So, as a new Congress convenes I'm getting ready to keep a good eye on our South Florida representatives, and the ambitious Senator Marco Rubio. And, boy! I thought the hard-line could not get any tougher. Now, here comes David Rivera and Marco Rubio, two known hard-liners on U.S. policy towards Cuba, and Rep. Ros-Lehtinen heading the House Foreign Affairs Committee and appointing other hard-liners as Subcommittee Chairmen. Yikes!
And, maybe some of you are wondering why being a hard-liner* is a cause of concern. Well, the answer is simple: hard-liners tend to ignore the opinion of others, namely their own constituents. Put more bluntly, they don't believe in democracy. Why am I so convinced? A quick review of public opinion concerning U.S. policy towards Cuba is a good start.
Over several years, Gallup polling has documented a strong and consistent American opinion that differs greatly with hard-liners' policy for Cuba. For several years, surveyed Americans have strongly favored (with an average of 59% since 2000) re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba if it was a key issue up for a referendum.
Ending the U.S. embargo towards Cuba has also seen strong approval in some polling. A recent online survey by Widmeyer Communications showed a majority of Americans supporting the end of the embargo by 47%, with 22% in opposition and 31% unsure. These results are similar to those reached by Gallup, and several other surveys.
So what about South Florida's opinion on the embargo? A 2008 survey from Florida International University's Institute for Public Opinion Research (IPOR) found a slight majority of Cuban-Americans favoring the end of the embargo, but a 2000 survey (also by IPOR) had already shown that 60% of Miami non-Cubans opposed continuing the embargo.
Of course, the local media continues to present the issue of public opinion concerning Cuba as divided. Last March, the Miami Herald (Juan O. Tamayo) reported on a BBC World News/Harris Interactive online poll showing "no clamor for change in U.S. Cuba policy." The online poll seemed to show support for the embargo (40% in favor, 36% opposed), but the questionnaire used Likert scaling (agree-disagree) on the statement "The embargo towards Cuba should remain in effect." The measurement was clearly vulnerable to bias because it implied one policy option.
Interestingly, after the Herald published this report (the only ones who reported on this poll according to a NewsBank search), another survey was conducted as a direct response. That survey was from the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). The NAE conducts a monthly survey of its Board of Directors, and last March they found that 63% of evangelical leaders opposed the U.S. embargo towards Cuba. According to the NAE:
"The embargo’s impact on the poor, its failure to influence the leadership in Cuba toward greater openness and respect for human rights, and the potential benefit the lift would have on the spread of the gospel are the primary reasons evangelical leaders support the embargo’s end."
This survey by the NAE, who represent "40,000 local churches" was not reported by the Herald. In fact, according to NewsBank, it got no coverage at all.
So, when I read about South Florida hard-liners being proud over their tough stance on Cuba by supporting the embargo, all I can conclude is that they don't believe in democracy. And, all their talk about the "civilized world" seems like a joke.
And, I haven't even gotten to the part about Cuban dissident opposition to the embargo and travel restrictions!
[*A good definition of "hard-line" comes from George Mason University professor Colin Dueck.]