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“Latino Voters Not Loving Cruz, Rubio”: These Two Have Taken To Casting Other Latino Immigrants As The Outsiders

It’s striking that in a presidential season with two viable Latino contenders, discussion of Hispanic voters has been negligible.

This will change as the primaries move to states with larger Latino populations, Nevada being first up. In those states, Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio will come under questioning for ethnic loyalty.

This scrutiny will do them no favors. While some may imagine that Cruz or Rubio would get a boost in the general election from being the first Hispanic presidential nominee, either one would only help to hand the White House to the Democrats. The reason is simple: They continue to spurn other Hispanics.

Here we have two children of immigrants trying to get elected by demonizing immigrants. Indeed, Rubio and Cruz embody a reality that they and their party deny: Latinos become Americanized very quickly.

Both men are very close to their immigrant roots, one generation away. Yet both men are highly assimilated. Rubio’s love of rap music and respect for Pitbull, N.W.A., Tupac and Nicki Minaj, is often cited. Cruz, raised in Texas and the son of an evangelical preacher, has a penchant for Western attire and after 9/11 switched his preference from classic rock to country music.

This is not exceptional for Latino families, whether they are legally in the United States or not. Assimilation happens; it’s an unstoppable force of our society.

Neither man speaks with an accent; only Rubio is bilingual. Latino immigrant families shift from Spanish, becoming monolingual in English by the third generation. They follow the same pattern, the same fluid rate of language acquisition, as previous immigrant groups, be they European or Asian. In fact, some studies suggest that language shifts are now occurring faster for Latinos, due to technology.

But to appeal to a GOP base that is positioned as anti-immigrant, these two have taken to casting other Latino immigrants as the outsiders, as resistant to becoming Americanized, as unworthy of opportunities to right their immigration status, whether that be by legislation or executive order.

On the campaign trail this year, only one message is permissible to Republican candidates: Latinos are to be feared and deported. Build the wall! Secure the borders! End birthright citizenship!

Never mind that migration from Mexico has dramatically slowed and that illegal migration peaked nearly a decade ago.

Some ascribe Rubio’s and Cruz’ lack of sympathy to being of Cuban descent. Cubans enjoy a huge advantage over other immigrants. If they can reach U.S. soil, they have an easy path to permanent legal status within a year. It’s a leftover policy from the Cold War, when many were fleeing the persecution of communist repression, although that wasn’t the case with either of the senators’ families.

Increasingly, that connection to yesteryear is fraying. Cuban-Americans are moving away from their once steadfast ties to the GOP.

Interestingly, Rubio probably got a taste of the non-Cuban immigrant experiences. He spent a portion of his teen-age years in Las Vegas, where his father found work as a bartender. The young Rubio was often assumed to be Mexican-American and counted many Mexican-American schoolmates as his closest friends. It’s reasonable to assume that he knew kids who had parents or other family members who were in this country without legal status.

Perhaps that experience is what led Rubio to join the Gang of Eight, a group of senators who authored the last sane proposal for immigration reform, in 2013.

Now he tries to scrub that fact from his record.

A record 27.3 million Latinos will be eligible to vote this election cycle. Nearly half, 44 percent, will be millennials, according to Pew Research Center. Data crunchers believe that the eventual winner of the 2016 presidential election will need to draw at least 40 percent of Hispanic votes.

Immigration obviously isn’t the only issue of interest to Latinos; it isn’t even the most important. Jobs, the economy, education rank very high too.

However, it is a kind of gut-level test about attitudes. Rubio, especially, with his shifting to attract right-wing votes, has jilted Latino voters who would like to like him.

Given their current posturing on immigration, neither Rubio nor Cruz has a chance.

The backlash is coming. A group of high-profile Latino celebrities, including Benjamin Bratt, America Ferrera, George Lopez and Zoe Saldana, organized to call on the GOP presidential candidates to end their anti-immigrant fear-mongering.

Guitarist Carlos Santana, in a statement, underlined the plea this way: “It’s never too late to graduate from the university of fear!” Sadly, it may be if you are seeking the Republican nomination.


