Florida and all its 29 electoral votes have been won by incumbent President Donald J. Trump. The state has a Hispanic population of over 25% – so how could the president, who made headlines for demonizing Latin-American countries, pull this off?
Florida is what is known as a ‘Swing State’, a term I’m sure you have heard repeatedly over the last few weeks as coverage of the 2020 election captured the world’s full attention. In short, this means that the state does not assuredly vote for either of the two main parties, as Alabama assuredly votes Republican, or New York reliably votes Democratic. Trump will be happy to know that he’s consolidated his support in the area. He originally won Florida in the 2016 election – a notable flip from 2012, when it voted for President Obama.
To understand why the Cuban-Americans of Miami – Florida’s second most populous city – continue to overwhelmingly vote Republican, we ought to look at the history of Cuba.
Before 1952, when US-backed military dictator Fulgencio Batista seized control and ruled for several years with an iron fist, Cuba had endured a turbulent string of dictators and deep political and social unrest. Batista is known today for the utter ruthlessness he displayed during his rule from 1952-1959, when countless massacres and unthinkable human rights violations occurred. His reign ended when an exiled Fidel Castro returned to Cuba and instigated a communist revolution, which placed Castro in power and allowed him to oversee the country for the next several decades.
Not everyone in Cuba welcomed Castro’s new regime, however. The Cuban managerial and professional classes fled the country, in fear that their wealth and assets would be collectivized under the new communist authority. They fled, alongside officials of the Batista government, to the southern coast of Florida, where they established enclaves of Cuban culture in neighborhoods that would come to be known by names such as “Little Havana.”
For this reason, a large number of Cuban immigrants who fled their home country when Castro came to power held significantly more power and wealth than the average Cuban did. Upon arriving in Miami and Hialeah, immigrants found work among the pre-existing Cuban population through familial ties—effectively outcompeting African Americans for low-wage jobs—and used their former wealth and status to establish a prosperous community for themselves.
Now, how does this all relate to Trump?
Throughout this election, as with 2016, Trump has characteristically maintained a hyperbolic routine that consists of political smears and jabs at Democratic candidates and their intentions for America. For Trump, anyone to the left of himself and his party are “radical socialists” who are seemingly both orchestrators of mass political conspiracies (in the form of suburb-scaring Antifa) and simultaneously work-shy teenagers with no understanding of the way the real world works. Cuban-American communities, who have distanced themselves from the rest of the American Latino population (almost two-thirds of which are Democrats), are seemingly taking heed of Trump’s message; a vote for Biden was seen as a return to communism. To European spectators, this notion seems almost comical, but for the older generations of Cuban-American people in Miami who remember clearly their fear of losing their wealth for redistribution, they don’t want to take any chances.
Today, relations between second generation Cuban-Americans and their ancestral home is quite different. In 2017, reports from the Cuban government, along with similar reports from Cuban diplomatic missions in southern Florida, claimed that 11,176 Cuban-Americans applied for repatriation and an eventual return to the island, suggesting that younger generations have become more sympathetic towards Cuba in recent years.
Nevertheless, Cuban-Americans could not stomach a vote for Democratic candidate Joe Biden this election. Whether their fears of a communist revolution in America were well-founded or not, one thing is for certain: this election is hardly the ‘landslide’ that pollsters projected.