Monday, January 7, 2008

Cuban-American Voters: Between a Rock and a Hard Place


Xenophobia is the opium of the Republican Party, whose big tent shelters not only the traditional country club types but also the old Wallace Democrats who were "reconstructed" in the 1980s. Nativism affords them all a cover for their racism. You see, it's not the swarthy color that they find objectionable, not the inherent inferiority which they assume in foreigners from south of the border, but, rather, their "illegality," or, at worst, their "alienness" (i.e. presumed unassimilability) which offends them. They are not really "racists," they will tell you, because they are all into the Mexican hat dance, tequila and mariachis if in situ. It is only when they leave their situ that Republican sensibilities are aroused by their presence among them on U.S. soil (at least since 1848). That their ancestors lived in the Southwest for 30,000 years before the first blue eyes laid eyes upon that land is immaterial. There is no "Law of Return" for Mexicans, nor casino monopolies to compensate them for the biggest land-grab in history. The descendents of the victors in the war that Abraham Lincoln called "the most unjust in history" actually have the presumption to look on Mexican migrants as interlopers, and though they use them as little better than slaves, they nonetheless feel themselves ill-used by them. Perhaps the Mexicans consume too much water or breath too much air. Since the "Contract on America" became law in 1996 both illegal and legal immigrants have been excluded from the social contract, though still expected to pay the taxes that underwrite social security and unemployment benefits for native workers in this country. Because they are barred from claiming benefits their contributions are really contributions, an outright gift from the neediest in this country to the most affluent. This $60 billion slush fund is used to pay welfare to wealthy seniors and the unemployed by choice, and reduces, correspondingly, the tax burden on all Americans. Everybody eats in this country from the sweat of the Mexicans' brow. Americans put cheap produce on their tables thanks to them; they can afford macmansions because of them; everything is cheaper and more accessible to everybody else because of their undercompensated labor. Without them the quality of life for most Americans would plummet catastrophically. At least the Southern slaveholders knew what they owed their slaves and even fought a civil war where they risked everything rather than lose the source of their prosperity and happiness. The Republicans refuse even to acknowledge that they benefit by America's modern version of chattel slavery. Their racism is ingrained, unreasoning, and, ultimately, detrimental to themselves, because it would "emancipate" them from an important source of their prosperity and well-being. It wouldn't be like lopping off one's own head, but certainly it would amount to losing a foot and limping forever.

I should like to believe that the Republican presidential candidates know the folly of nativism and that their xenophobic rhetoric is merely a sop to their constituents. That, of course, would make them hypocrites, rabblerousers and hatemongers; but at least not insane. The really insane ones, the true believers, like Gingrich and Tancredo, have already dropped out. The others are opportunists willing to jump on any juggernaut that will take them to the White House. Some may actually think that they will be be able to decamp once they reach their destination. I do not think so. They may not realize it but they have taken a blood oath, and if they don't abide by it their careers will be ended. Xenophobia is the oldest American political tradition, but not since the 1920s has it monopolized the political discourse as it is doing now. These "read my lips" promises about illegal immigration will be redeemed whatever the cost to this country and the cost will be very great indeed.

Under U.S. law there is no such thing as an "illegal" Cuban immigrant. The Cuban Adjustment (1966) does not recognize such a category of excludables. The formulators of the "Wet Foot/Dry Foot" policy in effect improvised such a category to appease Castro and avoid another balsero crisis. Still, as was evident in Fred Thompson's "suitcase bomber" remark, Republicans see Cuban refugees as menacing foreigners rather than refugees from injustice. It would be foolish for Cuban-Americans to expect any special dispensations from them. The "Contract On America" of odious memory should have alerted Cuban exiles to that fact. Under its provisions more than 100,000 exiles were excluded from the social safety net because they were not U.S. citizens, though they had lived legally in this country and been taxpayers for 40 years. Faced with the prospect of spending the rest of their lives on the streets, tens of thousands of exiles were forced to become U.S. citizens in their 70s and 80s and the suicide rate for the elderly in South Florida climbed to record levels. Gracias, Newt.

