The problem with Joe

As our regular readers know, I’ve been a critic of Joe Garcia for some time now. You may not know that we recently had him as a guest on our Babalu Radio Hour and Podcast.
Inevitably our debates (via email and on the podcast) boil down to a couple of issues. Among these is his motivation. Joe works for something called NDN (formerly the New Democrat Network). His job there, as far as I can tell, is to recruit Hispanic voters for the Democratic party. He’s also the chair of the Democratic party in Miami-Dade county.
Joe likes to point out that I am partisan too. Which is, of course, true. I have been a registered Republican since my 18th birthday. But the difference is that, for me, activism for Cuba is not a strategy to obtain votes. My activism is not a means to an end but an end in itself. Joe gets super defensive when I bring this up, but a fact is a fact. He has a job to do and as his audience we would not be very smart if we didn’t take what he said with a grain of salt knowing that he’s a party strategist.
I, on the other hand, am a private citizen. Joe asks if that makes my motives any more pure and the short answer is “not necessarily”. Perhaps Joe truly does believe the policies he advocates will be the quickest most effective way to bring about the desired change in Cuba the same way I believe in the policies I advocate. The problem is that it’s hard to tell because, whether he likes it or not, his employment DOES muddy the waters. A political strategist should know that perception is reality. And the perception is that Joe Garcia a party hack. Let me make something clear. That doesn’t mean Joe Garcia is a bad guy. Or that his job is dishonorable. But if he wants to change that perception then his activism needs to come as a private citizen or as part of a non-partisan group. It’s the difference between being an analyst or observer and being player. As a consultant for NDN and the Democratic party chair, he’s not merely an analyst, he’s a player and one has to assume that what he’s doing is trying to increase his team’s chance at winning.
In his latest appearances Joe has been saying that he’s for the embargo but against the travel restrictions. To me this seems like a pretty shrewd strategy. Perhaps he’s right, I’m not a psychic and can’t know what he’s thinking but here’s what I do know. Since FIU began surveying Cuban Americans in 1994, the percentage of those registered voters who are Republican has held remarkably steady and is currently at about 66% with the remainder pretty evenly divided between Democrats and independents. Needless to say the Democrats are looking for the answer to change that equation since it’s an important group of people in an important state.
But how to court Cuban-Americans? Joe’s idea (in my opinion, of course) is to peel away some of the Cuban-Americans from the Republicans and independents by appealing to those who may feel aggrieved by the travel restrictions and the restrictions on remittances. In my business of advertising we call this “reaching for the low hanging fruit.” You target the people who have the most in common with your current customers. He’s trying to position the Democrats as not unlike the Republicans, with this one exception: “we’ll allow you to visit your family in Cuba whenever you want and to send as much money to them as you want.”
Attempting to blur the lines between Democrats and Republicans even more, Joe said several times during my interview with him that neither party cares about or will bring liberty to Cuba. Now it’s interesting to note that while that’s probably a sentiment that many of us do agree with, HE IS THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIR in Dade county. He doesn’t speak for Republicans but as Val stated clearly during the podcast he does speak for the Democrats. So take it from the horse’s mouth the Democrats don’t care about Cuba. There’s nobody (that I know of) speaking on behalf of the Republican party saying that Republicans don’t care. Take that for what it’s worth.
Now about the travel and remittance restrictions, I don’t think his strategy is going to work and I’ll tell you why. Most Cuban-American Republicans are not only anti-Castro but also conservative. Even if the Cuba issue were magically removed from the equation altogether I think most of the current crop of Republicans would stay Republicans. Additionally, bringing Cuba back into the equation, there’s simply way too much water under the bridge for anyone to believe the Democrats would be the same as Republicans with regards to Cuba. Joe is asking for a population to collectively forget the Bay of Pigs, the Kennedy/Kruschev Pact, the Brothers to Rescue shoot down, the sinking of the 13 de Marzo, Elian, etc., all of which occurred while a Democrat was on duty. Such amnesia seems hardly likely.
Perhaps Joe’s strategy will work with newly minted American citizens who have been in the country for a relatively shorter period of time. Those would be people that are more likely to have immediate family currently in Cuba and thus desire to travel there more frequently and send more money than is currently allowed. The question is how many of these people are there out there, how likely are they to register to vote, and, given the amount of time it takes to become a citizen, what’s the likelihood that they retain the same attitude as when they first arrived? As I mentioned, to date the percentage of the Cuban population that is registered Republican has remained constant between 69% and 66% over the past 13 years.
It’s my opinion that Joe is pissing in the wind regardless of how brilliant his strategy may be. The circumstances and barriers he’s trying to overcome are simply too high. In a sense it’s patronizing. He is trying to convince the most educated and successful immigrant group ever to reach the fair shores of America that they are simply wrong. Good luck buddy.
More on Joe’s positions later tonight.

