Two-thirds of Florida constituencies, with a record turnout, voted for Donald Trump, as did a good portion of US citizens of Latin American origin. In the United States, Mexicans are by far the highest percentage of Hispanic voters at almost 60 percent, 14 percent are from Puerto Rico, and third is Cubans at five percent. So why the overvaluation of this last group?
Nobody doubts that Donald Trump’s disinformation campaign has worked with our country’s immigrant community, but when it comes to the final numbers on the electorate, what is known as the “Cuban vote” should be taken with particular caution. Here are a few brief notes on the subject.
1. There are no final numbers for the “Cuban vote” or for that of any other community. The censuses in the country are in progress. Loud American Community Survey 2014-2018 the number of Cubans registered in Florida in 2016 was 697,785. Of these, 367,233 supported the Republican Party, 180,227 for the Democratic Party and 150,325 for another political grouping. Four years ago, 564,938 people cast their votes. Between 52 and 54 percent voted for Trump and between 41 and 47 percent for Hillary Clinton. Both NBC News and Fox News estimated the participation rate for Cubans in these elections at 58 percent, roughly the same as in 2016.
2. As in the previous election, the majority of the “Cuban vote” in Miami-Dade came from the Republican candidate. However, this did not prevent the election of a Democratic mayor – the first woman to take office in the district – although the other candidate, Steve Bovo, was a Cuban and Republican who also distinguished himself, the son of a member of the failed brigade 2506 that invaded Cuba in 1961.
3. The New York Times acknowledges that Florida lived in a climate of unprecedented misinformation, particularly in Spanish-language media and local social networks. The McCarthyist hysteria reached such a level of alienation that Joseph Biden was accused of being a communist, a socialist, and even practicing witchcraft, and yet the Democratic Party won the Miami Dade district by more than seven points over its adversary.
4. The “Cuban vote” is by no means monolithic. A million were born on the island, and at least another million are descended from Cubans who have lived in Florida all their lives. They all identify as such in the census. In these two groups there are US citizens and others who are not, some only speak English and others only Spanish, registered or not, are Republicans, Democrats or Independents, have families directly in Cuba or not.
5. Michel Bustamante, an academic from Florida International University, says the Cuban community is much more complicated than it was described in the campaign. He “speaks” of a “cognitive dissonance” remarkable in the Cuban communities of Hialeah and Miami. Many send remittances to their families or travel to the island regularly, but at the same time express their support for Trump’s sanctions.
6. Relationship with Cuba is not the main theme that defines the voting behavior of a US-based Cuban, nor was it one of the main motivations for voting in the election. According to data from the survey Latino Decisions Florida Hispanics’ top concerns are the pandemic (52 percent), jobs and the economy (44), and the cost of medical care for the people of Florida (28). Other analysts have found that even those most receptive to the government’s anti-Cuban rhetoric, fear of Covid-19 outweighed hatred of the Havana government.
7. There is no single “Cuban vote” nor can a similar statement be made in relation to any of the immigrant communities in the United States, be they larger or smaller than the Cuban one. The origin of the term and its persistence has to do with the state policy applied against Cuba for 60 years, which is completely different from any other policy articulated against the rest of the nations of the world. Cuban emigration to the US is a by-product of this policy. Not for nothing said Bustamante in a recent tweet: “The White House has forged an alliance of convenience with the local republican machinery that once fought Trump during the 2016 primaries but has since helped reduce the flames of anti-socialist attacks to despicable and unprecedented levels to stir up. “
8. There is no “Mexican vote”, although geographically it is focused on areas that will one day [aufgrund des so genannten mexikanisch-amerikanischen Krieges] have changed their country of origin. There is neither a “Soviet vote” nor a “Chinese vote”, although the Cold War has created enormous hostility towards the former USSR and China, which has led to the respective migration flows from these nations.
9. The “Cuban vote” is political. As in any major social group, there was one sector among Cuban Americans devoted to local politics and the rest to survival. Since the 1980 elections, a relationship of expediency has developed between the Republican Party and a Cuban-American elite who, in exchange for a share of the vote, negotiated space and access within the US system of government. Both Republicans and Democrats court the Cuban community, but only in Florida. A not inconsiderable group of Cubans live in the New Jersey-NY area, and yet such a “Cuban vote” is not always spoken of there.
10. In many US states, voting results are decided with a marginal number of votes. Any group with a similar identity that goes to the polls for one candidate or the other can make all the difference, as we can see in the Georgia or Pennsylvania dispute when deciding on the next president of that country. The Cubans have repeatedly presented themselves as a bloc in order to continue to benefit from federal funds, such as the Puerto Ricans or the Haitians who live in Florida.
According to today’s assessment of many analysts, instead of reducing the complexity of this scenario to a cliché, one should weigh the extent to which one or the other election campaign team has understood the changes that have taken place among Cuban Americans and to what extent both Republicans and Democrats have understood set the real opportunity to gain followers in this community.
The historical truth is that since 1980 the Republicans have invaded, conquered, and established themselves in the Cuban-American media, while the Democrats have only made stealthy attempts in an area they consider alien and forego have to show a constant presence.
Part of the weakness of the Democrats is that their key leaders share the state’s policy of confrontation with Cuba, be it through pressure or through “democratizing” rapprochement. The local Democrats in South Florida repeat practically the same messages of hostility towards Cuba as their Republican counterparts, act just as harshly as they do, and ultimately distance themselves through ignorance and alienation from those new generations of Cubans who are the vast majority and who are lacking in resources of the programs associated with “regime change” aspire yet still need them to be successful.
As the election now ended, the Democrats saw their initial advantage over the Republicans in Florida gradually waning. One of the first statements was the alleged “Cuban vote,” when in reality the votes Biden lacked came from a lack of support from other groups and minorities.
Democrats and Republicans may choose to maintain the fiction of the “Cuban vote” or not, they may or may not continue to fund the federal programs with which they court it, but what is certain is that there is always a contradicting relationship between the foreign policy interests of the US as a state and the election spectacles at one point in the geography of this country.
By concentrating on this tiny vote, both parties are ignoring the position of large parts of the US electorate in national terms, who are in favor of the most normal possible relationship with Cuba and who have specific interests in business, science, culture academic relationships, health and other fields.
Behind the immobility of Washington with its unilateral sanctions against Cuba that have lasted more than 60 years, behind the power that has been given to the machinery of hatred in Florida, calculus and despotism, the old anti-communist rhetoric and the usual failure mix.
We shall see what the voting proportions look like when the final numbers are known; the journalist John Kruzel of the Washington newspaper The Hill has, by the way denouncedthat a significant number of votes have been lost in the south of the state.
Before we cluck so much about the “Cuban vote”, let’s wait and see the end of this stormy election recount that has turned the US into a banana republic and Donald Trump into the most pathetic autocrat in this country’s history.
Rosa Miriam Elizalde from Cuba is a journalist and author, Vice President of the Cuban Journalists Association (Upec) and the Latin American Journalists Association (Felap)