In the 2012 election, then-President of the USA, Barack Obama, obtained 71% of the votes of Latin Americans, helping him to seal the victory over Republican Mitt Romney. Democrats and the press later predicted that Obama’s capture of that constituency – particularly his support among Cubans in Florida – would define a clear future for the party. Indeed, after the Obama administration’s policies of rapprochement and the president’s trip to Cuba in 2016, Democrats thought they would attract a generation of Cubans to their side.
These predictions, however, may prove to be more premature than prescient. A Florida International University poll released in early October revealed that 59% of Cubans in South Florida say they will vote for President Trump in 2020. Furthermore, according to a report by Equis Research, anti-socialism and anti-left messages from Trump resonates with Cubans who arrived in the United States during the 1994 crisis, when thousands fled the island in boats.
Based on this data, Giancarlo Sopo, director of rapid response to the Spanish-speaking press for Trump’s reelection campaign, sees another electoral change underway. The president remains behind Joe Biden in Florida’s battlefield polls – where the Cuban vote is most crucial – Sopo, however, says this is a change that “will survive Joe Biden’s campaign”.
He recently talked to National Review to shed light on what he argues are political trends that have alienated Cubans and other Hispanic Democratic groups – and to discuss his own personal journey, from Democrat to Trump supporter.
Sopo grew up with his sister in a modest duplex in Little Havana, Miami, and was a moderate Democrat for most of his life. Her single mother worked for more than 15 years, saving enough money to start a small business, which enabled her to move her family to the suburbs. Sopo mentions that without access to public school and Medicare coverage for his parents, his mother’s success story might not have been possible.
“The government can help those who cannot help themselves and invest in public education, roads and public services. But you also need to provide people with a long runway so they can take off in search of their dreams, ”explained Sopo. This is, in part, what attracted him to the Democratic Party’s moderate wing when he was young: “I care more about the poor and about mechanisms to help them, both through a safety net and a private charity. ”.
By 2015, however, Sopo noticed a shift in the Democratic Party’s rhetoric. “I began to realize that the party’s message had shifted from the Clinton era’s focus on equal opportunities for inequality,” he said. In 2018, after the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Tom Perez, considered Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez the future of the party, Sopo felt increasingly uncomfortable in supporting a party “kidnapped by the disciples of Marx and Castro”.
This ideological shift towards socialism is not only “driving many Cuban Americans away,” said Sopo, but “much of President Trump’s agenda is really popular with Hispanics.”
“We see poverty decreasing in our communities, and our income is reaching records,” noted Sopo, citing a 2019 report from the American Census Bureau. The poverty rate among Hispanics dropped to the lowest level ever, 15.7%, during the Trump administration. Ten years ago, the rate was over 25%.
“When you juxtapose this with press narratives about Latinos – that we are voters of a single problem, that we see ourselves as victims in this country – it is not surprising that we are now seeing an electoral change that will survive Joe Biden’s campaign,” said Sopo .
The open question, however, is whether this “change” will largely involve the return of Cuban voters to the Republican Party – or is the omen of a broader trend among Latin voters.
For the time being, the Democratic Party generally remains popular with Hispanics. Despite growing support for Trump among Cubans in South Florida, Biden has more support among Latin Americans than Trump (62% versus 29%) on the Arizona battlefield, according to the Equis Research survey. Nationally among Hispanics, Biden held a 62% -26% lead over Trump at the end of September.
Biden’s leadership among Hispanics, which is similar to that of Hillary Clinton in 2016, may diminish as the Democratic Party and part of the press press for ambitious policies, such as police “definancing”. The violent riots that cost lives and more than a billion dollars in property damage “reminded many Hispanics of the social upheaval that our families experienced in Latin America,” said Sopo. “This is not something we are used to here in the United States. We value safe communities. We respect the police; we understand that they are keeping our community safe ”.
There is also the question of the “culture of cancellation”.
During the summer, Black Lives Matter protesters harassed guests leaving the White House after the Republican National Convention and approached Senator Rand Paul. Democrats also refused to condemn the massive boycott of Goya Foods and CEO Robert Unanue, who praised Trump for helping impoverished Latinos. Both incidents “reminded many Cubans of the acts of repudiation that take place in Cuba de Castro, where people are persecuted for their political beliefs,” said Sopo.
But while Sopo reflects on his political journey from Clinton voter in 2016 to Trump’s campaign director in 2020, he still argues that there is a gap between politicians, the media and the average Latin American family. “We love our families, we care about our schools and churches. We believe in the American dream and work hard to prosper. Left-wing politicians and reporters who fail to understand this will have a sudden wake-up call. ”
© 2020 National Review. Published with permission. Original in English.