Republican rancor began as soon as the U.S.’s new policy toward Cuba was announced on Wednesday. “All this is going to do,” said an angry Marc Rubio, Cuban-American Senator from Florida, “is give the Castro regime, which controls every aspect of Cuban life, the opportunity to …perpetuate itself in power.” Jeb Bush, the former Republican governor of Florida, seconded the sentiment by writing that “[t]he beneficiaries of President Obama’s ill-advised move will be the heinous Castro brothers who have oppressed the Cuban people for decades.” And Ted Cruz, Republican from Texas, said it was a lifeline to the Castro brothers and would only make the situation “worse.” Clearly, Republicans hated the decision, especially those who appeared to have Presidential ambitions.
Hardline Americans might agree with angry Republicans and argue that continued sanctions are necessary for democracy to occur. But evidence points in the opposite direction. Our 50+ year embargo of Cuba has had absolutely no effect on political reform or democratization in Cuba. In fact, most experts agree that isolation has only served to bolster the regime, not lead to its demise.
Politically astute Americans are likely to argue that Republican presidential candidates are critical of the new openness because that’s what politically powerful Cuban-Americans living in Florida want. But this argument is also not correct. First, a poll of Cuban-Americans in Miami-Dade County conducted this year found that 68 percent are open to the possibility of restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba. That number rises to 88 percent if the person is under 30. Cuban-Americans, therefore, are much more supportive of normalizing relations to Cuba than are Republican politicians. Second, the number of Cubans in Florida is now greatly outnumbered by Puerto Ricans, and other Latin and South Americans. Republican rejection of Cuba, therefore, is no longer in line with either the preferences or the demographics of the Hispanic population in Florida.
So today’s puzzler is this: If restoring full diplomatic relations with Cuba is good for the United States, good for ordinary Cubans, and if it is supported by a majority of Cuban-Americans and Hispanics why do Republicans so loudly reject it?