David Cogswell | July 14, 2015 1:30 PM ET
Who Opposes Restored Relations with Cuba?
The issue of opening Cuba to travel and trade with the U.S. is a good example of how political party labels and ideologies do next to no good in helping to parse political issues and figure out how they apply to you.
Political labels, ideologies and rhetoric do not predict how a politician will fall on a particular issue. The case of Cuba is a particularly striking example of this.
From the travel industry perspective, and the mad rush to travel to Cuba, one might get the impression that almost everyone wants to see Cuba and wants more open relations with the country. Agricultural and business interests are hungry for access to the markets in Cuba. Humanitarians say enough with trying to starve the Cubans into submission; it’s not working.
But in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, the majority recently voted to keep the clamps on Cuba and to reject President Obama’s moves to liberalize travel and trade restrictions with Cuba. Republicans in general oppose opening relations with Cuba.
Republicans are pro-business, right? Not in this case. Republicans are anti-government regulation, right? Well, not when it comes to Cuba. Republicans believe in freedom of the individual, right? Not if the individual wants to travel to Cuba. Don’t Republicans support free trade? Not with Cuba.
Gallup polls have shown a wide swing since 1997 when 81 percent of the American public had an unfavorable view of Cuba and only 10 percent had a favorable view. In 2015 that range of opinion has narrowed to almost even: 48 percent have a negative view and 46 a positive view, within the margin of error.
The recent tangle came down to an amendment by Democratic Representative Barbara Lee of California that would have struck down an earlier amendment by Republican Representative Mario Diaz-Balart, a Cuban American from Florida. Diaz-Balart’s amendment would have prevented the licensing of new flights and cruise departures to Cuba and reversed most of Obama’s executive order loosening restrictions on travel to Cuba. In the end the Diaz-Balart side won.
Meanwhile, while Obama moves forward on establishing a Cuban embassy on July 20 Republicans are driving their stakes into the ground and vowing to oppose him at every turn, such as in the selection of a Cuban Ambassador.
But the Cuba issue does not break along party lines. There are also many Democratic legislators who oppose normalization of relations with Cuba. New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez is a Democrat and one of the most staunchly opposed to restoring relations with Cuba. Of Cuban ancestry himself, he is an anti-Castro Cuban who has strong ties with the anti-Castro community in Florida.
When it comes to interest groups and donations, ideology is just a bunch of words.
Chris Rock railed against the gang mentality of people who side with their chosen political faction automatically no matter what the issue is. “Anyone who makes up their mind before they hear the issue is a ** fool,” said Rock.
You really have to look at each issue one at a time.
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