Motoring through the US of A I try to talk to Americans about the upcoming elections. As I am old, sick and vulnerable to Covid, I am careful. I do not go inside of restaurants (which moves the McDonald’s with outdoor seating quite a bit up on the list), I wear a mask and keep my distance. Most of these conversations are on Zoom or by phone. Also, I am actually quite impressed with the Covid-awareness of the Americans. Almost everywhere I went (Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina, Virginia) stores issue a “no mask no entry” policy and people do follow suit. It is rare to see a maskless customer – way rarer than it was in Switzerland when I left at the end of September.
Her mother came from Venezuela. Her grandfather was Swiss. Bianca is a tattoo artist.
Do you follow politics? Do you vote?
Oh yes. I participate in marches and protests, against the treatment of black people by the police for instance.
What do you make of the current political situation?
I have never seen anything like what is going on in this country. It is very bizarre. We have a complete lack of responsible leadership. Our President pushes ideas that are very hateful for minorities or anybody who says something different of what he says. There is violence in the streets. At the end of May I went to a protest in Fort Lauderdale where we were all teargassed. Some people were pretty hurt.
The right says the violence comes from the left. “Antifa” etcetera.
Look at what happened in Michigan, the plot to kidnap and kill the governor. I am a leftist person. I know a lot of people on the left which stand up against violence. All the protests I have been to were in a peaceful manner. There was a lot of talk about unity, bringing people together. Nobody incited violence.
Do you fear more violence during or after the election?
I am somewhat concerned. Sometimes it sounds like an exaggeration when people theorize about the future. But then it happens. It is in the realm of the possible that this guy won’t leave office. What happens then? And what happens with his followers? They are cult-like.
Do you see Trump voters among your friends who are changing their minds?
I only know or a few Trump voters. None seems to have changed his or her mind. We don’t talk about this. Those would not be very productive conversations.
You are a Latina with Venezuelan background. What are the politics in your family?
My household was untypical. My dad spoke fluent Spanish, our family language was Spanish. I only learned English when I went to school. My Venezuelan family is not voting Republican. I have a cousin in California who had to flee Venezuela. We speak a lot. He says the Trump reflects what he saw in Hugo Chavez. He sees Trump as a new dictator, another Chavez.
I read that younger Hispanics are more prone to breaking out of their family’s traditional politics. Do you see such a development?
Younger people are more willing to adapt to changes and leaving past experiences behind. I have a lot of friends in the LGBTQ world. They focus on how people are treated individually. They are generally not Republican.
What is the most important issue in this election? Health care?
America always had terrible health care; it is not the most important thing right now. The most important is this kind of civil unrest, the fear of what might happen.
He is 44 years old, a photographer and web designer in Lake Placid FL. His mother is from Cuban origin, his father was from Virginia. He grew up in Virginia and later in Boca Raton FL.
Jim, do you consider yourself a Hispanic voter?
I lived my first years with my Cuban American grandparents in Richmond VA until we moved down to Florida. I consider myself first generation Cuban. My grandfather was the president of the Cuban blood bank until Castro took over. My grandparents got out with help of the State Department during the revolution. They were placed in Richmond where my grandfather worked. My dad was a Siemens manager. We moved to Boca Raton where he ran the first transatlantic data network of Siemens until 2001.
Are you into politics?
Yes, I follow it attentively. I ran for office as Lake Worth District Commissioner in 2008, taking on an incumbent and lost by a very small margin. Now I am contemplating a run again.
When will that election take place?
In 2022. I will decide in January.
Are your chances any better than in 2008?
I live in a very red place, there are no good moderate or democratic voices. They are outnumbered by about 2:1. I watch the numbers very closely. In 2018 there was a blue shift nationwide, but here in Highlands County the numbers were static.
That’s not a good outlook for your run
Sometimes you have to run a losing race. It is important to keep ideas alive and getting them into the electorate.
Do you see movement in your county this time?
I see more Republicans shifting towards blue because they are fed up with Trump. But I don’t know how far this translates down to the other candidates on the ballot.
I am interested in the Latino or Hispanic vote. How large is it in your district?
About thirty percent. African Americans are about 20 percent.
There is talk about attempts to make voting difficult for minorities. Do you see this?
Definitely. We have 103 000 residents in the County, and there is only one place to drop an early-voting ballot. It is in the interior of the government building in Sebring. So, you have to drop your ballot during their opening hours.
Where does the Latino vote go?
There is not just one Latino vote. Latinos vote differently, depending on where they came from or which place, they relate to. Central Americans come from totally different political circumstances than Cuban Americans like me. With us it is also generational. My Cuban grandfather or our 90-year-old friend Ernesto would never ever vote for a Democrat because of the aborted invasion in the Bay of Pigs. Ernesto spits on the ground if he hears the name Kennedy. Younger Cubans are not like that. They grew up in different circumstances, like me in affluent Boca Raton and are more open to newer approaches. Yes, a lot of Cuban Americans lean towards the Republicans and are Trump voters. But even my cousin, who was the last of us to leave Cuba, says she could not vote for Trump, despite his anticommunist and antisocialist rhetoric.
How effective is this antisocialist and anticommunist rhetoric of Trump?
I see two varieties of Trump voters. On the one hand the single-issue people for whom gun rights, or abortion or white supremacy are the most important thing. And on the other hand, the economy-based Trump vote which favors lower taxes, less regulation and trusts Trump to produce that. Cuban Americans belong to this group. I have family who votes for Trump on these grounds. They are receptive for Trump’s antisocialism, along with the older generation. The Republicans exploit the bad experiences of Cuban Americans or Venezuelan-Americans and their fear of socialism. When they say “socialism” they paint the picture of Cuba or Venezuela, not a social democratic country like Norway. They refer to Fidel Castro or Hugo Chavez as “socialists”. But Hugo Chavez was not a socialist. He was a dictator.
Did you ever go to Cuba?
No. I swore to my grandfather that I never would.
No change of mind?
When I was younger, I was a hardliner like my grandfather. But I shifted when I studied the fall of the Berlin wall, the western ideas taking root in the East along with more economic exchange. The more we would invest there, the more they would be with us. And regardless of what we do, the Europeans will do what they want.
She was 6 years old when she came from Cuba to the US. Her husband was born and raised in Cuba. He came in 1994 on a raft which was rescued by a US ship.
Will you vote?
Tell me about your politics
Coming from a communist country, I am a Republican. The Democrats value freedom less than the Republicans.
Do you and your friends talk about politics a lot?
I have friends on both sides and try to avoid the issue. I actually have to be careful. I don’t want my husband near this phone call. He is dead set for Trump. He is blind with Trump. I don’t want fire in my house.
So, you will not vote for Trump?
I don’t like either of the candidates, but the less shitty is Biden. Yes, his record is forty years of promises and nothing done. But that’s politics. A lot of the things the Democrats want are similar what they have in Cuba. I know that Trump did good things, the unemployment rate was low, the economy went well. I want freedom.
Why not vote for Trump then? What makes you go against him?
His emptiness. He does not care about anything.
Is his rudeness a factor?
No. He was always rude. It’s that he talks and does not say anything.
Where do you think the Florida vote goes?
I see many people I know blinded by Trump because they don’t want communism. The majority of Republicans have a problem with the Democrats because they fear communism.
Do you have family in Cuba?
A lot. My husband’s family is in Cuba. We do a lot of facetime. I live Cuba through them.
Have you ever been there?
Me not. But my husband. We wanted to go this year, but then the pandemic came. It is expensive. I’m hoping to go next year.