By: Mary Sanchez, Opinion-Page Columnist for The Kansas City Star; The National Memo, February 12, 2016

February 14, 2016 Posted by | Immigrants, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“In American Politics, Business Interests Come First”: Rubio And Cruz Won’t Be Able To Reverse U.S. Overture To Cuba

Pity Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.

The two Cuban-American senators are relatively young, in their mid-40s. And their political rise coincides with a change in U.S.-Cuban relations that neither particularly welcomes.

Cruz and Rubio will likely be in office when full trade relations with Cuba are finally restored. Though both are vying for the Republican presidential nomination, it’s unlikely that either will be in the White House when that evolution occurs. That’s just as well, as both have taken the firmly anti-engagement posture of their Republican elders.

Yet the winds of U.S. commerce are blowing strong against the famous seawall protecting Havana, the Malecón. And these are strong gusts, able to topple the Cold War-era groundings of Rubio and Cruz.

The coming year will be crucial.

January 1 will mark the 57th anniversary of Fidel Castro’s overthrow of Fulgencio Batista. A year ago, President Barack Obama’s announcement to press for normalized relations kicked off a flurry of activity. Much of it was organizing by business interests with strong Republican ties, eager for Cuban markets.

The U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba, a group of corporations and trade groups, officially stepped forward to press for lifting the embargo in the month after Obama’s announcement. A bipartisan committee was organized in the House to look at normalizing relations. In May, Cuba was removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. In August, in another milestone, the U.S. Embassy was ceremonially reopened in Havana.

Governors of numerous states have sent exploratory trade delegations to Cuba, especially those eager to increase agricultural exports. The most recent trip had Texas Gov. Greg Abbott visiting in November. Cuba imports nearly 80 percent of its food.

Despite the movement, it will be impossible to fully unwind the bureaucratic stalemates between our two countries quickly.

How much can be accomplished between now and the end of Obama’s term is crucial. As with immigration reform and so many other measures, there is only so much Obama can do through executive action and policy change. Congressional cooperation will be necessary to lift the embargo and to manage the details of banking and a related thorny issue: the nearly $8 billion in claims (including interest) of U.S. corporations and citizens whose assets and property were seized by Castro after the revolution. Those losses were a key reason for the embargo in the first place.

In early December, the first talks were held in Havana by State Department officials to settle the claims. Early reporting indicated they didn’t get very far. Some experts have speculated that the Castro regime threw down its’ own counterclaim, asking for reparations for the economic costs of the trade embargo, which Cuba has put at more than $100 billion.

In another year, the U.S. will have a new president and it is unlikely to be one as headstrong as Obama has been about opening to Cuba, even if it is Hillary Clinton.

Rubio, Cruz and other Republicans can be counted on to stall the progress that Obama has made. But they won’t completely stop it.

The crux of their opposition is dismal human rights record of Fidel and Raul Castro. Rubio and Cruz don’t sidestep the jailing of dissidents and other human rights abuses as so many Americans, particularly business interests, conveniently do. Yet they differ from many of their middle-aged Cuban-American contemporaries, who increasingly support lifting the embargo.

The two senators have come of political age in a fast-changing era for Cuba-U.S. relations.

Regardless of who prevails in the GOP presidential nomination, Cuba is no longer a geopolitical threat. And in American politics, the interests of business come first.


By: Mary Sanchez, Opinion-Page Columnist for The Kansas City Star; The National Memo, December 23, 2015

December 26, 2015 Posted by | Businesses, Cuba, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Best To Take It Nice And Slow”: Cuba Should Beware Of Westerners Bearing Gifts

The normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba, announced Wednesday by President Obama, is a highly welcome step. Our hostile posture against Cuba stopped making sense in 1989, if not before then, and it’s long since time we allowed the country back into the full community of nations. If the U.S. can get along with China and Vietnam, there’s no reason it can’t do the same with Cuba.

The president can’t lift the embargo against Cuba, since that was imposed by Congress. Though dead-end reactionaries like Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham will likely fight for the embargo tooth and nail, within a few years it will be gone as well. In addition to the fact that the policy has failed for more than 50 years, popular opinion — and most crucially, the opinion of Cuban-Americans — is changing.

