with Obama. It seems that when normalization gets closer, Cuba creates an incident to block progress. So why don't the increasingly bipartisan people in Congress push the State Department to conduct high level talks similar to how Nixon moved on China?

Anonymous said...

I do not see any coherence between the first and second parts of the previous comment.

The first part however is right on the money. Fidel Castro could not take yes for an answer.

He needed to continue the conflict with the US government. A foreign potential aggressor was permanently needed so that he could justify the continuation of his reppressive measures.

With a foreign enemy he could continue to enjoy the nationalistic support of the island's population and extend his rule.

I also made it possible to hide his economic inneficiency and the result of his harebrained policies by blaming the US embargo for all the shortages and difficulties in people's lives.

A convenient enemy is the greatest asset that a skilled demagogue can have.

But this scenario eventually changes when the regime has lost considerable popular support and is on the verge of facing the outbreak of widespread public protests.

This is the situation today. The Cuban powerholders can not fool around any more,

They actually needs to reach agreements with the US to be able to carry out economic reforms that would allow them to be able to retard the outbreak of such protests and continue in power.

In this stage the US can use its leverage to promote the necessary reforms by agreeing to lift the embargo gradually on a step by step basis in exchange for the implementation of the necessary reforms.

They must simply be told. This is what we have to offer, you must accept the package without modifications of any sort or the embargo will continue as at present.

IMHO a program of this type could be drawn up that would be based on the general principle of not granting the Cuban government inconditional benefits by lifting embargo measures without obtaining in return adequate reforms that would facilitate a democratic transition and a return to a market economy.

Furthermore, there is no need to negotiate with the Cuban government since this would only result in the continuation of the same song and dance routine that has been a waste of time for the last 54 years.

They must simply be told. This is what we have to offer. If you want the embargo to finish you must accept the package without modifications of any sort and comply with its provisions.

Until you do so the embargo will continue as at present.

If you accept it and fail to comply with its provisions the original embargo restrictions will be reimposed.

In my opinion the right approach is for Congress to pass a law that will be signed by teh President specifying a long run program for the lifting of the embargo to chich the Cuban government must adhere before any further changes in the embargo are allowed.

Such a program should specify the different stages in which the lifting of the embargo would be carried out and within each stage what:
1- Reforms the Cuban government must carry out.
2- Measures for the lifting of the embargo the US would carry out after the previous reforms are implemented.
3- Is the maximum time limit for the stage's program to be carried out.
4- The penalties for not carrying out the reforms required in the time limits specified in each stage.

Such penalties could vary and be set so that they increased with lateness.

Initial penalties for exceeding the specified time limits for each stage could be the reimposition of recently lifted embargo measures.

As lateness increases new penalties could be reimposed so that the reimposition of embargo measures would gradually stretch further back until finally the program could even return to the initial embargo restrictions.

If we are ever going to get results, a serious program with viable goals must be especified to which the Cuban government must agree and for which it must be thereafter held strictly accountable.