A Cuban Look at the US Elections: Reasons to Vote

Armando Chaguaceda

A campaign ad.

HAVANA TIMES — A few weeks ago, as part of an event at my university, a couple of young students (he’s Mexican and she a US citizen) shared their life stories with the audience.

With emotion and simplicity, they explained the intricate backgrounds of the struggle for the rights of immigrants in the United States, the repressive policies implemented by various state governments and regularization attempts promoted through the “Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act,” better known in English by its acronym: The “Dream Act.”

This bill, introduced in the context of delayed immigration reform policy — that justifies the rage of Latinos over such a debt by the Obama administration — would open the way to citizenship for undocumented students who had arrived in the United States as minors.

Changing the tune of the discussion, another young US citizen from Arizona, questioned the speakers about the reasons why he should, through his taxes, finance federal policies supporting migrants.

As much as the students tried to convince him, citing the contributions of “illegals” to the US economy — with their labor, purchases and indirect taxes — and noting their contribution to the development of US culture, the Arizonian didn’t buy it.

At that time I spoke, remembering that this involved not merely the reluctance of a few WASPs to help their darker neighbors, but the unwillingness of an entire sector of “gringo” society to contribute to the construction of a European-style welfare state with quality universal coverage.

I exemplified this with the agonizing saga of Obama’s health reform, an affair that showed the existence of a “possessive individualism” capable of undermining those forms of public and organized solidarity necessary in a modern society.

Such possessive individualism — so well described by C. B. Macpherson in his criticism of the commercializing substrates of classical liberalism — again reared its ugly head through the Republican candidate during the presidential debates.

Reducing social spending, eliminating disaster prevention and recovery agencies, prioritizing the incomes of the rich versus jobs, small businesses and millions of citizens are a substantial part of the agenda of a right wing determined to return to the White House.

It doesn’t matter that they are the ones who got the US (and the world) into the most serious crisis since the Great Depression with their policies of neoliberal cronyism. Nor should we pay attention to their fundamentalist, homophobic and racist positions or those that are disrespectful of women’s rights, a platform that would cause nausea on the part of any thinking citizen.

They want their nation to regress and — what’s worse — they believe that’s what the country needs.

Taking note of this threat doesn’t mean to forgive President Obama for his performance over the past four years. The occupant of the Oval Office was weak in addressing the issue of immigration, while maintaining questionable policies that violate the sovereignty of other countries — such as assassinations employing “drones” — and he maintains in his rhetoric addressed to the mythical middle class, which makes invisible millions of workers and poor who live in the US today.

It is disturbing to see the fear of the National Rifle Association and its sacred invocation of the constitutional amendment that supposedly justifies gun ownership, a factor that is such a substantial part of criminal violence within and outside the country.
No doubt many of those who believed in Obama in 2008 as the “candidate of hope” — for being an African-American, the son of an immigrant and a democrat — have good reason to be frustrated.

However, with the juncture of November 6th, realism doesn’t leave many options to choose from. Before the armed unilateralism of the Republicans, the preventive multilateralism of Obama would be less costly in human lives and leaves open a door to the peaceful settlement of conflicts.

Imagine what would have happened in the “Bush epoch” in light of the current crisis in the Middle East or the friction with Iran.

In the domestic arena, instead of the “possessive individualism” that condemned to their fate those affected by the bankruptcies of 2008/2009, the plans for federal aid — to businesses and individuals — mark the difference in the lives of ordinary people, the same as today in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

Neither candidate tells us much about Latin America. The Middle East, Asia-Pacific region and, thirdly, Europe — along with the perennial war on terrorism — are the key foreign policy issues of both Obama and Romney.

What resonates is the Republican promise to “expand trade” in the region — with an eye on allies such as Chile, Mexico and Colombia — and warnings to the governments of Cuba and Venezuela, with Cold War electioneering rhetoric.

Alternately, the declarations of the current president — dismissing the supposed Venezuelan threat — and his contacts with leaders of the region, such as Argentina, Mexico and Brazil, presumably are turning toward a relaxed but non-priority stance.

With Obama, Cuba can expect conciliatory policy-related gestures — ones related to the maintening of travel and remittances by Cuban-Americans and the recognition of measures taken by Havana, such as the recently announced immigration reform — with all of this accompanied by questions about the legitimacy of the Cuban government and human rights situation on the island.

Only those who don’t seem to understand the difference between a member of the “Tea Party” and a “New York liberal” can show themselves indifferent to the eventual triumph of one or the other candidate.

I deeply respect those among my friends who are declared abstainers or don’t believe in American democracy: I know them and I know they’ll do their best with marches, community service and national campaigns, maintaining the spirit of the Republic against the wiles of the Empire.

But facing the possibility of a openly oligarchic and militarist presidency — in the hands of Mitt Romney — I think the defense and expansion of the rights and freedoms that conform to the best qualities of the American soul deserve another chance in the figure of Barack Hussein Obama II.

Armando Chaguaceda

Armando Chaguaceda: My curriculum vitae presents me as a historian and political scientist. I'm from an unclassifiable generation who collected the achievements, frustrations and promises of the Cuban Revolution and now resists on the island or contributes through numerous websites, trying to remain human without dying in the attempt.

11 thoughts on “A Cuban Look at the US Elections: Reasons to Vote

  • November 8, 2012 at 7:44 am

    Your description of your lifestyle and recent economic history – a partner in a software company – if it’s to be believed – hardly places you in the category of “middle-class blacks”. Your recent “‘hood cred” is downtown San Francisco as I recall and then there was military college, usually requiring a government official’s sponsorship to get in, followed by working on Wall Street.

    But it’s not the income level that determines the application of the term, it’s the politics. Danny Glover recently came to Toronto in support of the Cuban Five. We can assume he’s quite well off. No one would ever think of him as a coconut.

  • November 7, 2012 at 8:39 am

    Lose the ¨coconut¨ references when you refer to middle-class blacks. It´s offensive. (Please note Mr. Robinson). BTW, my ¨hood¨ cred is impeccable too.

  • November 6, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    Good on you, ‘Michael’. It’s a difficult, fasten-your-seat-belts there’s a rough ride ahead decision. I’ve made it several times in choosing who to vote for. Despite the pain, there are immediate benefits. Bush was no doubt responsible for more reality based awareness around the world as to the true nature of the US Empire than if Gore was elected.

    Romney will be as well if elected. If we want a peaceful revolution, then we need to be aware and prepared for the bumpy ride. It’s better than seeking a violent one.

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