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Are Hard-Line Cuban-Americans Strong as Ever? | New York Times, "Room For Debate"

April 13, 2012 |
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Old Guard Are Reliable Voters, and Organized
Ozzie Guillen’s apology for praising Fidel Castro and the Miami Marlins’ decision to suspend him reaffirmed the enduring influence of passionate anti-Castro Cubans there. But this furor does not reflect Cuban Americans’ monolithic attitudes toward the island. The most hard-line voices in Miami, largely the older generaion, may be the loudest and most firmly established, but they are no longer the most numerous, as reflected in repeated polls over the last several years.

Yet they remain the most organized, most likely to vote, most likely to vote on the Cuba issue alone, and most likely to vote Republican.

The younger cohort, which, unlike the older generation, maintains close ties to friends and family on the island, are less likely to engage in politics or to become U.S. citizens who are registered to vote. That is in part because they do not see themselves as political exiles as do members of the older generation, but as immigrants motivated primarily by the quest for a better living.

Generally, Cuban-Americans have historically voted Republican, for larger domestic economic and social policy reasons. Those Cubans who do vote on the Cuba issue alone tend to be the most conservative and would not support a Democrat, which suggests that there is never more than a few percentage points of swing Cuban-American votes actually in play. President Obama has courted those swing voters, many of whom are interested in staying connected to the island, by ending restrictions on Cuban Americans’ travel and remittances home.

Today, hundreds of thousands of Cuban Americans — including many of the children airlifted out of Castro’s Cuba 50 years ago, Cubans who came over on makeshift rafts during the crisis of the 1990s, and children and grandchildren of Cubans resettled in the United States — now travel freely and often to the island, to discover and rediscover their roots, to help loved ones to start businesses or even to team up with relatives to buy homes in what most understand is a Cuba in transition to something new.

Surely many among this less outspoken majority judges Ozzie Guillen a fool for his recent comments. But they are more focused on building bridges to the island than they are on American politics, or on whether the Marlins’ manager is made to pay for his foolishness.