As we predicted last week, the United Nations General Assembly approved a resolution condemning the U.S. embargo of Cuba. This was not, we confess, a very difficult prediction to make, since the U.N. has made this statement for twenty years. We also predict the U.N. will keep on doing so until the policy changes. In the meanwhile, we enjoyed The Nation’s stellar description of the vote saying the resolution was adopted by a “thumping majority.” That was good writing.
Here’s something, however, we didn’t anticipate; namely, that people would still be pouring over the presidential election vote in Florida and, at this late date, arguing over what it means. These are not unconnected events.
Ian Williams, a senior analyst with Foreign Policy in Focus put it this way:
“The UN vote on the Cuba embargo reminds us yet again that U.S. foreign policy is concocted in a bubble detached from the real world, where most nations recognize that the boycott is designed to pander to the most reactionary Cuban émigrés in Florida.”
This is why there is a lot of hand-wringing and hand-waving over who exactly won the Cuban American vote in Florida. We know that President Obama won the Latino vote nationally, won Florida and, as former U.S. Senator George LeMieux put it, “it even appears that President Obama may have won the Cuban vote in Florida, a previously unimaginable result.” His thinking was in line with Miami Democratic pollster Bendixen & Amandi International whose exit polls showed Mr. Obama won the Cuban vote, 51-49 percent over Romney.
The Miami Herald also reported, “Obama actually won Cuban-Americans who voted on Election Day itself, taking 53% of their vote compared to 47 percent for Republican Mitt Romney.” But the Herald, like others, goes on to say that, in the end, “Romney narrowly carried Cuban-Americans, 52-48 percent, which is a decrease for Republicans when compared to 2008.” Anyhow, as ABC News concluded, “Cuban-Americans (are) No Longer a Sure Bet for the GOP.”
Mauricio Claver-Carone, who runs the Cuba Democracy Public Advocacy Corp., and supported Governor Romney, said these historically high defections were the fault of Paul Ryan, Mr. Romney’s vice presidential nominee, who was against the embargo before he was for it. That, he said, “created skepticism among some Cuban-Americans and gave them (Democrats) an opening to make a case on economic and social issues.”
This is actually quite clever. Think about what Mr. Claver-Carone is arguing: the biggest supporters of a hardline policy, who didn’t think the Romney ticket was hardline enough, voted instead for the candidate Mr. Claver-Carone had previously said was guilty of “unilateral appeasement” of the Castro government.
Will this mean anything for Cuba policy going forward? It should. If the Cuban-American community that has insisted that the U.S. stick with the embargo policy for five decades is now divided, it will be exposed as a political façade, a Potemkin village, freeing the political system at last to the change the policy.
Back to Mr. Williams: “Obama, embarking on a second term, and winning Florida despite the Cuban vote, owes them nothing. He should use his influence to call off the embargo and allow free travel to and from Cuba.”
That is an idea that would win a thumping majority not just in the U.N. but throughout our country as well.