Socio-economically, Cuban-Americans, who are older than other Hispanics, better educated and more prosperous, have more in common with Republicans than with Democrats. But Cubans have never voted their pocketbooks. The advantage which the Republicans enjoyed over the Democrats was that Cuban exiles perceived them as being more anti-Castro and anti-Communist. This was undoubtedly the case once. Whether it is still so is debatable. Most Republicans today couldn't care less about Cuba or Castro. They are either like Mitt Romney, who thinks that "Patria o Muerte" is the battle cry of anti-Castro Cubans; or like Mike Huckabee, who as governor of Arkansas publicly supported lifting the trade embargo, something which his predecessor, Bill Clinton, never did; or, worst of all, like Fred Thompson, who mistakes Cuban balseros for terrorists. (I don't know if I should even mention Libertarian Ron Paul, who has said that the "right" of Americans to travel to Cuba concerns him more than whether Cubans are free or no).

Democrats, of course, are as craven and opportunistic in their positions regarding Cuba as are their Republican counterparts, but that doesn't concern me because Cubans are not going to be voting for Democrats in 2008.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

Manuel,

I have a few questions:
1. Do you believe Americans are any more xenophobic than other nationalities?
2. When and how should this country control immigration or do you believe in open borders?

Manuel A.Tellechea said...

Anonymous:

1). Yes, if you consider their peculiar circumstances. Heterogenous peoples are not usually as xenophobic as are Americans. It is countries where the populace share a common gene pool that tend to be the most xenophobic. The Japanese, for example.

2). A nation that profits from its immigrants, legal or not, as much as the U.S. does, has no need to restrict immigration. Although open borders are not the answer, the closest approach to open borders is.

Rene M. Grave de Peralta said...

American xenophobia has two main sources. One, geographic isolation. We only have two neighbors and one of them is the object of our xenophobia. Two, ignorance. Americans are notorious for their ignorance of other countries and cultures. The main reason for this ignorance is the big dog mentality. When you are the big shot in town, you don't even notice the "little people", let alone have any curiosity about them.
I think this is all about to change this century.

Manuel A.Tellechea said...

René:

Two excellent points. Martí always said that the greatest danger to Our America was "our great neighbor who does not know us." As a corollary, I would add "who does not know us but thinks it knows us." Their ignorance is always matched by their arrogance, and we have been the victims of both.

Charlie Bravo said...

Thanks Manuel, yours is a very illustrative article on this day of political circus in New Hampshire. We are about to witness interesting developments which bear the clear markings of a wall-to-wall political crisis.
I think that the next four year lease for the White House will bear the signature of another lame tenant.
We are reaching the point -again- of having to choose worse over worst, once the bad are eliminated.
Xenophobia will rear its head once and again during the race, and I believe that during the "real" election xenophobia -and Cubanophobia- will have a dominant role in the "opinion" articles on the press, not to talk about websites, tv and other forums.
The next president of the United States will most likely be someone who will not give damn about democracy in Cuba, and people will applaud it, not realizing that democracy as a concept cannot be applied to one country and territory and denied to others. It would be like accepting slavery in certain states and pretend to eliminate it in others. Freedom and democracy are not relative r selective concepts.

Carlos Miller said...

Rene,

Yes, we are an ignorant nature and that is due mainly to our education system, which brainwashes Americans into believing the world revolves around them.

Manuel,

It is no coincidence that the rise of Mexican immigrants entering this country illegally rose dramatically during the mid-1990s, immediately after the passing of NAFTA.

NAFTA ended up forcing thousands of Mexican farmers to go out of business. The farmers and their employees had no other work alternative, so they ended up coming here.

We created this issue, so we need to deal with it in ways other than simply deporting everybody.

Please break your essays down into smaller paragraphs. It makes for easier reading.

Anonymous said...

I am a Cuban and I'm a democrat. So is my entire family and my business partner and her entire family. As a matter of fact, there are a lot more Cuban-American democrats than you think!

Vana said...

Right you are when you say we are between a rock and a hard place, Republicans or Democrats don't give a damn about our plight, they just use us for their own aims, well this Cuban-American will not be voting this time around, I'm sick of it all!

Carlos Miller said...

Anon,

There are many Cuban American democrats, but they prefer to remain anonymous while the republicans drive around Miami proudly displaying their Viva Bush stickers.

litmus paper said...

I like being licked.

Anonymous said...

I'm a Cuban and I'm a Republican. So is my entire family and my business partners and their entire families. Now that I think of it, every Cuban Exile I know, age 18 to 89, is a Republican with very, very few exceptions.

As a matter of fact, there are a lot LESS Cuban-American democrats than some people think there are!

joep said...