14 thoughts on “The problem with Joe”

  1. Iam for a ” REAL EMBARGO” ( NAVAL BLOCKADE) , CERO WESTERN U, CERO TRAVEL…unless death in family or 90 days se compone o se descompone aquello

  2. Abajofidel:
    If we had the guts to do that, we would have ended castro inc. during “El Periodo Especial”.
    That’s the problem with a lot of things in life. Hay que saber ponerse duro. While I don’t have a problem with your proposal, many lack the you (fill in the blank)to do it.

  3. The Kennedy/Khrushchev agreement was wrong because…?

    Cubans in Miami are overwhelmingly Republicans not necessarily conservatives, one thing and the other aren’t certainly synonyms. I think it has a lot to do with the Republican Party smartest way to deal with Castro, that is, their better understanding of the beast. (Every time a Democrat tried to better the relationship with Castro he answered with a nice crisis. That I concede.) But look at Hialeah and the long reign of Martinez. And it is not as if Penellas or even Manny Diaz are Conservative stalwarts.

    Things aren’t gonna change in a couple of years, but the Dems have a chance of improving their numbers if a) things change in Cuba b) they patiently make their case to the community. There is no way that the Cuban question aside Cubans will be 80% Republican. Miami is not Utah and even there Bush won with “only” 70% in 2004

  4. Well I don’t know Eduardo, perhaps you don’t mind the fact that the official policy of the US went from one which actively sought to remove castro to one where Castro was protected under the pact. Cuba’s liberty was a pawn that was sacrificed to maintain geopolitical stability. Of course it would have never gotten to that point if the rookie Kennedy hadn’t ignored the intel about Russian missiles being assembled in Cuba until it was too late.
    But you are right, Republican doesn’t necessarily mean conservative but I think you underestimate how conservative Cuban-Americans are. Just like most Americans they find the modern day Democrat party to be anti-American and pro everything that’s destructive to America.
    The fact that Democrats get elected to local office as you rightly mention gives more credence to the fact that Cuban-Americans are politically savvy and not the mindless lemmings the national Dems portray us to be.
    Nobody said anything about 80%. I never said Republicans were gaining. I said it’s been remarkably stable in the high 60s. And the independents almost outnumber the Dems among Cuban-Americans. But since you mention 80%, more than 80% of Cuban-Americans are either Republican or independent (non-Democrat). What does that tell you about the Dem agenda in Cuban-American eyes?
    And if Republicans win soley on the Cuba issue explain how it is that the Dems haven’t been able to capture the vote if after all “they are all the same.” Nobody is buying that argument.

