Last week, MSNBC’s Morning Joe did a segment on Joe Biden’s low Latino support in Florida. According to recent polling cited in the segment, Trump leads Biden among Cuban Americans by a whopping 68-30 margin. Among non-Cuban Latinos, Biden leads, but only 58-32, which is well behind Hillary Clinton’s 2016 margin of 71-27 with the same group.
Cubans are of course a more traditionally conservative voting block, particularly in Florida, where many Cuban families fled the Castro regime post-Cuban Revolution. But according to polls, they’re flocking to Donald Trump by margins that exceed other Republican candidates in the past. Mitt Romney won the Cuban vote against Barack Obama in 2012 by just 4 points, a 52-48 margin.
“Cuban Americans are especially put off by socialist policies; by the fear that Joe Biden, if elected, will implement policies influenced by people like Bernie Sanders and AOC. That’s certainly what the Trump campaign has been pushing.”
As far as the non-Cuban Latino vote is concerned, Scarborough offered a similar explanation. He continued later in the segment:
“This message that Donald Trump’s team is sending, not only to Cuban Americans, but also to new voters that are coming in from Puerto Rico and across Latin America, that Joe Biden is going to be implementing socialist policies; you know, that is a very persuasive argument. . .nothing against Bernie Sanders, but Sanders’ brand of socialist policies does not play well among a lot of Latinos.”
The message was clear: Latino Americans, even non-Cubans, are more conservative than progressive Democrats want to believe, and Bernie Sanders and AOC are blowing it for Joe Biden by making it difficult for Democrats to shake the socialist label.
There’s obviously a lot wrong with this analysis. Of course, Sanders performed extremely well with Latinos in the Democratic primary, which suggests his “brand of socialism” does in fact have mass appeal within the Latino community.
But there’s also plenty of evidence for other reasons why Latinos would be rejecting Biden and the Democrats. Disillusionment over the Obama-Biden record on immigration and deportation and the Democrats’ virtual de-platforming of Latinos at their convention could be factors to consider. There was also that incident on video when Joe Biden told an immigration activist to “vote for Trump” after he challenged him at a campaign event.
It could also simply be the case that many Latinos, particularly Cuban Americans, like Donald Trump. Let’s remember, the Cubans who fled to the United States to escape Castro were used to living under an alpha male authoritarian gangster named Fulgencio Batista. Batista, like Trump, presided over a corrupt and vastly unequal market economy. He crushed dissent by force on college campuses and in the streets. He worked with the Italian mafia to bring hotels and casinos to Havana. He was a notorious womanizer who cheated on all of his wives. Any of this sound familiar?
Batista is the most famous and obvious example of how Trump compares to various Latin American strongmen, but he’s far from the only one. Thuggish right wing authoritarians in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Panama, and elsewhere, have served to normalize the “Trumpian” model of leadership throughout much of the Latin American world, which means that at the very least, many Latinos could very well be accustomed to this dynamic. While white American liberals who have only known their leaders to be polished, polite, and, on the surface at least, benign, many Latinos are used to a political reality in which the leader is a big, strong bully who uses his office to enrich himself and get away with doing essentially whatever the hell he wants.
The corporate media will never offer this rationale, because, of course, most of these strongmen right wing dictators throughout Central and South America rose to power not only with the blessing of the United States, but with our assistance. So to speak honestly about Latino affairs in general would require a reckoning that the political establishment can’t bear to undergo. Instead, their solution is to simply blame the the Left, and pretend that “socialism” is to blame for all of the suffering and strife throughout Latin America, not the instability and authoritarianism brought about by our interventions in the region, which continue to this day.
For further discussion, listen to episode 87 of our podcast by clicking the player below:
Photo: Gage Skidmore