Manuel, great post. PLEASE keep them coming, and be controversial if you have to so that there are some follow-up discussions. Maybe you should change the name of RoCAB, because man...your writings really should reach a wider audience, and I think the current blog title isn't representative of the breadth of subject matter.

Vana said...

Manuel:

You should put it to a vote and see how many of us are Republican or Democrat, a poll would be nice, I'm curious how many of us are one or the other.

Mamey said...

Israel has told the USA before that it is not a banana republic. It would behoove Cubans in the USA to learn,like the Israelis, how to use both the Democrats and the Republicans for our cause, and not the other way around. That most Cubans here are still Republican lap dogs is shameful (and because of their numbers there's no need to even talk about the foolishness of Cuban Democrats). Allegiance to either party has not produced anything worthwhile for the attainment of Cuban freedom.

Anonymous said...

Manuel,
do you subscribe to the theory that Cubans have a superior attitude towards other minorites such as Eentral and South Americans because supposedly Cubans have no indigenous blood?
Also, I was told that one of the reasons that Castro was able to capture the support of the rich and upper middle class in Cuba pre-revolucion was because so many recented the fact that Batista was mulatto, and many felt this made the country look bad. If true, does this make Cubans xenophobes, racists or what? Are Cubans any better than Americans? I'm really not trying to start a p^^ssing contest here. I really would like to read your opinion on these issues.

Manuel A.Tellechea said...

Anonymous:

During the first U.S. occupation of Cuba (1898-1902), the Americans attempted to introduce "Jim Crow" to the island, but were rebuffed by all segments of the Cuban population, which simply ignored their dispositions. Faced with what they viewed as a challenge to U.S. rule, the interventionist government was obliged to repeal all segregationist laws.

The difference between republican Cuba and the U.S. in respect to race was that institutionalized racism never existed in Cuba.

This is not to say that all traces of racism had been extinguished in all Cubans, but simply that racism itself did not find official or popular sanction.

Anonymous said...

Another proud member of the Republican Lap Dog Miami Mafia!

"Keeping the embargo on castro for 49 years - so you didn't have to."

See ya at the polls Bubba!

Manuel A.Tellechea said...

mamey:

You are right. Cuban-Americans are the kingmakers of the Republican Party and we are treated no better than lapdogs. Every four years all the candidates come to Miami to pat our heads and utter the usual platitudes, which every year sound emptier and more mercenary. Cuban exiles should have done what every other ethnic group has done in time immemorial — traded their votes to the highest bidder regardless of party. If we had done that from the beginning Cuba would be free today because all candidates, from both parties, would have been outdoing each other to obtain our support.

Anonymous said...

Manuel,

I have no clue what that last post by another anonymous was about. So I'll give myself a name: jane

Anyways, thanks for your reply but if you have a chance could you expand a little more on the issues I mentioned. Thanks.

jane

Rene M. Grave de Peralta said...

Things might not be as bad as I thought on the xenophobia front. Romney spent a huge amount of money in N.H. pointing out McCain's immigration sins and emphasizing his opposition to "amnesty" and just became the first New England politico in history to lose that primary.

That corollary about "thinking that they know us" strikes a strong cord with me. You can't imagine how tired I am of arguing with people, not about their opinions on Cuba, because we can never even get to that part, until we argue about all the misconceptions, idiocies and "facts" that are just not so.

As far as party politics goes, I was a Democrat most of my life. Now I'm an independent. I have never voted for a Republican for president, but I can see myself voting for McCain, I've always liked him. I personally have never seen any candidate from either party that really gave a s*** about Cuba. I would go so far as to say that the only famous or well known people that actually care about Cuba that are not Cuban can be counted in one hand. Vaclav Havel is one, Lech Walesa is another and Oscar Arias strikes me as one as well.

Charlie Bravo said...

Talking about Xenophobia: Huckabee wants the birthright citizenship abolished. What's next here: limpieza de sangre?
But wait, then he says that he doesn't plan to do so!
Huckabee's back and forth on birthright citizenship

Mamey said...

Hey proud lapdog (anon 9:15 PM, Jan 8): The real Cuban Mafia is the Cuban government. I don't use the term 'mafia' as the fidelistas do, but that doesn't mean you get a pass for your confusion(being a proud lapdog of the Republican party is not useful to the Cuban cause). Abre los ojitos.