  5. On Friday at work, I listened to about 80% of the podcast with Joe, and it was very annoying and unpleasant. He tried to mop the floor with you by hogging the conversation and chewing up the clock, as they say in football. He has this rapid-fire-answer tactic and you can tell he has arduously polished his talking points. No question the effort has paid off – he is viewed as an expert of sorts in Miami, and will probably appeal to a certain type of yuca voter.
    Now, I’ve watched this dude on TV numerous times and have heard him on the radio. Aside from the fact that he has a very slick (can we call it Clintonian, pretty please??) strategy with the embargo, and without getting into the trap of arguing about motives, it’s my humble opinion that this man es un bona fide arrepentido with lobbying credentials. LOOK and LISTEN to him. He may say he hates fidel and wants liberty for Cuba, yada, yada, yada, but what he relishes most is to lambast his parents’ generation. It oozes out of him. And he minced no words. Funny, he attacked the old foggies without mercy while accusing you of being a narrow, angry, and (ahem) unenlightened right winger for agreeing with some of their positions.
    For whatever reason, Joe has a deep contempt for whatever he used to represent before; he kept telling you that he knew firsthand your position, because he’d been there + done that, etc., etc. He looks down on anything related to conservative exile roots much the same way the hippies did against the establishment that was paying their way. While everyone has the freedom to make a living as they choose, I think Joe hasn’t changed colors necessarily for the money or the job. I really think he’s on a trip to kick the exile establishment for the sheer pleasure of it, rather than for any true loyalty to an ideology.
    All those talking points, eso no se lo cree ni el. Sometime this weekend I will try to listen to the rest of the podcast. But next time, I’d mute him at the first interruption, and nip it there. Otherwise, he will become a runaway train.

  6. Well, I don’t think how is it that I shouldn’t vote in 2008 or 2012 or whenever because JFK more than 40 years ago supposedly got wrong the intelligence on Russian missiles. And I honestly think back then it was that pact or the end of Cuba.

    If Cubans vote Democrat, and hey, liberal Democrats like Penellas and Martinez in the local elections and then go 80% Republican in national elections is because there must be certain issue(s) that make them go Republican. I tend to think that it has to be with the Cuban issue (actually with foreign policy in general.) That doesn’t make anybody a mindless lemming, it is a question of how much weight one gives to one issue or the other -or how much do you think an American president can really influence in what happens in Cuba. In really conservatives states Republicans win everything everywhere except a) liberal enclaves like big cities or college towns b) a conservative Democrat wins. But neither Penellas nor Martinez are conservative.

    But we will have to wait for a change to happen in Cuba to really know how all will play out.

    In the meantime, let’s hope the bastard die soon.

  7. Today I had the chance to hear your debate with Joe Garcia. First I must congratulate you for your strong position on the issues and the clarity of your arguments. I must point out that Joe’s strategy is design to shuffle the issues, as a dealer does with a deck of cards, with rhetorical questions and interruptions when he sees or smell trouble. Let me give an example. Every time you confronted him with an contradiction in his position he immediately jump the subject, raised his voice over yours to distract you and then ask you different questions.
    The motives of this technics is to deviate your thoughts. I think you got him a few times but he slipped away using this tactics. When you confront him with his statements about that the only people that can bring change to Cuba are the Cuban inside, you immediately got him by pointing out his past remarks about what he say about president Bush for saying the same thing. That was a clear double standard on Joe’s position, but I must tell that you let him off the hook by not hammering it down his throat like he did about the democrats votes on the Rangel amendment, which I’ll get back to it later.
    He gave you plenty of opportunities to crush his arguments even more. For instance, when he said that he opposed the travel restrictions because every Cuban that visit his or her relative will bring change because the way they looks, their skins …..something of that sort. How can he say that when, just minutes before, he shouted that the only thing that will change Cuba are the people living there?
    Also you got him cornered about his position on the sale of agricultural product. He frozen. He did not wanted to answer your question. He looked bad. He realized that. He recurred to paragons, like the virgin that lost her virginity and no matter what she does she will never be a virgin. Yes, I opposed the sales of agricultural, but no matter what I do, is the law, he said. Well, if that is your reasoning, why then you want the restriction to travel to Cuba to change? After all, is the law too.
    On the Rangel amendment, he think he got you big time that was he kept shouting..What are you talking about? well, he very well know, because I send him the Hill’s article “Dem leaders struggle for votes to change Cuba policies” By Ian Swanson, under the title: “Lo que no dice Joe Garcia en Miami” (I should have said: Lo que no dice Joe Garcia en el globo de Matias). The fact that 60 democrats voted against the Rangel amendment to lift the few restriction on the sales of “humanitarian” food and medicine to Cuba was due to one democrat alone, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.)She fought, like Rep. Ileana Ross said, “like a tiger.”
    What is her position on Cuba? Like the reporter said: “She noted that she does not arrive at her position on Cuba because of her district’s makeup, which includes few Cuban-Americans and is 20 percent Hispanic. Instead, she points out that she is Jewish, and that the words “never again” resonate in terms of the Holocaust and the state of human rights in Cuba.” Now, that’s leadership and consistency with her roots. But Rep. Wasserman Schultz also confronted Serrano in his office about a maneuver to introduce in agriculture budget a hidden amendment to lift the travel restriction on Cuba. The fight was reported by The Politico. She is an amazing women.
    About the 20 freshman that voted against Rangel, this is what Joe Garcia said in the article that did not said in your program: “Sires, a freshman, deserves credit for the 20 freshmen who voted against the Rangel amendment, said Joe Garcia, director of the New Democrat Network’s Hispanic Strategy Center.”
    Your points were clear, honest and straightforward. My wife, that happen to be British, heard a great part of the program. When she heard Joe’s arguments she could not understand how a Cuban can say what he was saying. When I explain that he was the Chairman of the Democratic Party in Miami-Dade, she understood. Your point about it, in your post, is crystal clear.
    Congratulation for a job well done. Sorry if I over extended

