“Cuba will be free” has been the political battle-cry promise by politicians residing in or visiting Florida, not just Republicans but their not quite identical twins, Democrats. It’s a tradition that goes back to the massive naturalization days which took place during the latter part of the decade which followed the Bay of Pigs’ failed invasion. Expecting Romney and Gingrich to adhere to that time-tested cause was a no-brainer for the top two current contenders for the Republican nomination to the presidency.
Courting Florida’s sizable Hispanic vote, one predominantly composed of Cuban-Americans, implied kissing the ring of the Hispanic Leadership Network (HLN). ‘Though the organization, co-chaired by Jeb Bush, former Florida governor and Carlos Gutierrez, former secretary of commerce, is referred to in the corporate press as right of center, its advocacy is one well defined in the political right and, at times, the ultra right. A much warmer reception for Romney already has elements of the mainstream press doing some extrapolation on the Hispanic vote elsewhere.
Sorry, but I don’t consider the vote of those with Spanish surnames in Florida in any way, shape or form as representative of the so-called Hispanic vote in the US. To me that vote, by and large, has always been, and continues to be – if to a slightly smaller degree from decades past – a conserva-panic, not a His-panic vote.
Since shortly after the great Cuban exodus, as Fidel Castro took the reins in that Caribbean nation, politics in Florida has not quite been quite the same. Almost all of the 700,000 Cubans who obtained refuge in the US during the early days half a century ago were white, the haves in a country where half of the population then was either black or mulatoe (two-thirds now after the exodus of whites), all but a handful representing the have-nots class. The values, traditions and modus operandi of this then new wave of immigrants was represented best politically in the conservatism of the “righter” right. A substantial share of this immigrant group made Miami and its environs home, just 90 miles across the sea from their beloved Havana.
And it wasn’t just the Cubans painting Miami and much of Florida with the proper conservative colors. Many well-to-do Latin Americans were claiming their safe political pied-a-terre in South Florida, some even adding a second passport (US) just in case their oligarchic governments succumbed to the progressive left. The Cubans, however, most forced to leave their country penniless, had to rely on their entrepreneurial wit and hard work to have a chance at that “American dream” just like any other immigrant soul.
It took a generation before the Cuban exiles started to command a presence in Florida politics, one beyond Republican Party politics and into elected positions not just within Florida, but Congress. The two Díaz-Balart brothers (Lincoln and Mario) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in the House of Representatives, and now Marco Rubio in the Senate, might be considered the capos of what Fidel Castro would call the Miami mafia.
These capos and the conservative HLN organization, the latter claiming credit for the 44 percent Hispanic vote that George W. Bush received for his second term, do not represent the political aspirations or inclinations of the Hispanic population in the United States; something almost sure to happen in the near future as Hispanic US citizens exercise their right to vote, and non-citizens attain their right through naturalization.
It is almost comical to visit the Hispanic Leadership Network’s website and get a glimpse at how this conservative organization portrays itself, how it views its members. A group of 17 people, presumably representing the many diverse positions they hold, are inviting us to join them at HLN. Seventeen people, all but maybe two, white… are inviting a very diverse Hispanic population in the US where possibly 3 out of 4 people are either mestizo or mulatoe… most definitely not lily white!
One could argue that HLN’ gaffe in its photo portrayal is irrelevant to the primary vote within the GOP. But it does, if you wish to go beyond Florida. Although HLN claims over 600 Hispanic leaders across the country, the reach of this organization is not likely to get very far… not unless that group of 17 Hispanics show more darker and copper-tinted faces, and the jobs they are portrayed doing are the jobs they really do, and not just white collar, entrepreneurial tasks.
At the end of the day, it is the final, not the primary election that counts, but the political whores have to show their carnal-wear. Romney and Gingrich just couldn’t do anything less. In Florida, that carnal-wear spells the promise of a free-Cuba, one evoking Batista’s free-enterprise days.
© 2012 Ben Tanosborn
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