By: Thomas Gueli
In typical AU-fashion, my neighbor and I had been discussing politics last Saturday. In the course of the discussion, my neighbor admitted that she could not possibly understand how Pres. Trump won the state of Florida in the 2016 election despite the state’s large Hispanic-American population. Her underlying assumption was only partially correct; while Hispanic-Americans tend to vote for Democrats, Cuban-Americans, specifically, are solidly Republican voters. Progressive readers might be curious as to why. While American progressives claim to sympathize with the struggles of those who have suffered and been oppressed, they don’t understand how the big government and socialistic policies of the democratic party have ruined the lives and livelihoods of the Cuban people. Progressives don’t understand the fear of Cuban-Americans when they hear Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) talk about “democratic socialism”. Progressives don’t feel the anger that Cuban-Americans feel when they hear that the President of the United States is trying to make a deal with the Cuban government that seldom demands an improvement in the Cuban human rights situation.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) accurately identified some of the major problems with the Cuban government when making his own suggestions regarding Pres. Obama’s 2015 change in US policy regarding Cuba. He said, “Here’s a good deal. Cuba has free elections, Cuba stops putting people in jail for speaking out, Cuba has freedom of the press, Cuba kicks out the Russians from Lourdes and kicks out this Chinese listening station, Cuba stops helping North Korea evade U.N. sanctions. Cuba takes all those fugitives of American justice, including the cop killer from New Jersey, and send her back to the United States, and to jail where she belongs.”
These problems with Cuba began with the ascent to power of the Castro brothers in the 1950s. Popular support ushered them into power due to their promises of a strong central government and socialist economic policies. Nonetheless, Fidel Castro quickly evaporated the rights of Cuban citizens. He took away their economic freedoms, their freedom of expression, and their right to armed self-defense. He jailed people as he wished without fair trials, and he did almost nothing to help the impoverished in his small Island nation.
Life in Cuba is not any better now. For example, a relative of my great aunt is a pediatric surgeon in Cuba. He is considered middle class there, but he lives in a hut where the electricity is only allowed to be on every other day. His brother has to send him $400 US every two months in order for him to eat. His relatives sent a refrigerator to him, but this pediatric surgeon cannot store much in it. The food would perish with the power going out every other day.
Nonetheless, Bernie Sanders offered Fidel Castro praise in 1985 and defended these prior statements during the 2016 election. Sanders said in 1985, “All the Cuban people were going to rise up in rebellion against Fidel Castro. They forgot that he educated their kids, gave them health care, and totally transformed the society.”
With all this considered, it is easy to understand Cubans’ hatred for big government and socialist policies. My aunt and her family celebrated when Sen. Sanders conceded the Democratic primary. They feared that the President of the United States could be a man who had at one point praised Castro and refused to rescind that praise. They feared that the economic hardships and lack of political freedoms that hurt their family and them before escaping many years ago could become a reality here.
Additionally, Cuban-Americans who vote Republican perceive a leniency of Democrats towards the Cuban government. Many Cuban-Americans blame J.F.K. for not ending the Castro regime back in the 1960s (Remember the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion). Many Cuban-Americans are also very upset at Pres. Obama for his deal with the Cuban government. They believe he legitimized a government which hurt so many of their family members and did little to nothing to improve the quality of life in their home. Pres. Obama made the deal thinking Cuban-Americans would relish the opportunity to go back home and that this deal would change the way Castro conducted his government. Pres. Obama could not be more out of touch! Cuban-Americans did not share this optimism about Castro. They wanted to see Castro punished and many still want regime change. More so than the opportunity to travel freely back home, they want to see their families given fundamental human rights and better economic opportunities. They don’t want to see the Cuban government grow by providing the regime with increased opportunities to generate revenue and horde it for themselves, which we know Pres. Obama’s change in US policy towards Cuba does.
Hopefully, with all this in mind, it seems obvious how Donald Trump won the Cuban-American vote in Florida. Perhaps they won him the state, and perhaps it was Florida that gave him the Presidency. Remember this when Democrats tell you that Hispanics hate Pres. Trump and think that he’s a racist; he wouldn’t have become the President without them.
Photo credits: Business Insider