But while economic liberalization presents Cuba with opportunities, it comes attached with huge potential pitfalls. To be blunt, Cuba in all likelihood faces a bleak future. The track record of post-Communist nations is not good. Indeed, the upside of the embargo remaining in place for a few years is that it will give Cuba time to prepare. Here are a few things both Cuba and America might keep in mind.

First, don’t try to do everything all at once. Abolishing wage and price controls, privatizing state industries, and liberalizing trade may be good ideas. But it’s unquestionable that doing them all very fast is bad. Jeff Sachs tried that in Russia with his signature “Big Push,” and it was a world-historical disaster. Russian GDP fell 62 percent, and didn’t bottom out until the year 2000. Life expectancy fell by five full years. And a handful of well-placed oligarchs absconded with most of the state’s assets.

A market economy that works well for most people (think Sweden and Norway) requires some deep-rooted social structures — structures that are seriously eroded by long periods of totalitarian dictatorship. Simply quaffing laissez-faire policy in one gulp will lead almost certainly to plutocracy.

Above all, Cuba should prioritize maintaining its fairly high-quality health-care system. A slower, more measured transition would make that easier.

Communist insiders ought to be careful themselves. They might be able to make out like bandits in a post-Communist resource grab, but they also might be overthrown, exiled, or killed. For 50 years, the Cuban regime has been able to blame its atrocious economic performance on the American embargo. Without that excuse, the government will likely be faced with rising demands for better performance.

Vietnam and China show it’s possible to thread this needle, but it’s definitely not a given. We can only hope that President Raúl Castro and others in the Cuban regime will recognize that the onset of democracy is probably inevitable, and ease that transition rather than clamping down and risking civil war.

America, for its part, should consider not using its stupendous advantage in military and economic strength to stuff neoliberal policy down Cuba’s throat the second its markets open. I frankly doubt we can manage this. Congress has rarely been quite so overtly owned by the rich, who are undoubtedly slavering over a fresh nation to plunder.

So yes, amid the excitement, there’s no denying the situation is grim. It’s not likely that either a rattletrap Congress or the brutally repressive Cuban government will be able to manage decent, wise policy. But now that we’re here, it’s worth thinking about how both countries can manage as best as possible.


By: Ryan Cooper, National Correspondent, The Week, December 19, 2014

December 22, 2014 Posted by | Congress, Cuba, Raul Castro | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Rubio’s Embargo Anger Plays To The Past”: Representing The Views Of Only The Most Reactionary Portion Of The Community

Is Marco Rubio the stupidest politician in Washington? Okay, probably not. The House of Representatives is bursting to the rafters with contenders for the title. But after watching Rubio’s comical response to the Cuba announcement, we should all begin to consider his credentials.

The Florida GOP senator stormed out of the gate Wednesday in the highest of dudgeons. “This president is the single worst negotiator we have had in the White House in my lifetime,” Rubio thundered, adding that Congress will never lift the embargo and that he will do all within his power to undo Barack Obama’s treachery. Grrrrr.

As Bugs Bunny used to say, what a maroon. Now I know, you think I’m being harsh, or that I’m simply wrong, because Rubio is from South Florida and of Cuban stock and I am neither of those things, so doesn’t he maybe know better than I? Actually, no, not this time. He is not reflecting here the views of the Cuban-American community of South Florida as they’ve been repeatedly expressed in polls. He is instead representing the views of only the most reactionary (and rapidly aging and, to be blunt about it, dying off) portion of that community. If he somehow finds himself running against Hillary Clinton in 2016, he—some 25 years her junior—will have masterfully turned the neat trick of being on the side of the past while she speaks to the future.

