the cuban victory in the republican party
A number of writers noticed that we overlooked an important bit of news last week during the Iowa caucus – two Latinos and a Black man took 60% of the Iowa GOP caucus. At the very least, this is newsworthy and merits explanation.
Here’s how we should understand the rise of Rubio and Cruz. The basic elements of minority party politics are as follows:
- African Americans started in the GOP but moved to the Democratic party.
- Groups that were forcibly assimilated into the US tend to go Democrat – Native Americans, Mexicans, Filipinos.
- Groups that benefited from Cold War politics tend to lean GOP more than others – Vietnamese, Cubans.
- Other voluntary migrants vary but if they are harassed or repressed they lean Democrat.
Using these rules of thumb, it is easy to see how Cruz and Rubio make a path to the top of the GOP. They are Cubans, who have influence in the GOP, especially in Florida. They are also from states with strong GOP parties – Florida and Texas. As many folks have noted, they downplay their ethnic background as well and kowtow to the anti-immigration crowd. Briefly, Rubio endorsed some sort of compromise on immigration but walked that back.
The rise of these two candidates does not represent a big swing of Latino voters to the GOP – that would only happen if large numbers of Mexicans defect from the GOP. It does however reflect an opening made possible by the complex history of US foreign relations. In the messy world of Cold War politics, the US chose to favor Cubans and, decades later, their children are steps away from the White House. And oddly, Castro might be alive to see it!