I want to clarify the exact intent of my recent posts about the so-called generational shift among Cuban-Americans that the Herald has been pimping for a quarter century.
I am not saying that Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen will certainly win in November. I hope that’s the case and I’ll be working hard to do everything I can to help make that happen but that’s not the point. Each of those congressional districts is made up of more than 300,000 voters and Cubans are only a portion of each. And the proportion of Cuban to non-Cuban voters has decreased in recent years.
The point of my posts is that the Herald has been selling the idea of a rift down generational lines in a case of wishful thinking. I think they felt that if they repeated it enough times, had enough experts say it, that it might actually come true.
Let me further clarify a couple of things. It is intuitively true that younger generations of any group will have different views than their parents. But sometimes it’s a matter of degrees or a difference in style rather than substance. In other words I don’t expect young Cuban-Americans to protest en mass the way their parents might have, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t pulling the lever for the same candidate as their parents.
Also, it’s a proven fact that young people tend to vote less often than older people. And it’s also a fact that Cuban exiles vote in droves. So what you have is a highly motivated older generation that continues to make its voice heard. Now, it would follow that as the younger generation gets older and becomes more reliable in terms of actually voting that we’d see this famous shift at the ballot box. Yet we haven’t seen it. Why? I think it’s a simple case of people evolving as they get older. In other words, when Cuban-Americans are young they tend to be more liberal (and naive) and also less likely to vote. As they get older (and wiser) they begin realize that they aren’t all that different than their parents. It’s an old joke that as we become older we turn into our parents. I think there’s a lot of truth to that idea. When I was in college I believed that removing the embargo would end the castro regime. I wanted to believe that because I believe in free trade, I am a capitalist and that line of thinking is very seductive. But as I got older and looked at the issue with care, I realized that until there’s real reform to the Cuban economy, trade with the U.S. (or any country) will be manipulated in such a way where no real benefit accrues to the Cuban people. It’s a rigged game.
I purposely have avoided talking about recent waves of Cubans and instead focused on the second generation of Cubans who are the children of parents that came from 1959 through the 80s. It is a fact that we are receiving an incredible influx of new arrivals from Cuba here in South Florida. It should be noted however that this group is distinct and yes they do arrive with different ideas than those who came before them because of their background and having grown up knowing nothing but life under castro. I have previously posted about such people and my theory is similar to the one about young U.S. born Cuban-Americans. That is to say, they change over time, with experience. When they first arrive they may have certain views about the embargo, the hard-line, etc. But over time, as they adjust to life in Miami, become residents and later citizens and finally become voters, their views also evolve. Today, you can listen to Radio Mambi and hear callers that came during Mariel and their discourse is no different than that of those who came in the 60s. Likewise there is a group of young intransigent Cubans like Juan Amador Rodriguez and his friends at Vueltabajo por Cuba. I haven’t seen the Herald report on these men, perhaps because they don’t conform to what the current wave of Cuban refugees is supposed to sound like according to them.
There’s a simple fact that should not be lost on anyone reading this. The best a Democrat candidate for President did among Cuban-Americans was 35% when Bill Clinton was re-elected in 1996. George McGovern garnered more than 37% of the U.S. popular vote in 1972 in what is widely regarded as one of the most lopsided elections in modern American history.
Bottom line, take all of the talk of a generational shift with a huge grain of salt. The media likes to use anecdotes to create the illusion of something bigger and thus make mountains out of molehills. I’ll leave you with this email I received this afternoon shortly after my column was published at Pajamas media:

Mr. Gomez,
I wanted to express to you that it was encouraging to read your piece published by Pajamas Media in which you effectively debunk the generational shift myth. As a 20 year old Republican Cuban-American who has been supportive of Republican candidates since I could vote, its always somewhat humorous to hear pollsters and others tell me that my generation is shifting. Do we perhaps look at the problem through a different lens than our grandparents? Most probably, but then again so do my generations’ parents. Points of reference do not change the facts, something I think pollsters and others sometimes fail to grasp.
Again, great job on this piece and I look forward to reading more from you.

7 thoughts on “Clarification”

  1. Henry, can you please email me at Mom4Cambio at I checked some news in Vueltabajo site and I need urgent confirmation, but couldn’t contact them at the email they have in the site. Gracias!

  2. As someone who came to the US in 1962 when I was 3. I found it very important to teach my children exactly why our family was here, thankfully because of that, they are both republicans. Which considering we live in the “Peoples republic Of Westchester County NY” is no mean feat.

  3. “As a 20 year old Republican Cuban-American who has been supportive of Republican candidates since I could vote…” Which is all of 24 months? Priceless.

  4. BTW,
    Does anyone have access to polling data that refutes the generational shift thesis coming out of the WCVI, FIU, Bendixen and NDN polls? I can’t imagine that the GOP isn’t polling this issue and publishing it somewhere to counter the CW.

  5. The NDN poll is the Bendixen poll, it says 72% of Cuban Americans are Republicans.
    The FIU poll has shown a variation between 69% and 66% since it was first taken in 1991. The 3% difference is less than the margin of error for the poll.
    In other words, there is no shift. Get over it.

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