The polling that supports my contention is voluminous. The Cuban-American vote has changed dramatically in the last decade. In 2002, Pew found back in June, Cubans in the United States identified themselves as being Republicans over Democrats by a margin of 64 to 22 percent. By 2014, that advantage still existed but was statistically meaningless: 47 percent Republican, 44 percent Democratic. In 2012, Obama narrowly beat Mitt Romney among Florida Cubans, according to exit polls. Likewise, in this year’s gubernatorial race, Democrat Charlie Crist beat Republican incumbent Rick Scott among Cuban voters by 50-46 percent.

Get the picture? Things have changed, and seismically. The Florida Cuban vote simply is not very Republican anymore, and it’s not a conservative bloc. Now let’s look at those voters with specific reference to their views on Cuba.

The most comprehensive set of numbers comes to us from Florida International University’s Cuban Research Institute, which has been polling on such questions for 20 years now. The institute put out new numbers just this past summer (PDF), and they are eye-popping. And this is a poll, remember, not of Latinos, or of Cuban-Americans across the country. This is 1,000 Cuban-Americans living in Miami-Dade County—the subgroup that we would expect to be the most anti-Castro one imaginable.

Start with the embargo. It’s close, but a majority opposed continuing it, by 52-48 percent. Most age cohorts still supported it, but those who left Cuba after 1995 were against the embargo by 58-42 percent. Eighteen-to-29 year olds wanted to end the embargo by a whopping 62-8 percent. And when the Pavlovian word “embargo” was dropped from the questioning and respondents were asked if the United States should expand commerce with Cuba in specific realms, the yeses were overwhelming: increase business relations, 76-24; sell more food, 77-23; sell more medicine, 82-18.

And how about the matter at hand, the restoration of diplomatic relations? Well, 68 percent favored, and 32 percent opposed. The only age cohort that came out against relations were those 65 and older; among those 64 and under, more than three-quarters supported full diplomacy.

So who is Rubio representing with his outrage? A shrinking and increasingly irrelevant sub-constituency that is understood by most Americans with awareness of the issue to have held our Cuba policy hostage quite long enough. And what deepens the mystery to me is what his hard-line position gets him.

Is it money? There’s money in the Cuban-American universe, certainly, but there’s Senate-race money, not presidential-race money. Is it their votes in a 2016 GOP presidential primary in the state? It could be that. I guess he feels he has to compete now with Jeb Bush for this vote, so he’s running around firing pistol shots into the air to prove he’s the real Castro-hater. But even there I wonder if the Cuban vote in Florida, even the Republican Cuban vote, is going to be strongly against this. By 2016, people will have had time to adjust to this, and they’ll see that the sky didn’t fall in. In fact, they might well see in these next two years that an influx of Yankee dollars and iPads and all the rest will have perhaps not toppled the regime but done more to open up the society than the hard line ever did.

Time will prove Rubio’s reaction to have been a major error. And it won’t be his first. He thought he’d roll the dice and be a leader on immigration, but it collapsed, and he got spanked by Laura Ingraham (metaphorically I mean!) and somersaulted to the safe reactionary position. Then he tried to win back some centrist cred with a few speeches on squish topics like community colleges, which is actually a fine thing to pay attention to and more people should, but the experts in the field whom I consult found his ideas to be reheated leftovers.

So now here he is, pandering to a constituency that by 2016 will be thinned and by 2020 functionally won’t exist. Compare to Rand Paul, who, as The Beast’s Olivia Nuzzi reports, came out in favor of the deal. And compare, as noted up top, to Secretary Clinton, who spent years quietly pushing a modernized Cuba policy. This is intelligence and vision. Rubio’s stance is pure cowardice.

And speaking of intelligence and vision, you’ve got to give it up for Obama on this one. If Syria is his foreign-policy low point—and it is; the butchery of the dictator with whom we have no gripe continues apace with little notice—then the Cuba shift is arguably his high point.

The highest form of political courage is doing the right thing when the mob is against it. This isn’t quite that, as the above polling shows. On the other hand, it’s not as if Americans were clamoring for this change. That’s a kind of courage, too: doing the right thing when the only people who really care are the ones who are going to despise you. But time and history will render an unambiguous verdict on this matter, as Rubio shall soon see.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, December 19, 2014

December 21, 2014 Posted by | Cuba, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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