  8. Juan, thanks for the nice words. I was hoping the interview would be more like the first minutes than the last five minutes but I blame Joe’s inability to let me speak and counter his arguments for what it devolved into.
    Eduardo, explain to me what a liberal mayor does differently than a conservative one. I mean we can come up with examples but for the most part local politics don’t take ideology into account. Everyone wants the trash picked up and the streets clean and safe. There are plenty of Red States with Democratic politicians at the local level. Even at the National level. The Democrats took back control of the house by running moderate to conservative Democrats in Republican districts.
    As for voting based on what happened 40 years ago, it’s more than that as I enumerated in my post. Not only that, JFK is held up by Democrats as the greatest thing since sliced bread. Let’s see other than being handsome, dying young, betraying the exiles at the bay of pigs, signing away Cuba’s future and starting America’s involvement in the Vietnam war what did he do? Until there is some honesty and some acceptance of responsibility on the part of Democrats for their colossal errors regarding Cuba I don’t see any them making significant gains among Cubans. Too many betrayals, too much water under the bridge.

  9. Henry: Indeed, both you and Joe Garcia are partisans. However, the big difference is that Garcia gets PAID for his partisanship from the Democratic Party and you do not draw a salary from the Republicans or for posting on your blogs. Garcia should reveal how much money he makes from pandering to the Democrats.
    Another point overlooked is that all three major immigration crisis with Cuba were under inept Democratic presidents. Camarioca in 1965, Mariel in 1980, and the Rafter Crisis of 1994.

  10. Henry, it was a mistake to put this guy on the Babalu Radio Hour. It was a mistake to give him a platform and a soapbox to further his interests and those of his employers. Of course he didn’t observe proper procedure. Of course he was loud, aggressive and overbearing. He wasn’t there for the reason you were. He’s been hired to accomplish something else. You played into his game unwittingly. I strongly suggest you don’t do it again.

  11. Asombra,
    As you know I agree with you almost 100% of the time. On this though I can’t agree. First of all we can’t be afraid to debate these guys. Second of all this guy is already all over local TV and the only way someone like me gets a crack at him is if I invite him. I can’t be so insecure in my position so as to be afraid of “making a mistake”. I think he showed himself to be something and I showed myself to be something. I’ll let the audience decide who’s who.

  12. Henry, it’s not about being afraid of the guy; it’s about not giving him any kind of freebie–especially if he’s going to conduct himself like a rude, boorish jerk. If you have him on again, at least make sure you spell out some ground basic ground rules ahead of time, like “I’m not having you on the show so you can indulge in practically nonstop verborrhea.” The guy clearly was out of line and took undue advantage of the chance you gave him. The least he can do is respect his host.

  13. Another point overlooked is that all three major immigration crisis with Cuba were under inept Democratic presidents. Camarioca in 1965, Mariel in 1980, and the Rafter Crisis of 1994
    NOTE.. I dont get to vote now but If I could I vote Republican ..for varias razones.. mainly historicas

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