|Cartogram of US Electoral Map by Mark Newman|
It is well established that a significant number of Cuban-Americans left their homeland in search of a socio-political climate friendlier to their ideology. They did not want to live in one leader, one political party, one non-church, one labor union, one media network, one employer state. Keeping in mind the many tragedies that have occurred in the Straits of Florida, one would think that they place a higher value on the right to choose—the essence of freedom—than on following a pre-ordained life, lacking in alternatives. Since their arrival in the United States, they have moved far to the political right as a clear rejection of what they left behind; that is, they have chosen to identify themselves with the Republican Party, the Catholic Church (and other Christian churches), and the Fox Network. Clearly these are free choices made by free people selecting from freely available alternatives. Let us now contrast this feel-good narrative with the recent election discourse originating in this community.
Perhaps as a result of the new health care law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and because of President Obama’s push to roll back previous tax cuts for the top one percent of taxpayers, many in the Cuban-American community warned each other about the impending “socialist takeover” that would result from a second Obama term. One wonders if this is a case of displaced Cuban memories which they are carrying into their everyday life experiences in the US, or if they truly see themselves as part of the privileged upper class. During the elections, it nearly was impossible to avoid coming face to face with messages of approaching doom in social media and email communications. Friends and family felt free to post messages in one’s own FB page, without considering possible differences of opinion, as if all Cuban-Americans should be Republicans, Catholics, and Fox News consumers. Some of these communications included criticism of “illegal” immigrants, gay marriages, Muslims, “ghetto moochers,” and labor unions. One particular case involved branding those who were shown on television celebrating Obama’s victory as “jumping monkeys.” This caustic, perhaps racist message came from someone who religiously includes biblical citations in her FB postings. Worse of all was the onslaught of racist commentary about President Obama, and the “Commie” Democrats. One has to wonder how much do they know about the political history of their adopted country.
Now that President Obama has been reelected with an estimated Cuban-American level of support in Miami-Dade County ranging between 47-51 percent; (most likely an indicator of growing divergence among younger Cuban-Americans), is there a looming socialist takeover? Before proposing an answer, one first would have to know what is meant by “socialist.” After all, Social Security and Medicare / Medicaid are socialist entities that have been around since the 1930’s and 1960’s respectively. Second, one also has to consider the process by which legislation becomes law; rather difficult during normal times, and nearly impossible during times of conflict, as it is the case now. During his first term in office, President Obama did sign into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare (which Republicans should not consider so radioactive if one simply name it according to its true pedigree: MittCare2), only because the 58 Democratic members of the Senate were able to obtain the support of two Independent senators for the total of 60 votes required to break the expected Republican filibuster. However, in the 2013 Senate, Democrats will have only 55 members, which mean that even if they are able to obtain the support of the two Independents, they will not have the filibuster proof 60 votes. Therefore, if there is no compromise across the political divide, nothing will be accomplished, let alone a radically socialist agenda.
Nevertheless, one detects a visceral level of suspicion toward Democrats that goes beyond the inner workings of the federal government. The real question then becomes: why do so many older Cuban-Americans feel threatened by the Democratic Party? Is the oldest political party in the nation—the party of Thomas Jefferson (founding father), Woodrow Wilson (achieved victory during WWI), and Franklin Delano Roosevelt (saved the nation from social upheaval in the 30’s and achieved victory in WWII)—a threat to the security of the US? If you believe that, then you have failed to appreciate the meaning of American democracy. “It takes two to tango,” says that old capsule of popular wisdom. Without the Democratic Party, the nation becomes a one party state. Likewise, without the Republican Party (and the current turmoil in Abraham Lincoln’s Grand Old Party should concern not just Republicans but Democrats as well), the nation also becomes a one party state. It is a no brainer that all of us need to support the two party concept for the general welfare of the nation.
One final thought for my fellow Cuban-Americans, if we are to free ourselves from the inequities of a one party state, we must question that only one party is worthy of our vote. Real freedom is having the opportunity to choose from the two parties available to us. Normally you may find one of them closer to your wishes/interests, but be open to the possibility of a viable alternative in the other party. Avoid being the unquestioning follower of someone else’s agenda, particularly when it may impact negatively your own interests (as in the case of southern states that vote against “big government” but rank among the biggest recipients of federal aid. The voters in these states are like senior citizens who vote for the Tea Party; if their candidates win, they lose). In short, vote for the best alternative, the best candidate, not simply for a party. While you are at it, let other people make their own choices. After all, who appointed you Supreme Leader in charge of morals and ethics? Be free and let others be free. If you don’t, then you are still 90 miles south of Key West, living in the past from which you tried to get away: one party, one religion, one …. I hope you get my point, because if you are not careful, you end up demanding that others think and speak the way you do. From there to forming a “brigade” to enforce your views on others is just a series of short steps away. Instead, reflect on your experiences; make sure that you have derived the correct lessons from them; i.e., tolerance for the views of others. Cherish what you have, don’t repeat past mistakes. These too are choices… some of the most important choices that a freedom loving person can make.